South Brooklyn Vendetta or Mafia? 1896 Part I

Study of the Latest Mysterious Italian Tragedy

Never since the famous New Orleans case, in which eleven Italians were killed and in which the existence of the Mafia was conclusively proven, has there been so striking a manifestation of its work than in what will be known in criminal history as the South Brooklyn vendetta. In the tragedy of two weeks ago, Glocchino Cocchiara was wounded and his friend was killed in an effort to save him. This was the fifth attempt on the life of Cocchiara in seven years and the man has no doubt but that the next attempt will be successful.

The story is best told from the beginning.

Cocchiara came from the town of Palermo, Sicily, the home of the Mafia, when that organization represented everything that was patriotic and democratic among Italians. He came to this country in 1884. A man of more than ordinary intelligence, he soon accumulated enough money to open a barber shop, marry and become quite a capitalist among his people in Boston.

In 1889 he opened a shop at 77 Cambridge street, in that city, and took into his employ Sevario Amato and Agnacio DeLuca.

The Origin of the Vendetta

In November of that year the three went gunning in the woods of Milton, Mass., taking with them another friend. They were successful and bagged quite a number of birds when it was proposed that they should rest. DeLuca was an excellent shot with a revolver and he proposed that while dinner was cooking they should try a little pistol practice. Cocchiara did not care to engage in the contest, but the other three began shooting at a mark. The target was a bottle lodged in a fork of a tree. DeLuca finally broke it when a large dog sprang through the underbrush and made for the four men.

All ran away except DeLuca, who aimed at the dog. Amato saw the owner of the dog approaching and warned DeLuca; but it was too late and the bullet went into the head of the animal, killing him instantly. James Cunningham, a Bostonian, who was hunting in the woods at the time, came up to DeLuca with a revolver drawn and said to him angrily:

"What did you kill that dog for?"

Words ensued between the two men when suddenly DeLuca fired at Cunningham and killed him.

Cocchiara says that during the trial that took place after this shooting of Cunningham a great many Italians were arrested and circumstantial evidence was so strong against them and there seemed to exist such a general feeling that all were guilty of the crime, that to save innocent people, he resolved to tell the truth when called as a witness. He detailed the circumstances of the case and tried to convince the jury that the shooting was merely in self defense, but DeLuca was sent to the penitentiary for fifteen years.

That was the beginning of the persecution of Cocchiara, who had done, he says, only as his conscience dictated. His testimony against the guilty man, however, was considered an unpardonable crime by his people and he soon had reason to know that his death had been decided upon as a "sarcio," or informer.

It is not the policy of these Italian dealers of vengeance to warn their victims as the American White Capi do. Some one is appointed to do the work and goes immediately upon his scheme of so-called justice. Although Amato had testified at the trial too, he could only say what he heard, as he was not a witness to the act. He was simply ostracized for this by his people and treated as an outcast. The ban of death was not passed upon him.

The First Attempts to Kill Cocchiara

it was about a year after the trial when Cocchiara left his home alone one summer night and entered a restaurant o n North street. An Italian soon followed him into the room and eat behind him at another table. He turned and said something insulting to Cocchiara with the evident intention of evoking a resort and picking a quarrel.

Cocchiara started to look at the man when he felt the cold steel of a stiletto enter his shoulder. He tried to grasp his assailant but the stranger fled. The victim was too weak from the loss of blood to pursue and he was taken home to his wife and children in a half fainting condition. This was the first attempt.

In spite of the secret feud declared against him. Cocchiara continued to prosper and soon owned two barber shops on Cambridge street, Boston. Understanding that his life was henceforth in danger he avoided putting himself in a position where he might be taken at a disadvantage, and although he was attacked twice after that by men he was able to more than defend himself. A lull of a couple of years took place, and Cocchiara, while not entirely relaxing his vigilance, began to be less fearful of his enemies. In June of last year he employed in one of his shops a young Italian named Antonio Caro Armblesas. This young man appeared to take a special liking to his employer and often invited him to go out of town with him. But Coochiara had not yet gained confidence enough to trust anyone and in spite of the warm advances of his assistant he went but little from his home.

At length one night Cocchiara noticed that Armblesas worked in a sort of absent minded way and kept his eyes constantly on his employer. Cocchiara told him he might go home early if he so wished, as he seemed nervous. But Armblesas remained until the shop was closed and asked Cocchiara to accompany him tot he corner for a treat. This Cocchiara would not do.

"Walk but a little way with me," pleaded Armblesas, "I wish to talk with you."

Cocchiara consented and stepped forward. Immediately he heard two shots and felt a ball just graze his ear. He whipped out the weapon he always carried and fired two shots, he says, in the air. The Boston police say he fired at Armblesas. At any rate Armblesas was wounded and subsequently died. Cocchiara ran away, fearing, he says, that there were other assassins around to help Armblesas. He was arrested, charged by the police with the murder of his assistant. The trial was set for November, 1896.In the meantime Cocchiara says that he learned that his enemies had manufactured very strong evidence of his intention to kill Armblesas, and would put several witnesses on the stand to swear against him. One of those was a negro who, Cocchiara says, owed him a grudge because he could not be shaved for nothing as he had requested. This negro was ready to swear that he saw him with the smoking pistol in his hand.

Continue on Part II


Website: The History
Article Name: South Brooklyn Vendetta or Mafia? Part I 1896
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle June 7, 1896
Time & Date Stamp: