Organized Crime

Gangster Era Reborn: Unearthed Crime Scenes from New York’s Prohibition Underworld

Nearly 100 years later, there's still new information to discover.
The outside view of London Chemist’s Drugstore where Vincent Coll met his end.

Vincent (Mad Dog) Coll, shot and killed in telephone booth of London Chemists drugstore, NYPD 15013D, Courtesy of The New York Municipal Archives

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.

Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013A: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013B: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Note the direction of the telephone. Coll most likely had his back to his killer and never saw it coming.

Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013C: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
View of the closed booth as it was seen by Coll’s killer.

Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013E: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Coll’s body and the path the killer walked after acknowledging Coll’s bodyguard. Although a common store setup for the 1930s, the cramped environment left Coll little chance to escape.

Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013F: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Shot an estimated 12-16 times, Coll suffered bullet wounds through his brain, heart, right lung and arms.

Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013G: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013H: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013I: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013J: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013K: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013L: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York
Vincent Coll Shot in Drugstore, NYPD 15013M: Courtesy Municipal Archives, City of New York

SOURCES

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

16 comments

  1. Are there anymore gangsters pictures from the archives? They were incredible. The Vincent Coll pictures were insane. I’d love to see some of Maseria and Marrazano. That would be incredible. Please let everyone know if there’s anymore being released. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for checking it out, Jonathan! So Masseria and Maranzano photos remain big targets for me. My take is they have to be somewhere, just a matter of if the Archives have it or the NYPD themselves. Believe it or not, even all these decades later there’s still records the NYPD haven’t transferred over to the Archives. There’s definitely more gangster photos. The tricky thing with the searches is that a lot of times the names are completely misspelled due the officers who arrived on scene (you’ll notice this on some of the pictures as that’s how they’re listed in the Archives records). So, it’s really a grind to go through the records but so worth it when you find gems like these. Rest assured, once the pandemic slows down and the Archives are open to the public, I’ll be right back in there searching.

      1. Couldn’t email you directly but try this – At the bottom of the first page on the site, you should should see a list of numbers going horizontally across the page in little boxes. Each of these represents a different page with the pictures. If you’re on a mobile device, it’ll be right before title of the next article.

    1. Appreciate the support James and I absolutely loved your Youtube video! You put a big smile on my face and I’ll proudly carry that new favorite person title haha Once the pandemic slows down and the Archives reopen, I plan to get right back in there digging for more gems.

  2. Amazing pictures. Nice research Ismael. I enjoyed it including the stories that go with it. I hope you find more (Greetings from the Netherlands)

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