Joe Bruno on the Mob – Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole – The Baby Killer

He was known throughout the underworld as the “Mad Mick,” but when he gunned down five children in Harlem, killing one poor kid, Vincent Cole became forever known as “Mad Dog” Cole.

Vincent Cole was born on July 20, 1908 in Gweedore, a small town in County Donegal, Ireland. When he was an infant, his parents relocated to America, settling in a cold water flat in the Bronx. After five of his siblings died from either accidents or disease, his father left the family, never to be seen again. Cole’s mother died from pneumonia when he was seven, and Cole and his older brother Peter were taken by the state of New York and put in the Mt. Loretto Orphanage in Staten Island. The Cole brothers stood at the orphanage for three years, both being beaten repeatedly for insubordination. Finally they escaped and insinuated themselves into New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, where they became members of the notorious street gang called The Gophers.

Soon the Cole Brothers were working as go-fers for the infamous bootlegger Dutch Schultz. They were paid a hundred bucks a week to do Schultz’ dirty work, which included a few killings when necessary. Finally fed up with Schultz’ known cheapness as far as paying his crew, Cole approached Schultz and demanded he become a full partner. “I ain’t your nigger shoeshine boy,” Cole told Schultz. “I’ll show you a thing or two.”

Cole started up a small gang, which included his brother Peter, and his girlfriend and future wife, Lottie Kreisberger, who did little more than keep Cole company. Cole’s first move on Schultz was a brazen daytime robbery of Schultz’ Sheffield Dairy in the Bronx. Schultz was so angry at Cole’s treachery, he thundered into the 42nd Precinct and told a room full of cops, “I’ll buy a house in Westchester for anyone in here who can kill that mick (Cole).

Cole then set out trying to lure Schultz’ gang members away from Schultz, and into Cole’s gang. Through an old school acquaintance named Mary Smith, the Cole brothers set up a meeting with one of Schultz’ top boys, Vincent Barelli. When Barelli rebuffed their advances, they shot him dead. Mary, horrified at what she had just seen and unwittingly set up, tried to escape, but Cole chased her down and shot her in the head in the middle of the street. A few days later, members of Schultz’ gang machine-gunned Peter Cole as he was driving in Harlem. The death of Peter Cole precipitated a large scale war between Vincent Cole and Schultz, which resulted in at least 20 killings.

Needing fast cash, Cole accepted an assignment from Italian Mob boss Salvatore Maranzano to kill Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovese, in Maranzano’s midtown office. Maranzano paid Cole $25,000 up front, with another $25,000 due upon completion of his task. Cole was in the lobby of Maranzano’s office building, with a machine gun hidden under his coat, waiting for the elevator, when three men rushed out of the stairwell and plowed right into him. Knowing who he was, the men told Cole they had just killed Maranzano, and for Cole to beat it before the cops arrived. Cole smiled, did an about-face and exited the building, whistling happily, knowing he had just pocketed twenty five grand for doing absolutely nothing.

To further inflate his bank account, Cole started kidnapping top aids of gang leaders, like Owney “The Killer” Madden, an Irishman himself. Madden paid Cole $35,000 for the return of his partner Big Frenchy DeMange, who was co-owner with Madden in the Cotton Club in Harlem. Cole then kidnapped Madden’s front man at the Stork Club, the very popular Sherman Billingsley. Again Madden paid the ransom and Billingsley was soon back at the Stork Club, happily in fine heath.

Next on Cole’s hit list was Joey Rao, Schultz’ top numbers man in Harlem. Rao and a bunch of his boys were standing in front of their Helmar Social Club on East 107th Street, divvying out pennies to neighborhood kids, when Cole and his gang came barreling around the corner in a touring car. Cole let go with several blasts from a machine gun, missing Rao and his men completely, but instead striking five children. Little five-year old Michael Vengali took several bullets in the stomach, and he died before he could be rushed to the hospital.

The New York City newspapers ran frightening headlines about the “Baby Killer,” and dubbed Cole — Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole. And like any “mad dog,” the public and the underworld demanded that Cole be put down. New York City Mayor James Walker offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who provided information that led to Cole’s arrest. Madden and Schultz upped the ante, each offering $25,000 to any mug who could put the “Mad Dog” down with bullets.

Cole hid out in various parts of the northeast, before finally returning to New York City with Lottie. They were holed up in the Cornish Arms Hotel on West 23rd Street, when the cops, acting on a tip, barged in and arrested Cole. His trial was expected to be a slam-dunk for the prosecution, but the brilliant legal tactics of Cole’s lawyer Samuel Liebowitz got Cole off the hook.

After the trial, Cole held court with the press outside the Criminal Courts Building. He told the reporters, “I’ve been charged with all kinds of crimes, but baby-killing was the limit. I’d like nothing better than to lay my hands on the man who did this.”

Cole was back on the streets, but still a marked man for the mob. He married Lottie at City Hall, but they were constantly on the run, moving quickly from place to place. On February 1, 1932, four men busted into a home in the north Bronx, gun blazing. They shot a table full of people playing cards. Two Cole gang members were killed (Fiorio Basile and Patsy Del Greco), and another one wounded. Also killed was Mrs. Emily Torrizello, who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and another woman was wounded. Two babies in their cribs were left untouched. Cole showed up at the house a half hour later, just as the police arrived.

Cole was on the run again. He wound up back with Lottie at the Cornish Arms Hotel. Cole decided this was a good time to start kidnapping again, but this time with a twist. He phoned Madden and told him he wanted $100,000, to not kidnap Madden. “Imagine how the Dagos and Kikes is gonna feel when they have to shell out a hundred grand to save your sorry ass,” he told Madden. “Pay me now, up front, and I’ll save you the trouble.”

Madden said he needed some time to think about it. On March 8, 1932, Madden phoned Cole and told Cole to call him from the phone booth at the drug store across the street from his hotel. At 12:30 am, Cole strode into the New London Pharmacy on West 23rd Street and headed for the phone booth in back. While he was talking to Madden on the phone, a man with a machine gun hidden under his coat, calmly walked to the back of the drug store and opened fire. Cole’s body was riddled with 15 bullets. Hearing the commotion, Lottie arrived a few minutes later to see her husband’s tattered dead body.

Lottie Cole refused to speak with the police, but she cried to someone standing nearby, that their life savings, at the time, was a measly hundred dollar bill she had stuffed inside her bra. This proved that Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole, despite his dreadful bite, had died doggone broke.


One Response to “Joe Bruno on the Mob – Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole – The Baby Killer”

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