Feature Articles

September 2001

The Teamsters Building Raid

By John William Tuohy

     On May 5, 1932, the day Al Capone was taken from Chicago to begin his sentence in federal prison for tax evasion, gangster Roger Touhy, who was at war with the Syndicate, walked into a meeting at the Teamsters headquarters armed with a machine gun and held a hundred people hostage.

     With Touhy was his top enforcer, the unbalanced Willie Sharky and two other men who were unidentified. Each of them carried a machine gun and a pistol.

     The Touhy's had been paid, and paid well, by Chicago's union bosses to rid their locals of the Syndicate's growing influence. Once that was done, the bosses had said, they would not only pay the Touhy's an additional $75,000 in cash, a staggering amount of money in depression racked America, they would also give them control over any local they wanted...forever.

     The raid on the Teamsters Chicago headquarters was the Touhy's first public foray into the mob's most profitable territory. The gangsters herded up the twelve union officials they found in the building and lined them up against the wall. As more members entered the building for a special emergency meeting, over the next three hours, Touhy and company put a gun in their face and pressed them into the hall until they had over one hundred members held hostage.

     After two hours Roger stood before the crowd and said, "Listen up you mugs, we've come here today to clean the dago syndicate out of the Teamsters union."

     Touhy looked over the faces in the union hall and spotted Murray Humpreys' enforcers; John Orms, Tommy Keegan, Al Sogerstorm, John Cassidy, Harry Conway, Mike Burns, George Willows, and Artie Barrett whom Touhy had known from the Valley.

     "We thought you were a right guy. What are you doing hanging around these rats for?" Roger asked.

     "Well I gotta eat Rog," Barrett said.

     Touhy looked through the crowd and pulled out two union leaders named Goldberg and Sass. Goldberg's father-in-law, Jacob Kohn, worked as an aide to Cook County treasurer McDonough and his brother Frank Goldberg, worked as secretary to the city prosecutor Michael Rosina. Touhy pulled them into an office and told them to call Murray Humpreys, a Capone labor goon, over to the building. When they said they couldn't remember the number Touhy said, "Well get together and think it up or we'll give it to you right outside the door."

     Then Touhy walked back into the room where the membership was being held and said, "None of you other mugs have to be afraid. We're after Klondike, Hump Humprey and Jack White and we won't hurt anybody else."

     There was another roar of approval.

     Out of ignorance or fear, Goldberg and Sass wouldn't or couldn't place the call. After a while Touhy became certain that word had slipped out and that Humpreys wouldn't arrive. He rounded up his men and left the building 11:30 in the morning, three full hours after they had arrived taking Goldberg and Sass with him. His last words to the membership were: "These two are going to get theirs," and the membership exploded in cheers.

     Sass and Goldberg were released two days later and said they were not harmed or abused. "Actually," said Goldberg, "they treated us fairly well. The food was excellent. The conversation was good."

     Touhy's brazen daylight raid on the heart of the Syndicate's union operation was a slap in face for Red Barker and Murray Humpreys.

     The Syndicate, less than several hundred in number, were able to rule over these unions with their vast memberships by fear and the threat of violence. Touhy's raid had temporarily taken that edge away from them. They needed to get it back.

     The mob retaliated by pulling off a daylight drive-by shooting at Wall's, a Bar-B-Que and rib joint on Harlem and North Avenue, a place known to be frequented by Roger Touhy and his gang. Roger had developed a well known friendship with the waitress, Peggy Carey and so he was there regularly. All Nitti's gunners had to do was wait.

     On June 16, 1932, the Touhy's struck the Dells, an enormous speakeasy and casino operating just inside Touhy's territory, but the raid backfired. The Touhy's had come to the Dells looking for a Nitti hood named Fred Pacelli, 35, who was spotted by one of Touhy's people as Pacelli entered the club earlier in the evening. Pacelli was the younger brother of soon-to-be congressman Bill Pacelli.

     To kill him, Touhy sent his three best men, Willie Sharky, Roy Marshalk and George Wilke who was also Touhy's business manager.

     The three hoods arrived at the Dells driving Roger Touhy's new Chrysler Sedan. They knew exactly what to do. They quickly strolled into the bar, Roy Marshalk stepped up to Pacelli and fired off a round into his face, put another one into the small of his back and then fired one into Maryanne Bruce, Pacelli's girlfriend after she tried to wrestle the pistol out of Marshalk's hand. Sharky smacked another guest across the face with the barrel of his gun and then told the other hoods to follow him out of the club.

     However, in the parking lot, unknown to them, the Cook County police were waiting. Sgt. Joseph Cantello of the Cook County Sheriff's department took the call about the robbery at the Dells and arrived to the casino's parking lot just as Touhy's men were leaving the building. Cantello stepped out of his patrol car, gun drawn and yelled, "Put down those guns!"

     Sharky fired off six rounds at Cantello who returned fire and put a slug through Roy Marshalk's hand and another through his arm.

     At that point Cook County Highway police Lt. James Meyering arrived with his brother Sheriff Wilbur Meyering and policeman Sam Lucas and a full fledged gun battle was in place. Wilke managed to fire a round into Lucas's right ankle before Officer Cantello, who had reloaded his weapon, fired off two more rounds that caught Wilke in the arm and Sharky in the left leg. The hoods shot their way to safety.

     Wilke and Sharky were wounded at the Dells shoot-out. Wilke was shot in the arm and was unable to climb a nearby fence, however Sharky pulled him over the fence and several times over the next few weeks Sharky would remind him that he had saved his life because the cops were out to kill that night.

     Touhy had them sent to a Minneapolis, Minnesota Hospital to recover and then recuperate at the Sheridan Hotel in June 1932. Sharkey was limping from a bullet in the leg.

     The two year street war between Roger Touhy and the Chicago mob was on.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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