A Gangster Guns Down A Little Boy In Harlem, 1931

londonchemistsvincentcollOn the evening of July 28, 1931, five-year-old Michael Vengalli was playing with a group of friends on East 107th Street in Harlem’s Little Italy.

The block, between Second and Third Avenues, was crowded with several hundred children and adults, news accounts reported, who sat on stoops and leaned out tenement windows that summer evening.

Little did they know that ruthless Bronx-born gangster Vincent Coll, 22, was also in the neighborhood, driving toward 107th Street.

Coll, a former protege of Dutch Schultz, was planning to kidnap a Schultz underling.

Things didn’t go as Coll planned, and a shootout ensued. Coll fired his machine gun repeatedly, missing his target but hitting Michael in the stomach. He died instantly; four other kids were wounded.

Dubbed the “baby killing” (watch a clip of the boy’s massive funeral procession here), the entire city was outraged. Newspapers offered thousands of dollars in reward money to anyone who could help ID the gunman.

Coll was soon caught; Mayor Jimmy Walker gave him the nickname Mad Dog. Thanks to a strong defense lawyer, Coll was acquitted later that year.

He got his due in February 1932. That’s when Schultz’s men pumped 15 bullets into Coll while he was on the phone with gangster Owney Madden at a London Chemists drugstore on Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street (source).

Get more Harlem History here.

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"We re-imagine, recreate, and redeem cultural omissions and misrepresentations of Blackness, for the culture. ...." This post is made in partnership with British Pathé.

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