“Assassin sounds so exotic.. hah, I was just a murderer.”
Known as ‘The Iceman’ Richard Kuklinski killed more than 100 people as a Mafia hit man, all while his wife and children were completely oblivious. He was known for the many ways in which he killed his victims, including shooting, stabbing with ice picks; hand grenades; crossbows; chain saws; and a bomb attached to a remote-control toy car. His favorite weapon, he said, was cyanide, which he sprayed into a victim’s face using a nasal-spray bottle. He is perhaps one of the most remorseless criminals, killing for fun as well as profit. Once, he told an interviewer that he used to walk down busy streets and blow a cocktail of lethal, powdered chemicals into strangers’ faces to kill them. Standing at an intimidating 6 ft. 5 and weighing over 300 lbs, it was no surprise that he was the mafia’s favourite hit man. A full interview with the killer can be viewed below:
On the of June 21st, 1964, three young civil rights workers were driving on Highway 19 in Neshoba County, Mississippi when then were suddenly and unexpectedly chased by a police car and a number of cars manned by local members of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The three young men were James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (middle pictures). They were forced off the road, removed from their cars, beaten, and then brutally shot dead. Overnight their bodies and car disappeared.
The murder of the three civil rights workers sparked tremendous outrage among the American public. Even supporters of segregation were shocked by the brutality. Worse yet, little was done about the murders at first. Most of the local police and sheriff’s department were manned by members of the KKK. Many were directly responsible for the men’s deaths. Under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover started a massive investigation involving over 150 FBI agents. The investigation involved a massive search, the questioning of hundreds of persons of interest, and the offering of a $25,000 reward for any information on the murders. Regardless, the people of Neshoba County kept their mouths shut. Hampered by the wall of silence erected by Neshoba citizens and law enforcement, the FBI had few leads and no tangible evidence. With the president breathing down his neck for results, J. Edgar Hoover reached into his bag of extra-legal tricks to make a break in the case. Sometimes it takes fire to fight fire, and in 1960’s America there was only one organization that was more ruthless and bloodthirsty than the KKK; La Cosa Nostra, the Mafia.
The FBI contacted mafia don Carmine Persico (bottom left picture), head of the notorious Colombo crime family in New York City. The FBI offered Persico some… favors, if Persico used some of his resources to aid the FBI. Persico lent the FBI a few mafia thugs, as well as his head enforcer Gregory Scarpa (bottom right picture). Affectionately known as “The Grim Reaper”, Scarpa was a career mafia assassin who also had a talent for getting tight lipped people to talk.
One of the men behind the murders was a TV salesman and klansman named Lawrence Byrd. One day a man with a peculiar accent entered his store and bought a television. After buying the TV, Byrd offered to carry the box to the man’s car. As he loaded the TV into the man’s backseat, the man came up from behind him and bopped him on the back of the head with a blunt object.
When Byrd awoke, he was in a secluded location face to face with Gregory Scarpa, who had an offer he couldn’t refuse. What followed was a “questioning session” that involved rounds of beatings and other torture. After a few hours of questioning Byrd told all. Some say Byrd spilled the beans when Scarpa lit his blowtorch. Others say it was when he force a gun barrel down Byrd’s throat. Regardless, the information gleaned from Byrd amounted to a 22 page confession, giving away the location of the bodies, the men who conducted the killings, and the men who were responsible for ordering and covering up the murders.
The bodies of the three civil rights workers were found buried at a levee on a local man’s farm. In addition, the bodies of 8 other murdered black men were discovered. Byrd’s information lead to the FBI uncovering more information, which led to the arrests of 21 men. Many of the men were respected local businessman, politicians, and law enforcement officers, all were members of the White Knights of the KKK. Because Mississippi officials refused to prosecute the men, they were charged with the federal crime of depriving a person of their civil rights (through murder). The men were prosecuted in federal court, with most being convicted guilty. Unfortunately, they were only charged 3-10 years for their crime, none served more than 6. The last to be prosecuted was Edgar Ray Killen, a KKK organizer who helped plan the killings. He was convicted of three counts of murder and sentenced to 3 consecutive 20 year prison terms in 2005.
Gregory Scarpa became an FBI informant during the 70’s. In the 80’s an assassination attempt was made on him, which caused him to go on a massive killing spree during a war between the Colombo and Genovese families. He was arrested and charged with murder, racketeering, theft, weapons trafficking, and a number of other charges. He died in prison due to complications from AIDS from a tainted blood transfusion in 1994.
Mob boss Carmine Persico is currently on year 17 of his 139 year prison sentence.
Contract killer, Richard Kuklinski, was so deceitful when it came to hiding his brutal murders, that his wife had no idea as to why unmarked police vehicles, 3 helicopters, and dozens of officers armed with machine guns, had swarmed outside of their family home as the couple came back from a local diner.
On seeing the masses of police, Kuklinski casually turned on his heel and walked away from the ambush, until an officer came from behind him and pointed a gun to his head. He was subdued, and heaved into a high security vehicle.
Handcuffs were placed on Barbara Kuklinski, and the couple’s three daughters were removed and put into safe housing. Perplexed, Mrs. Kuklinski looked toward a frantic officer. For decades, she’d had no idea that her husband was best in business when it came to hitmen. Unbeknownst to her, he was more respected in the wider community, not for his seemingly kind demeanor, but for the shady connections that he had to major mafia bosses.
Understanding her confusion, the officer looked her in the eye and simply told her: “I’m sorry ma’am… he’s a mass murderer.”
The California Gold Rush in 1849 brought people to the West Coast from all around the world who sought opportunity, wealth, and success. In the mid 19th century thousands of Chinese immigrants moved to California and the west. While the vast majority of Chinese immigrants had come to America simply for a fresh new start, many of the less savory parts of the Chinese old world also tagged along. The Chinese Tongs were the organized criminal elements of China that had also come to America looking for new criminal opportunities. Often originating as reputable organizations such as Chinese fraternities and business leagues, the Tongs dealt in slavery, illegal gambling, opium dealing, illegal booze, extortion, assassination, thievery, bribery, blackmail, and many other criminal enterprizes.
So who were the worst outlaws of the Old West? Billy the Kid? Jesse James? John Wesley Hardin? Compared to the “highbinders”, the most famous outlaws of the day were mere boyscouts. The highbinders were footsoldiers, enforcers, and assassins of the Tongs. Every criminal organization needs ruthless killers to enforce it’s bottom line on the street. The highbinders were certainly such men, as they were willing to kill anyone who crossed them, sometimes in the most gruesome ways. In San Francisco in 1889 one of the Tongs demanded protection money from a 19 year old girl named Fung Wing. When she refused, she was shot to death on the streets. Two years later a white man named John Gibbs was murdered by a Tong hitman. His body, or at least the small pieces of it, were found in an alley a short while later.
The highbinders were often recruited from the lower classes of Chinese American society and were typically also uneducated. What is interesting about the highbinders was their choice of weapons, an odd mix of the old world and new. Commonly the highbinders used an assortment of Chinese melee weapons such as short swords, knives, daggers, and clubs. One popular traditional weapon was a type of short cutlass, often wielded in pairs, called the butterfly sword.
Interestingly, the highbinders also tended to wear a chain mail shirt under their clothing. Needless to say hand to hand combat was a must for any aspiring highbinder. One of the favorite weapons of the highbinders was the hatchet. With a hatchet a highbinder could assassinate a target, but also use the weapon as a tool to dispose of the body (chop it up) or savagely mutilate it for intimidation purposes. Because of this, highbinders were often also nicknamed “hatchetmen”. While the highbinders were skilled with melee weapons, the highbinders also adopted modern firearms such as revolvers, rifles, and shotguns.
By 1880 there were numerous Tongs located in San Francisco alone. Like many mafia organizations, it was not long before they began to intrude on one another’s turf. Between 1880 and 1913 the West Coast was embroiled in the “Tong Wars”. During this period, scores of Chinese gangsters were killed in a period of months. During the The Bing On tong – Wah Sin San Fan Tong War seven were killed and eight were wound in just a single phase of a three part war. In the mining town of Weaverville, California, a pitched battle between 260 Tongs led to the deaths of 8 men with dozens wounded. For the most part, the police and law enforcement stayed out of the Tong’s way, not wanting to get involved in affairs that did not involve white people. However, whenever the police did get involved, they would usually quickly back off when the Tongs started targeting police officers.
The decline of the Tongs came in 1906 after the San Francisco Earthquake, which destroyed many of the buildings and businesses controlled by the Tongs. This was also combined with strict crackdowns by local, state, and federal law enforcement, as well as a crackdown on prostitution, sex slavery, and opium dens. Today some Tongs still exist, most of which have gone straight and returned to their roots as legitimate fraternities and business organizations. Some have not. regardless there is a never ending line of mafioso’s, gangsters, triads, and cartel goons who have picked up where the Tongs have left off nearly a century ago.
John Herbert Dillinger (June 22, 1903–July 22, 1934) was an American gangster and bank robber in the Depression-era United States. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations. Dillinger escaped from jail twice. He was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana, police officer who shot at Dillinger during a gun fight, prompting Dillinger to return fire. It was Dillinger’s only homicide charge.(1)
On Sunday, July 22, 1934, at 5pm, as “Public Enemy #1” (as Dillinger was called) left the Biograph Theater in Chicago, police officers yelled, “Stick'em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded!” Shots were fired and four bullets hit Dillinger’s body, including the fatal bullet, which entered at the base of his neck and exited below his right eye. A crowd formed around the notorious gangster’s lifeless body, and several people dabbed handkerchiefs into his blood for souvenirs.(2)
This FBI Wanted Poster of Dillinger, from the National Archives and Records Administration, was created after Dillinger’s last bank robbery, which took place a month before his death.