Mob Rats – Abe “Kid Twist” Reles – Part 3
Nine days later, on July 19, 1931, Meyer Shapiro was strolling down Church Avenue and East 58th Street in the East New York section of Brooklyn, when a dark sedan pulled up next to him, and three gunmen started firing.
Shapiro jumped into his car and tried to escape; with the dark sedan speeding after him.
Policeman Harold Schreck was driving nearby when he heard gunfire. He rushed to where the shots had come from, and he spotted the dark sedan careening straight toward him.
Not seeing Meyer Shapiro speeding away for his life, Policeman Schreck ordered the driver of the sedan to pull over. But the sedan whizzed past him.
Policeman Schreck made a U-turn and gave chase; his right hand driving and his left hand firing a gun at the speeding sedan.
Soon, Schreck was joined by another police car manned by policemen Joe Fleming, with his partner Harry Phelps riding shotgun. The two police cars chased the sedan onto the streetcar tracks.
The sedan skidded all over the road, almost tipping over several times, but it remained straight on the tracks. At one point, Policeman Schreck spotted a pistol being flung from the car into an empty lot on Sutter Avenue.
The chase ended at Livonia and Howard Avenues; where the three gangsters sprang from the car and tried to flee on foot. The cops jumped out of their two cars and caught all three men before they could get too far.
The three men turned out to be Abe Reles, Harry Strauss, and Dasher Abbandando (who had diminished skills at “dashing”). The cops also found a sawed-off shotgun near the sedan, which had been stolen six days earlier at the corner of Pitkin and Stone. It was obvious the hot shotgun had recently been discharged.
The cops arrested the three thugs and took them to the station house. But all three refused to squeal.
The police had information Reles and his boys were “out to get” Meyer Shapiro, but Shapiro, only slightly wounded, went into hiding. With no dead body, and no one to issue a complaint, Brooklyn District Attorney Geoghan was forced to let Reles and his men go.
That made it 20 times Meyer Shapiro had survived a Reles-led pistol attack.
As a consolation prize, a few days later, Reles and Happy Maione cornered Joey Silvers on a Brownsville Street corner, and up close, they blew his head almost completely off his shoulders.
But, Meyer Shapiro was still on the loose; with Reles and his boys in hot pursuit.
Meyer Shapiro decided Brooklyn was too hot for him, so he holed up in Manhattan where he figured he was safe. Shapiro figured he could establish himself in Manhattan; a little loansharking, a few slot machines, and maybe even a speakeasy on the side. While attempting to set up shop in Manhattan, Shapiro exposed himself to the underworld element; not a smart thing to do for a man with a bullseye on his back.
On Sept. 17, 1931, Meyer Shapiro stopped in a Manhattan speakeasy for a drink. It’s not clear who spotted him first, but soon Kid Twist Reles, Happy Maione, and Buggsy Goldstein abducted Shapiro and took him to a Lower East Side cellar, located at 7 Manhattan Avenue.
The next morning a newsboy found Shapiro’s body. He had been shot once behind the left ear at close range, verified by deep powder burns where the bullet had entered Shapiro’s skull. As was his plan, Reles fired the fatal bullet. Even Abe Reles couldn’t miss with his gun pressed up against Shapiro’s noggin.
Scratch Shapiro brother No. 2.
Now all that was left of the Shapiro gang was Willie Shapiro, who had been making noise he was out to get Reles and his crew, despite the fact Willie had disappeared from the streets of Brownsville.
Willie Shapiro was considered the weakest of the Shapiro brothers, and was not a top priority on the Boys from Brownsville’s list of things to do. Reles and Happy Maione were too busy strengthening their organizations to put much effort in locating Willie, who by this time had embarked on a career as a prizefighter. Unfortunately for Willie Shapiro, he spent most of his ring time on his back staring at the overhead lights.
By 1934, Willie Shapiro knew he was dead if he insisted on going after the men who had killed his two brothers.
He told his sister Rose, “What’s the use? I can’t make it alone. I’m out of the rackets. I’m going to forget about those bums.”
It turned out Willie had waited too long to announce his retirement from a life of crime.
Although Reles and his boys were not actively seeking Willie Shapiro, he was still unfinished business, and Reles hated unfinished business.
On July 18, 1934, the day after Willie Shapiro had spoken to his sister Rose, Vito Gurino met Reles and Strauss on a Brownsville street corner.
He told them, “I just spotted Willie going into a place near Herkimer. You know, we’ve got nothing to do now. Why don’t we take him tonight and be done with it?”
Reles and Strauss agreed with Gurino’s assessment, and a few hours later they abducted Willie Shapiro from a Brownsville bar and brought him to the basement of a bar-and-grill on Rockaway Avenue, which Gurino owned with Happy Maione and Happy’s brother-in-law, Joe Daddonna.
The hulking Gurino, Happy Maione, Pep Strauss, and the Dasher beat the crap out of Willie Shapiro. When Willie had been rendered unconscious, Happy put a stop to the festivities.
“This bum’s done for,” Happy told his pals.
That was the cue for Strauss to demonstrate his neat rope trick.
“Pittsburgh Phil” trussed up Willie Shapiro like a Thanksgiving turkey; then the killers watched Willie’s dance of death. When Willie stopped struggling and fell limp, the killers stuffed Willie into a laundry bag to make it easier to transport his body. They flung the laundry bag into the trunk of their car, and drove to the sand dunes in a secluded area of Canarsie Flats. There they dumped the laundry bag containing Willie’s body onto a sand dune, and commenced digging.
A Canarsie resident, who was having trouble sleeping, decided to go for a stroll near the sand dunes. He was startled when he thought he had detected movement on top of one of the dunes. The stroller crept closer, and he spotted four men digging in the sand.
Suddenly, Happy lifted his head and spotted the witness. He whispered to his pals, “Somebody made us.”
The four killers sprinted to their car, jumped in, and sped back to Brownsville.
The witness ran over to where the men had been digging, and he noticed the laundry bag in the half-dug hole. He bent down, pulled open the top of the bag, and there was Willie, all trussed up and not looking too chipper.
The witness ran to the local police station, and when the police arrived at the dunes, Willie Shapiro was declared dead. His body was brought to the Medical Examiner, who discovered sand in Willie’s lungs; meaning Willie had been buried alive.
Scratch Shapiro brother No. 3.