On February, 14, 1929, seven gangsters were lined up inside a garage on Chicago’s North Side. Seconds later, they were brutally slaughtered in a display of violence that shocked the city to its core. Who was behind the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?
83 years ago, Chicago was aflame. Prohibition had been a dreadful failure, leading to an enormous and highly profitable black market in illegal alcohol. In turn, this caused violent crime to skyrocket.
On February 14, five members and two associates of Bugs Moran’s North Side Gang showed up at Chicago’s SMC Cartage warehouse, possibly to buy stolen booze. Moran was running a little late that day and as he approached the garage, he noticed a police car pulling into the area. Moran and several others fled the area, saving their lives in the process.
Two “police officers” and two other men entered the garage, carrying Tommy Guns and shotguns. They swiftly lined Moran’s gang up against the rear wall and filled them with bullets. Then the officers led the other men out of the garage at gunpoint, presumably as a ruse to keep neighbors from notifying the real police. It didn’t work and the locals quickly called in the police. One of the victims, Frank Gusenberg, took fourteen bullets yet managed to hold on for three hours. However, he refused to identify the shooters before dying.
Who was behind the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre?
On December 14, 1929, Michigan police raided Burke’s bungalow on an unrelated murder charge. Although they didn’t find him, they did locate a wealth of evidence, including two Tommy Guns. Using the brand-new science of ballistics, the guns were connected to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Burke was later captured in Missouri but was never formally tried for his role in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Eight days later, police discovered a partially burned 1927 Cadillac Sedan which they were able to trace to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The ensuing investigation initially pointed to Fred “Killer” Burke and James Ray. Both men, who belonged to a gang called Egan’s Rats, were known for disguising themselves as police officers during robberies. Police also found circumstantial ties to members of Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit, which was Moran’s biggest competition in Chicago’s bootlegging business.
Others would be accused and investigated over the next few years. A low-ranking criminal named Byron Bolton claimed to have been involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre along with Burke, Fred Goetz, and several others. Supposedly, they were members of the American Boys, a special gang-within-the-gang employed by Al Capone and paid handsomely to perform high-risk jobs. However, the FBI wasn’t interested in pursuing the case and the actual role of the American Boys – or whether they even existed in the the first place – remains uncertain.
Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis
On December 5, 1933, Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment. Thus, Prohibition finally came to an end. The cost of this social experiment in terms of blood and treasure had been steep. Ordinary folks who wished to engage in mutually beneficial exchanges suddenly found themselves criminals. Black market alcohol proved far more dangerous to drink. Crime and corruption increased dramatically. Government spending increased as well in order to combat these rising problems.
The end of Prohibition was also the end of an era. And as time rolled on, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was all but forgotten. It seems fairly likely Al Capone was involved, especially since he and Moran were at each other’s throats for control of Chicago’s bootlegging industry. However, physical evidence is practically nonexistent. Perhaps researchers will uncover more pieces of evidence or shed new light on old ones in the not-so-distant future. But until then, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre remains an unsolved crime.