One February evening in North Chicago, seven well-dressed men were found riddled with bullets inside the S.M.C Cartage Co. garage. They had been lined up against a wall, with their backs to their executioners and shot to death. With the exception of Dr. Reinhardt H. Schwimmer these men were mobsters working under the leadership of gangster and bootlegger, "Bugs" Moran. Within a few seconds, while staring at a bare brick wall, these seven men had become a part of Valentine's Day history: the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. [continued below]
Chicago policemen re-enact the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1929)
During the height of prohibition and the never-ending competition between gangster rivals Al "Scarface" Capone and George "Bugs" Moran, bloody warfare was nothing new to the authorities of Chicago. However, investigators on the scene found the Valentine's Day Massacre to be somewhat puzzling. The victims were mobsters, with an endless supply of weapons and well known capability for brutality. Why would they turn their backs and face the wall for anyone without putting up a fight? That was one of many questions to be answered.
Another question came about after an eyewitness gave her account of what happened on that night in 1929. She lived directly across the street and had a perfect view of the garage. She claimed to have seen two uniformed policemen exit the garage while escorting two plain clothed men who held their hands up in the air, as if they were under arrest. Of course, this comforted the shaken woman, thinking that the loud gun fire that she had just heard had been resolved and the parties responsible were being taken into custody. However, the Chicago police had no record of any such activity at 2122 Clark Street until they arrived on the scene to find the horrifying blood bath.
When it comes to suspects, a murder mystery can run the gamut of possibilities. In the case of The Valentine's Day Massacre, the person with the most motive was not difficult to come by. Although he claimed to be in Florida at the time of the murders, Al Capone was, without hesitation, the one and only suspect in this infamous crime. Thanks to prohibition, Capone had become the crime czar of Chicago, running gambling, prostitution and bootlegging rackets while continuously expanding his territories by getting rid of rival gangs. Capones fortune was estimated at $60,000,000. That kind of money gave Al Capone one of the oldest and most common motives in murder mystery history. He had to take down "Bugs" Moran at any cost. But as one of the leading gangsters in Chicago, Moran was not an easy person to get rid of. So in order to get rid of Moran, Capone chose to start at the bottom and get rid of Moran's outfit, leaving him defenseless.
When the bodies were discovered splattered on the floor of the garage, it seemed at first glance, that not one single person could have survived the force of the attack. However, this proved to be untrue, when one investigator on the scene found Frank Gusenberg lying amongst the bloody corpses, breathing heavily and choking on his own blood. Immediately, the unconscious victim was taken to the hospital where investigators waited with anticipation for their only possible lead to wake up and finger the men who were responsible. Their greatest fear was that he would die before they had the opportunity to question him, but eventually he did wake. When he was asked for the identity of the killer, he simply stated "I'm not gonna talk," before he laid his head back and died. Without Frank Gusenberg's testimony and with only a few eye witnesses outside the garage, the investigators had to return to the scene of the crime and try to piece the murder together with what information they had.
After a re-enactment of the crime, authorities concluded that the two men dressed as policemen entered the garage and acted as if they were police on a routine investigation. The Moran outfit automatically assumed that they were policemen on a routine sting. It was obvious that they didnt suspect anything questionable with the two uniformed killers or they certainly would have never been killed without a fight. But as it was, the mobsters seemed to have cooperated with the costumed officers and consequently let the fake policemen disarm them and force them up against the wall. As soon as their backs were turned, the two men in plain clothes entered with guns and shot them down.
Therefore, the eye-witnesses were somewhat accurate when they claimed to have seen two policemen arresting two men. What they had actually seen was four brutal murderers making their cleverly planned get away. If a neighbor or neighbors looked out after such rapid and explosive gunfire, what better way to calm their nerves, by letting them think that everything was under control. And indeed it was under control. The mysterious killers drove away into the night, long before anyone thought to call the police, because the neighbors saw from their windows that the police were already there.
As any mystery lover knows, a murder mystery would not be complete without a clear and well defined conclusion, but in the case of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, it has every element of the mystery, but the ending. Al Capone was never arrested for the crimes; the mysterious gun men were never identified and Capone never graced a reader or interested member of the public with an over dramatic confession. Instead, he was blandly indicted for tax evasion some years later and spent seven years in prison only to be released to retire in Florida, where he died from Syphilis in 1947.
In many respects, the Valentine's Day Massacre follows the perfect mystery blueprint up to the end. Although Capone never went into complete detail on the events of the massacre, perhaps he did allude to his future plans for that bloody Valentine's Day in 1929. A few months prior to the murders, Al Capone mentioned to a fellow "associate" his plan to take down Moran. Capone was told by the "associate" that he would have to kill a lot of people in order to get to "Bugs" Moran. It is rumored that Capone replied by simply saying: "I'll send flowers."