Childhood & Early Life
Frank Capone was born on July 16, 1895, in Brooklyn, New York City, to Italian immigrant parents, Gabriel Capone, a barber; and Teresina Capone (née Raiola), a seamstress. They were nine siblings - seven brothers and two sisters. Frank and his elder brother Ralph worked with the younger brother Al Capone in the organized crime gang, ‘Chicago Outfit.’
The Capone parents first moved from Italy to Fiume, then travelled by ship to the US and lived in the Navy Yard section of the Downtown Brooklyn. Thus, Frank Capone grew up in Brooklyn, New York.
Later, he and his brother Al got involved with the ‘Five Points Gang,’ the Italian-American criminal organization operating from Manhattan, New York, and with its mobster boss, John Torrio, another Italian-American like them. When Torrio moved to Chicago in 1918, he invited Frank and Al to join him. By 1920, Torrio established the ‘Chicago Outfit,’ a criminal organization. As this American mafia operated from Chicago’s south side, it was also known as ‘South Side Gang.’
Continue Reading Below
The Chicago Outfit
The prohibition era started in 1920 and the South Side gang soon began earning wealth and power through illicit liquor business and gambling dens, brothels etc. In 1923, the newly elected mayor of Chicago, William Dever, was determined to clean up the businesses of Torrio, Capones and the ‘Chicago Outfit.’ So the mobsters had to shift their operations and they moved to Cicero, a suburb of Chicago. The Capone brothers turned the city manager of Cicero, Joseph Z. Klenha, and other town committeemen to their side by putting them on gang’s payroll.
Frank Capone was the front-man representing the organization in Cicero and he was given the task of dealing with the town council. The ‘South Side gang’ ran their speakeasies, brothels and illegal gambling in Cicero, but the town council officers and police force turned a blind eye.
However, during the April 1924 primary elections, the Democratic Party began gathering strong support to build a tough opposition against the corrupt officer Klenha of the Republican Party. In order to safeguard their own interest and their political control over the town, Frank Capone created terror for the Democrats. His men threatened the Democrat candidate for the office of town clerk William Pflaum, and wrecked up his office. The police didn’t stop them as some of them were believed to be on the gang’s payroll.
On the Election Day, April 1, 1924, Capone sent his gang members armed with baseball bats, sawed-off shotguns and submachine guns, to make sure that the people voted only for Klenha and his Republican Party candidates. The gang men confiscated the ballot papers from voters who were uncooperative, marked them for Republic candidate and accompanied the voter to the ballot box. The unarmed polling officers could not stop the armed gangsters at the polling stations. The officers, who opposed, were kidnapped and kept away from the elections.
A campaigner of opposition Democratic Party was shot in both legs and then was taken to a Chicago hotel with 8 of his co-workers. Frank Capone also had the opposition’s campaign headquarters vandalized and attacked the Democratic campaign workers.
The Cicero citizens decided to join forces against this gang terror and approached the County Judge Edmund K. Jareki, who immediately sent ‘Chicago Police department’s (CPD)’ 70 plainclothes men to control the situation at the elections. The police force, under the command of Sergeant William Cusack, arrived at the Cicero Avenue polling station in a motorcade of unmarked sedans, similar to those used by the gangsters.
Frank Capone, Charlie Fischetti and one more gangster were spotted just outside a building. Frank Capone wasn’t sure and probably thought that the people in civilian clothes were members of the rival (North Side) gang. As the police personnel stepped out of the cars and began walking, guns were fired. It was not clear as to who opened the fire first, but later at the inquest the police asserted that Frank Capone was the one to start the gun fire. They submitted a pistol with three missing rounds, claiming that it was Frank’s gun. In the resulting cross fire, Frank Capone was shot down by Sergeant Philip J. McGlynn.
A newspaper editor, Robert St. John, reported his eyewitness account that before Frank Capone could take out his gun from his back pocket he was riddled with bullets and fell on the ground. Other witnesses also stated that the gangsters did not open fire. In its verdict, the jury concluded that Capone was killed while resisting arrest.
Fischetti tried to run away, but the police caught him up and he surrendered. The third gangster, a short heavy-set man ran away, tried to fire back and then escaped. He was initially believed to be Al Capone, but police later identified him as David Hedlin. The Republican candidate Klenha, however, won the elections.
Frank Capone’s funeral was held on April 4, 1924, and it was a grand event befitting a gang leader. The casket was silver plated with $20,000 worth of flowers surrounding it and was carried with a motorcade of around 150 cars. He was laid to rest at ‘Mount Carmel Cemetery’ outside Chicago. All the businesses of the South Side gang were kept closed for 2 hours during the funeral.