John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC


                                                       VINCENT COLL: THE MAD MICK

John William Tuohy

The poverty that hung over the Irish ghettos of New York continued to spew out a whole array of gunmen well into the 20th century including the Mad Mick, Vincent Coll.

Coll was born in New York the son of Irish immigrant parents. And although his upbringing was working class stable, Coll's brief 23 years on the planet were marked by deadly violence and bloodshed. After a series of petty crimes as a teenager, Coll joined up with the Dutch Schultz gang as a gunman and rum runner for a salary of $150.00 a week, a sizable amount of money in depression racked America.

Coll and his squad of thugs enforced Schultz will in the Bronx and in Harlem, and his reign in those places was described as brutal and sadistic.

It was commonly agreed in both Police and criminal circles that Coll was mentally disturbed. He seemed to enjoy his ghastly work, just a little too much. Other gangsters feared him and stayed clear of his path.

It was during this time that the Mafia's Castellammarese war broke out between old bosses Salvatore Maranzano and the young Turks Lucky Luciano and Vito Genovese. Maranzano heard about Coll's ruthless reputation and hired Coll to kill both Luciano and Genovese and he almost got around to it but Maranzano was killed first.

Had Coll followed through on his contract to kill the two legendary crime bosses, there is no telling what could have happened to organized crime in America, since it was Luciano and Genovese who honed the Mafia into a more mainstream, business like criminal organization. In 1931, Coll and his brother Peter decided that they would go into the bootlegging and loansharking business for themselves. The brothers had enough. They had excelled at breaking heads, maiming and killing anyone who stood in Schultz's way, but not everyone feared the Coll brothers.

There were many gangsters in Harlem who would (and did) shoot back. And for all this they were earning spare change while Schultz racked in tens of millions of dollars. The brothers broke off on their own, first enlisting two other Schultz gunmen. 

To ensure that Schultz understood that Coll was in business for himself, the Mick set up his headquarters in a speakeasy a block away from Schultz office and then went about the business of hijacking Schultz's beer trucks and invade his lucrative policy rackets in Harlem.

To regain the upper hand Schultz had Coll brother followed to Harlem and shot dead.  Desperate for cash to hire more gunmen in his war against Schultz Coll kidnapped gangster George "Big Frenchy" Demange, a partner to crime Czar Owney "The Killer" Madden and held him captive for $35,000. Madden paid the ransom and Big Frenchy was released unharmed, but it was a mistake the Mick should not have made. Coll's second biggest mistake came in July of 1932 when Coll and several of his gunmen spotted one of Schultz top gunmen, Joey Rao on East 107th street.

It was one of those awful, humid and hot New York summers day and the streets were filled with playing children. It didn't matter to Coll. He and his men revved their car to full speed and chased Joey Rao down the street firing their machine guns and pistols out the window as they drove by. 

When it was over, Rao was alive and five innocent children, ages three to four years old lay in a pull of their own blood, struck down by the Mick's gangs bullets. All of the children would survive except for five year old Michael Vengalli, whose chest and stomach were blown apart by several .45 caliber slugs. Although that even to this day it has never been established exactly who fired the shots, Coll or one of his men, Coll was named as the killer and one of the city’s largest man hunts took place, with hundreds of cops searching for the Mick across the city.

Coll surrendered to Police, was tried for the shooting, but remarkably was acquitted and set free back on to the streets. To celebrate his short lived good fortune, Coll married the very over weight and homely Lottie Kreisberger. But his legal bills were enormous and to pay them off Coll stupidly decided to once again kidnap one of Owney Maddens gunmen and hold him for $30,000.00 in ransom.

  That was his third and final mistake. The day after he kidnapped Owney Maddens gun slinger, Dutch Schultz had placed a $50,000.00 price tag on the Mick's head. Two days later, four of Schultz's gunmen tracked Coll down to a pay phone inside a neighborhood drug store. As Coll sat in the stores glass enclosed phone booth, threatening Owney Madden with more kidnapping unless the ransom was paid, the Schultz gunmen fired 15 slugs into the Mad Mick's head, chest and throat.

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