Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Colombo Family

"Vegetabled"

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia
After the first Italian-American Civil Rights League rally in 1970, Joe Colombo was able to convince many of his fellow bosses and their capos to contribute to his cause.   How else would he have gotten the docks to close down for the event?  But on December 16, 1970, FBI agents arrested Colombo soldier Rocco Miraglia and searched the briefcase he was carrying.  According to The Complete Idiots Guide to the Mafia, the special agents found a list of names or nicknames and dollar amounts.

Colombo, who was with Miraglia when he was arrested, appeared before a federal grand jury and was questioned about the list.  Rather than pleading the Fifth the way a gangster normally would, Colombo, the civil-rights leader, declared that these dollar amounts were contributions hed raised for the league.  Carl, he testified, was boss Carlo Gambino.  Next to his name on the list was written 30,000.   No doubt Gambino and all the other mobsters on that list wished Colombo hadnt been so forthcoming.  The mobs initial support for Colombos league soon dried up.  The bosses felt that he had become too public, and in the mob, that was never good for business.

Joe and Larry Gallo
Joe and Larry Gallo
 

Joe Colombo also faced serious opposition within his own family.  The Gallo brothers - Larry, Albert, and the notorious Crazy Joey - had been chafing under the familys leadership for years and had already tried to take over the family in the early sixties.  Joey Gallo had just been released from state prison in February 1971 after serving a nine-year stint, and his bitter feelings about the family leadership hadnt changed.  Gallo and his brothers had long felt that they deserved a bigger piece of the pie for their efforts, and theyd proven in the past that they were ready, willing, and able to go to war to get what they wanted.     The brothers also had a powerful ally in Genovese capo Vincent Chin Gigante, who would one day become boss of his family.

As Joe Colombo muscled his way through the crowd in Columbus Circle to get to the stage, three gunshots suddenly rang out.  People ducked, yelled in panic, and ran for shelter.  Police officers fought the stampede to get to the source of the trouble.  They found Joe Colombo lying on the pavement, blood streaming from three head wounds.  A black man holding a pistol stood over him.

Joe Colombo shot by Jerome Johnson
Joe Colombo shot by Jerome Johnson
 

The police grabbed the man, but as they attempted to restrain him, a loyal Colombo retainer pulled a gun and put three bullets into the mans back, killing him on the spot.  Police later learned that the man who shot Colombo was a street hustler named Jerome Johnson who had somehow obtained press credentials from the league.  Suspicion immediately fell on Joey Gallo, who had a reputation for doing deals with African-American criminals.  Gallo felt that the mob could only benefit from cooperating with black crime groups, but many mobsters didnt like his fraternizing with them.

Jerome Johnson
Jerome Johnson
But police investigations and internal mob inquiries found no connection between Gallo and Jerome Johnson, nor were they able to prove that the gunman had been hired by Carlo Gambino or any other Mafia boss who had a bone to pick with Colombo.  Johnson was apparently a crazed lone gunman.

Joey Gallo
Joey Gallo
Colombo did not die of his wounds.  He remained in a coma for the rest of his life, or, as Joey Gallo characteristically put it, he was vegetabled.  The shooting of Joe Colombo was just one chapter in the violent, strife-ridden history of the Colombo Family, a saga that begins with one of the most despised mob bosses in the history of the American Mafia.

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