|New York|  Mad dog Coll

Birth: July 20, 1908

Death: February 8, 1932

Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll (born Uinseann Ó Colla) was an Irish enforcer for the mafia in early 20th-century New York City. He was born in Gweedore, an Irish-speaking region of County Donegal, Ireland, but emigrated to the U.S. only a year later. He grew up on the streets of The Bronx, where he joined a street gang and befriended Dutch Schultz. As Schultz's criminal empire grew in power, he employed Coll as an assassin. Coll is distantly related to Northern Ireland MP Brid Rodgers and the great great uncle of Phil "Madder Dog" Coll the Scottish IT magnet born in the Ayrshire mining war zone village of Drongan.

The gang of Mad Dog Coll During the 1920s, Coll developed a risky but lucrative scam whereby he would kidnap powerful gangsters at gunpoint and extort a ransom from his captive's associates before releasing them. He knew that the victim would not report it to the police, especially because, being criminals, they would have a hard time explaining to the IRS how they happened to have such huge supplies of cash in order to pay for their release. Before too long, Coll had a falling out with Dutch Schultz when Coll jumped bail, which Schultz had put up for him out of pocket. An initial attempt by Schultz to settle the debt devolved into a full-scale shooting war between Schultz's men and the Irish gangsters with whom Coll had aligned himself.

He was christened "Mad Dog" Coll by New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker (1881 - 1946), after a botched hit on Joey Rao, an underling of Dutch Schultz, on July 28, 1931, left a five year old boy named Michael Vengali dead and several other children wounded.

In the aftermath of the Vengali killing, a powerful mobster named Salvatore Maranzano decided to have his rival, Lucky Luciano, murdered, and he hired the infamous Coll to do the job. Coll insisted on a $25,000 payment in advance with the same amount to be paid on completion of the job. On September 10, 1931, Luciano was invited to visit Maranzano at his office. The plan was that Coll would turn up and kill Luciano. However, Luciano had received a tip-off about this plan, so he instead sent over a squad of his own hitmen who stabbed and shot Maranzano to death. Coll turned up immediately after the murder, but Luciano had evidently not been informed that Coll was his intended killer. As such, Coll was left alone by the fleeing squad of hitmen, presumably delighted that he could keep his advance of $25,000 without having to do the job on Luciano.

Coll eventually retained famed defense lawyer Samuel Leibowitz to defend him in the Vengali case (possibly with the $25,000 obtained from the Maranzano job.) Leibowitz won an acquittal for Coll that December after destroying the credibility of the prosecution's main witness, George Brecht, a man who made a covert living as a witness at trials. Despite his acquittal, Vincent Coll had only ten weeks to live. He was machine-gunned to death in a drug store telephone booth on West 23rd Street at 12:30 a.m. on February 8, 1932, by henchmen working for Dutch Schultz. A limousine pulled up at the drugstore where Coll was inside in the phone booth, one man remained at the wheel, one stood guard on the sidewalk, while a third went inside with a Thompson submachine gun and did the work. The gunman fired one long burst up the left glass window of the booth and another down the right side. A total of fifteen bullets were dug out of Coll's body at the morgue, but many more shots may have passed clean through his body. The killers were chased unsuccessfully up Eighth Avenue by a detective squad who pulled up just after Coll was shot.

It was rumored that Owney Madden, boss of the Hell's Kitchen Irish Mob kept Coll talking on the phone long enough for the killers to pinpoint him. Schultz later sent a wreath to Coll's funeral, bearing a banner with the message, "From the boys." Only his widow actually attended the funeral, however. Coll's killers were later discovered to be freelance hitmen Leonard Scarnici and Anthony Fabrizzo. Both men had been attracted to the large bounty put on Coll's head by Schultz and Madden. A week before, both men had invaded a Bronx apartment which Coll was rumored to frequent. The hitmen burst in on February 1 with pistols and submachine guns blazing; killing three people outright and wounding three others. As a result, Dutch Schultz sent someone with Scarnici and Fabrizzo who knew Coll by sight; Bo Weinberg, who drove the limousine the night Coll was killed. Fabrizzo would be murdered himself on November 20 of that same year, after a botched attempt on the life of Bugsy Siegel. Scarnici would be executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison for the murder of a detective on June 27, 1935.

The tombstone of Mad Dog Coll

In popular culture

  • Two movies about Coll have been made, both named Mad Dog Coll. One was released in 1961, where he was played by John Davis Chandler, and the other in 1992, where he was played by Christopher Bradley (who would reprise his role in the film Hit the Dutchman that same year). He was also portayed by Clu Gulager in the original The Untouchables and by Robert Sampson in the Lawless Years television series.

  • Other movies which have portayed Coll includes the 1960 film The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond by Richard Gardner, the 1961 film Portrait of a Mobster by Joseph Gallison and the 1991 film, Mobsters, a story about the start of the careers of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, which included "Mad Dog" Coll as one of the supporting characters played by actor Nicholas Sadler. Nicolas Cage played a character modelled after Coll in the 1984 film The Cotton Club.

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