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CAPONE, Frank



(1895-1924): Brother of Al Capone
Frank Capone, elder brother of Alphonse "Scarf ace
Al" Capone, was, some experts say, a man who
could have written an even bloodier chapter in
American crime than his infamous brother. While
still in his 20s, he died in a pool of blood, riddled
with slugs from a police shotgun. Another great
Capone legend was nipped in the bud.
Frank Capone had a dedication to bloodletting
and more savage instincts than Al, a man who is con-
servatively estimated to have ordered the deaths of at
least 500 victims. Despite this bloody record, Al
always exercised a certain patience. His credo,
absorbed from the teachings of Johnny Torrio, was
"always try to deal before you have to kill." To
Frank Capone, this was an alien philosophy. His
favorite observation was, "You never get no back
talk from no corpse." And when spoken by Frank,
the words, uttered with quiet, almost bankerlike
reserve, bore an ominous quality unrivaled by Holly-
wood-inspired villains.
It was hardly surprising that, when the Chicago-
based Torrio-Capone plans shifted from persuasion
to force, Frank's labors had their shining moment. In
the 1924 city election in Cicero, Illinois, the Democ-
ratic Party had the temerity to actually try to unseat
the Torrio/Capone puppet regime of Joseph Z.
Klenha. On the eve of the April 1 election cam-
paigner Frank Capone took over. He led an assault
on the Democratic candidate for town clerk, William
K. Pflaum, besieging him in his office, roughing him
up and finally ripping his office apart.
During the actual polling the following day,
thugs invaded the polling places and screened out
voters. They were asked how they were voting and
if they gave the incorrect answer, a hoodlum
grabbed the ballot from their hand and marked it
"properly." They then waited, fingering a revolver,
until the voter exercised his or her civic responsibil-
ity by dropping the ballot into the box. There were
some voters who protested such cavalier treatment,
and the thugs stilled their complaints by simply
slugging them and carting them from the polling
place.
Most honest election officials and poll watchers
were frozen into inaction, and those who objected
were slugged, kidnapped and held captive until the
voting was concluded. The early toll included three
men shot dead and another who had his throat
slashed. A policeman, operating under the assump-
tion that laws should be enforced, was blackjacked
into submission. A Democratic campaign worker,
Michael Gavin, was shot in both legs and thought-
fully carried off to imprisonment in the basement of
a mob-owned hotel in Chicago. To make sure he was
ministered to properly, eight other balky Democrats
were sent along with him.
By late afternoon on election day the honest citi-
zenry of Cicero rallied their forces and sought relief
from the courts. In answer to their pleas, County
Judge Edmund K. Jarecki deputized 70 Chicago
police officers who were rushed to Cicero to fight a
series of battles with Capone thugs. A police squad
under Detective Sergeant William Cusick responded
to an emergency call from a polling place near the
Hawthorne works of the Western Electric Co. where
Al and Frank Capone, their cousin Charles Fischetti
and Dave Hedlin were soliciting votes with drawn
revolvers.
At that time police rode about in unmarked cars,
often long limousines similar in appearance to the
vehicles mobsters preferred. Al Capone, Fischetti and
Hedlin hesitated for a moment, unsure whether the
intruders were rival gangsters or police. Frank
Capone suffered no such restraints and immediately
opened fire, igniting a general gunfight. Frank moved
up on a patrolman and took aim at point-blank
range. Whether he missed or the gun misfired is
unclear, but before he could press the trigger again,
the patrolman and a companion cut loose with both
barrels of their shotguns. The elder Capone slumped
to the gutter, dead. Al Capone fled the scene, as did
Hedlin. Fischetti was seized but soon released by the
police.
The boys gave Frank Capone the biggest under-
world funeral seen in Chicago up to that time. It was
said Al personally selected the silver-plated coffin,
festooned with $20,000 worth of flowers. The
Chicago Tribune noted with some irony that the
affair was fitting enough for a "distinguished states-
man." It was an understatement. After all, what
statesman could bring about the ultimate period of
mourning whereby all the gambling joints and
whorehouses in Cicero ceased operations for two
entire hours in tribute to Frank Capone? And it must
be noted, in the final measurement of Frank
Capone's contribution to the American dream, that
his efforts on behalf of democracy had not been in
vain. The Klenha ticket, from top to bottom, was
swept back into office in a landslide.