Did you see that sedan rush by? Was that a gun hanging out the window?
In 1928, a car was on its way to spew a rain of bullets at some unsuspecting Puerto Rican youth on the corner of Sackett Street at the end of Van Brunt. The shooting was a case of mistaken identity in retaliatory killings for the murder of infamous mob boss Frankie Yale.
Organized crime was a basic part of life on the Brooklyn waterfront. There was a lot of money to be made in racketeering, corrupt union activity, and dockside extortion, which local thugs gladly took advantage of.
Al Capone got his start with the Mafia in Red Hook under Frankie Yale who espoused a new mafia work ethic of “business over ego.” Working with other Italian families and even other ethnic groups was okay if it was good for business. Capone would joke that he got “a Yale education”. After Capone established himself in Chicago, Yale ran the New York leg of Capone’s Canadian whiskey smuggling business during Prohibition.
When the number of hijackings of the whiskey deliveries spiked suspiciously, Capone sent some of his men to investigate and found that Yale was skimming some of the business for himself. On July 1, 1928, Yale was gunned down in south Brooklyn. Police questioned Capone, but got nothing out of him.
Yale’s murder left a power vacuum and laid the groundwork for the bloody Mafia fight known as the Castellammarese War. The Puerto Ricans who got gunned down were sadly caught up in the wake.