Tommy O'Connor (criminal)

Last updated

Tommy O'Connor
"Terrible Tommy" O'connor.jpg
Born
Tommy O'Connor

1880
Died1951 (aged 7071)
Other namesTerrible Tommy

Thomas "Terrible Tommy" O'Connor (1880–1951) was a gangster who escaped from the Chicago, Illinois, courthouse in 1923, only four days before he was to have been executed at the Historical Gallows [1] for the murder of a policeman.

Contents

Life

O'Connor was born in Ballykenny outside the village of Strand in County Limerick, Ireland around 1880 and emigrated to the United States as a boy. He first came to public notice when he was arrested after a shootout in which Chicago Police Detective Patrick J. O'Neil was gunned down March 13, 1921. [2] This came as a result of investigators coming to arrest him as a prime suspect in a previous case. O'Connor fled and was later arrested in St. Paul, Minnesota. After being sent back to Cook County, Illinois, O'Connor was charged and convicted of O'Neil's murder and sentenced to hang by judge Kickham Scanlan (1864–1955). [3] Four days before the scheduled execution, he and four other prisoners overpowered the guard, took his rifle, and escaped from the courthouse. [4] All but two of the men were last seen dodging through traffic and made their escape.

After the escape

Judge Kickham Scanlan (1864-1955). Historical review of Chicago and Cook county and selected biography. A.N. Waterman ed. and author of Historical review (1908) (14592803027).jpg
Judge Kickham Scanlan (1864–1955).

O'Connor was last seen in 1921 during his escape. Because there was no Cook County Sheriff's Department during that time, he was able to make his way through miles of empty countryside and disappear completely. He then seemed to vanish forever with a fate unknown. Reported sightings continued into the thirties. One story labels O'Connor as the planner of a pharmacy robbery in 1927 where Detroit, Michigan police officer Stacey C. Mizner was shot and killed. [5] It is unknown how O'Connor died, though there is a tombstone at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth, Illinois. His year of death is listed as 1951. [6]

A court order in the 1950s forced the city of Chicago to retain O'Connor's gallows sentencing and keep him on the death list until his fate was made known. The gallows were dismantled in 1977, but apparently O'Connor still remains scheduled to hang. [1]

The gangster played by George Bancroft in the silent film Underworld (1927), directed by Josef von Sternberg was modelled on O'Connor. [7] Playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht loosely based character Earl Williams in the Broadway comedy The Front Page (1928) on O'Connor as well.

See also

Related Research Articles

Allan Pinkerton American Civil War detective and spy

Allan J. Pinkerton was a Scottish–American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

H. H. Holmes American serial killer

Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or H. H. Holmes, was an American serial killer. While he confessed to 27 murders, he was convicted and sentenced to death for only one murder, that of accomplice and business partner Benjamin Pitezel. Despite his confession of 27 murders after the Pitezel trial awaiting execution, it is speculated that Holmes may have killed as many as 200 people. Victims were killed in a mixed-use building which he owned, located about 3 miles (5 km) west of the 1893 World's Fair: Columbian Exposition, supposedly called the World's Fair Hotel, though evidence suggests the hotel portion was never truly open for business.

Vincent Drucci

Vincent Drucci, also known as "The Schemer", was a Sicilian-American mobster during Chicago's Prohibition era who was a member of the North Side Gang, Al Capone's best known rivals. A friend of Dean O'Banion, Drucci succeeded him by becoming co-leader. He is the only US organized crime boss to have been killed by a policeman.

See also: 1913 in organized crime, other events of 1914, 1915 in organized crime and the list of 'years in Organized Crime'.

Machine Gun Kelly American gangster, kidnapper, bank robber and prisoner

George Kelly Barnes, better known by his nickname "Machine Gun Kelly", was an American gangster from Memphis, Tennessee, during the prohibition era. His nickname came from his favorite weapon, a Thompson submachine gun. He is best known for the kidnapping of the oil tycoon and businessman Charles F. Urschel in July 1933, from which he and his gang collected a $200,000 ransom. Urschel had collected and left considerable evidence that assisted the subsequent FBI investigation, which eventually led to Kelly's arrest in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 26, 1933. His crimes also included bootlegging and armed robbery.

Shootout

A shootout, also called a firefight or gunfight, is a gun battle between armed groups. A shootout often, but not necessarily, pits law enforcement against criminal elements; it could also involve two groups outside of law enforcement, such as rival gangs. A shootout in a war-like context would usually be considered a battle, rather than a shootout. Shootouts are often portrayed in action films and Western films.

The Irish Mob is an organized crime group in the United States and Ireland which has been in existence since the early 19th century. Originating in Irish American street gangs—depicted in Herbert Asbury's 1927 book The Gangs of New York—the Irish Mob has appeared in most major U.S. cities, especially on the east coast, including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

Peter Manuel

Peter Thomas Anthony Manuel was an American-born Scottish serial killer who was convicted of murdering seven people across Lanarkshire and southern Scotland between 1956 and his arrest in January 1958, and is believed to have murdered two more. Prior to his arrest, the media nicknamed the unidentified killer "the Beast of Birkenshaw". Manuel was hanged at Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison; he was the second to last prisoner to die on the Barlinnie gallows.

John Scalise

John Scalise was an Italian-American organized crime figure of the early 20th century and, with partner Albert Anselmi, was one of the Chicago Outfit's most successful hitmen in Prohibition-era Chicago.

Roger Touhy

Roger Touhy was an Irish American mob boss and prohibition-era bootlegger from Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. He is best remembered for having been framed for the 1933 faked kidnapping of gangster John "Jake the Barber" Factor, a brother of cosmetics manufacturer Max Factor Sr. Despite numerous appeals and at least one court ruling freeing him, Touhy spent 26 years in prison. Touhy was released in November 1959, and murdered by the Chicago Outfit less than a month later.

Albert W. Hicks

Albert W. Hicks, also known as Elias W. Hicks, William Johnson, John Hicks, and Pirate Hicks, was a triple murderer, and one of the last persons executed for piracy in the United States. Cultural historian Rich Cohen places him as the first New York City legendary gangster figure, a bridge between the piracy of old and rise of a new 'gangster nation'.

The North Side Gang, also known as the North Side Mob, was the dominant Irish-American criminal organization within Chicago during the Prohibition era from the early-to-late 1920s and principal rival of the Italian-American Johnny Torrio–Al Capone organization, later known as the Chicago Outfit.

Louis Campagna

Louis "Little New York" Campagna was an American gangster and mobster and a high-ranking member of the Chicago Outfit for over three decades.

Salvatore "Frank" Capone was an American Chicago mobster who participated in the attempted takeover of Cicero, Illinois by the Chicago Outfit. He worked in the businesses with his brothers Al Capone and Ralph Capone.

William Jackson, also known as Action Jackson was an enforcer and loan collector for the Chicago Outfit. He earned his nickname of "Action" because it was slang for "Juice Man", which meant debt-collector. He was tortured to death by his fellow gangsters, allegedly on suspicion that he had become an informant for the FBI.

Anthony Warde

Anthony Warde was a noted American actor who appeared in over 150 films between 1937 and 1964.

Tom O'Brien was an American confidence man and swindler during the late 19th century. He was popularly known as "King of the Banco Men", along with other prominent tricksters such as Joseph "Hungry Joe" Lewis and Charles P. Miller, and organized countless banco and confidence schemes throughout the United States, especially in New Orleans, Chicago and New York, as well as in Europe. He often partnered with a number of confidence and banco men such as Lon Ludlam, Red Adams, Frank Smith, Pete Carlisle, Ed Ray, Red Austin, Charley Hinnell, "Hungry Joe" Lewis and Reed Waddell. He later shot and killed Waddell in an argument over money following a scheme they had run in Paris, France.

Silas Carter Jayne was a Chicago-based stable owner who was implicated in multiple notorious crimes.

The College Kidnappers was a group of alumni from the University of Illinois who specialized in kidnapping wealthy mobsters for ransom. These mobsters were targets because they were less likely to approach the police and could pay the ransom.

References

  1. 1 2 Lydersen, Kari "Infamous Piece of Chicago History Goes on the Block" The Washington Post, October 31, 2006. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  2. "The Officer Down Memorial Page: Detective Patrick O'Neil". Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  3. 1 2 "Judge Scanlan retires after 42 year career", Chicago Tribune, 2 June 1951.
  4. Gavser, Bernard "Original Gallows Awaits Tom O'Connor 30 Years After Escape" Lakeland Ledger, May 30, 1962. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  5. "The Officer Down Memorial Page: Officer Stacey Mizner". Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  6. Limerick Post
  7. Jay Robert Nash (1981). Almanac of World Crime. Anchor Press/Doubleday. pp.  145–146. ISBN   978-0-385-15003-3.

Further reading