MAD DOG COLL’S CURTAIN CALL
By February 1932, the die had been cast on Vincent Coll’s life. The public detested him despite his acquittal for the murder of 5 year old Michael Vengalli. The police had orders to arrest him on sight any time he dared venture into the city limits. For criminals, his maverick attitude and psychotic ways were bad for business. He had no allies from the new Mafia chieftains, headed by Charles “Lucky” Luciano, since word got out that he accepted a contract on Luciano’s life from the late Salvatore Maranzano, the final “boss of bosses.” Coll fared no better with Luciano’s Jewish colleagues, as Dutch Schultz still wanted the Mad Dog’s head on a platter. The last person Coll could remotely call a friend, was fellow Irishman Jack “Legs” Diamond, whose brains had been blown out by assassins last December in an Albany, NY rooming house.
That left Hell’s Kitchen boss Owney Madden. He was no friend to Coll, but he represented the young gangster’s only potential lifeline. He threatened Madden to pay him a large sum of money or face being held for ransom. Madden knew about this tactic firsthand, having already paid Coll a ransom to return his second-in-command, Big Frenchy DeMange, several years earlier. Little did Coll know that his murder was already in motion, and his threats gave Madden just the opening he needed to spring the trap.
On February 8, 1932 at around 12:30am, Coll and an unidentified bodyguard arrived at the London Chemist’s drugstore. Both went to the back to use the phone booths. Of the three booths, Coll took the one on the far left and closest to the door, while the bodyguard took the middle booth. Coll quickly became engrossed in his call, speculated to be with Madden, while the bodyguard left the booth and waited at the soda fountain.
Some have speculated Coll’s phone was being traced, but the more likely scenario is Coll’s bodyguard made a call giving up their whereabouts. A car soon arrived with three hitmen. Two posted watch outside, and a third entered the drugstore with a machine gun. Upon seeing the killer, Coll’s bodyguard exchanged a knowing look with the assassin and promptly walked out the door. With the way the phones were situated, Coll’s back was facing toward the killer and he never knew what hit him.
The killer sprayed Coll from head to toe with two bursts of machine gun fire. The force sent Coll’s body toppling backward out of the booth as the conspirators made a quick getaway.
No one was ever charged with the crime.
Mad Dog Coll: An Irish Gangster, Breandan Delap and Rich Gold, Huntington Press, 2016
Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster, TJ English, Regan Books, 2005
Vincent Coll Death Certificate# 3110, State of New York, Department of Health, New York Municipal Archives