Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Al Capone: Chicago's Most Infamous Mob Boss

Al Goes into Hiding

Capone went into hiding for three months in the summer.  Reputedly some 300 detectives looked for him all over the country, in Canada and even Italy.  In fact, he initially found refuge in the home of a friend in Chicago Heights and then, for most of the time, with friends in Lansing, Michigan.

Those three months in hiding made an indelible mark on Al.  He began to see himself as much more than a successful rackeeter.  He started to think of himself as a source of pride to the Italian immigrant community, a generous benefactor and important fixer who could help people.  His bootlegging operations employed thousands of people, many of whom were poor Italian immigrants.  His generosity was becoming legendary in Lansing.  While much of this was just his ego getting larger, Capone had real leadership abilities and was very capable of extending those talents into areas that were beneficial to the community.  He seriously thought of retiring from his life of crime and violence.

Capone's Fingerprints
Capone's Fingerprints

He couldn't spend the rest of his life in hiding so he decided upon a calculated but risky course.  He negotiated his surrender to the Chicago police.  It was the first step in the new direction in which he wanted to take his life:  exoneration in the death of McSwiggin, using his vast wealth to finance legitimate enterprises and set himself up as a hero to the Italian immigrant community.

On July 28, 1926, he returned to Chicago to face the accusations of murder.  It turned out to be the right decision because the authorities did not have sufficient evidence to bring him to trial.  For all the public uproar and efforts of the law enforcement groups, Al Capone was a free man.  The authorities looked impotent.

Capone in his new role as the expansive peacemaker made a last ditch attempt to create an alliance with Hymie Weiss despite a recent attempt on his life.  He offered Hymie a very profitable business deal in exchange for peace.  Hymie turned him down.   The next day, Hymie was gunned down at the ripe old age of twenty-eight.

The people of Chicago were tired of reading about gang violence and the newspapers fanned their anger.  Capone held a highly publicized "peace conference" in which he appealed to the other bootleggers assembled there to tone down the violence.   "There is enough business for all of us without killing each other like animals in the streets.  I don't want to die in the street punctured by machine-gun fire."  He made his point.  At the end of the meeting, an "amnesty" had been negotiated which accomplished two key things: first, there would be no more murders or beatings and second, past murders would not be avenged.   For more than two months thereafter, nobody connected with the bootlegging business was killed.

In January of 1927, one of Al's closest friends, Theodore Anton, known as "Tony the Greek," was found murdered.  Capone was in tears over the loss of his friend and started to think more seriously about retirement.  He invited a group of reporters over to his house and cooked them a spaghetti dinner, all to announce his retirement.  Was he serious or just play acting?  He probably was serious about retiring before someone put a bullet in his skull, but Al's need for power and excitement kept pushing real retirement into the future.

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