Feature Article, February 2007
Published in the AFTE Journal Vol. 12, #1, 1980, Page 44
and reprinted here with permission of Matthew Noedel, AFTE
THE VALENTINE DAY MASSACRE: A STUDY IN
by CALVIN H. GODDARD
(Editor’s Note: The following
article is a transcript obtained by Sgt. Don Smith, Chicago Police
Department Crime Lab, from an original printed in the American Journal of
Police Science, Volume 1, Number 1, January-February, 1930. Permission for
this reprint has been graciously given by the Northwestern University,
Chicago, Illinois, through Professor Emeritus Fred E. Inbau. Although this
article is 50 years old this month, it has merit both as an information and
historical item. It is also considered by many within our field that this
specific case was what caused the science of firearms identification to
become more readily accepted by the courts and public. Thanks Don!)
The Crime, and Its Clues
At about 10:30 A.M. on the morning of February 14th,
1929, seven men were gathered in the garage of the S.M.C. Cartage Company at
2122 North Clark Street, Chicago. Five of these were known as members of the
so-called "Bugs" Moran gang; one was an automobile mechanic who worked upon the
various motor cars which the "gang" used in gaining an honest livelihood, and
one was an optometrist who found excitement in associating with gentlemen
reported to be "tough" and in boasting of this to his friends. On this
particular day, he was destined to meet with more excitement than he had
According to the story pieced together from fragments
contributed by various eyewitnesses, a large touring car of the type used by the
police squads in Chicago, drove up before the garage and halted. Four or five
men emerged, two garbed in police uniforms. Two or three were carrying weapons
resembling riot guns.
The squad entered the garage. Within a short time, a
veritable fusillade of shots rang out, lasting altogether but a fraction of a
minute. Soon thereafter emerged, unhurried, entered their car and drove off,
first slowly, then furiously. Nobody happened to note the license number.
Witnesses entering the garage were greeted by a gruesome
slight. Six bullet-riddled bodies’ lay upon the floor by the wall. A single
survivor, blood spurting from a dozen wounds, was dragging himself painfully on
hands and knees toward the door. A revolver, fully loaded, lay nearby. Empty
shells were scattered about. Up to the height of a man’s head, the brick wall
next which the bodies lay was pocked with scored of bullet marks. The Moran gang
was all but exterminated.
As to the motive for this mass murder, it was commonly
conceded that the gang had rivals, who would find business better if competition
were less keen. A dead competitor sells no beer. What could be simpler than to
remove competition by killing it? The police uniforms were evidently a ruse,
successfully employed, for gaining entry into the enemy’s stronghold.
The Coroner of the City of Chicago, Dr. Herman N. Bundesen,
was apprised of the shootings. He proceeded at once to the scene and caused
photographs of the premises to be taken from many angles. (see next page for
photographs) He ordered a careful collection of all the exhibits present, in the
form of empty shells, bullets, bullet fragments, and so forth. These were placed
in envelopes, marked and sealed.
Dr. Bundesen now took a step that showed great foresight.
Here was a crime beyond average proportions. He decided to study it with the
assistance not of a jury of the usual composition, but one made up of men also
beyond the average.
Bert A. Massee, Vice-President of the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet
Company; Walter E. Olson, President of the Olson Rug Company; Major F. J.
Streychmans, Attorney for the Belgian Consul; Fred Bernstein, Superior Court
Master in the Chancery; W. L. Meyer, Master in Chancery, and Dr. J.V. McCormick,
Dean of Loyola University Law School, all men prominent in the community were
invited to serve, and accepted (see photograph on previous page). They met at
the scene of the crime and studied the situation in detail, the shooting being
reenacted for their benefit by a police squad, some of whom assumed the
positions occupied by the victims before they fell, while others, with riot
guns, played the part of the killers. (photographs previous page) Meantime, the
mournful howls on a police dog chained to a nearby wall, the only living
survivor of the holocaust, lent a ghoulish note to the proceedings.
At the autopsy, performed by Coroner’s physicians E. L.
Benjamin, S. D. Gunn and Paul A.G. Schmitt, many bullets and bullet fragments
were removed from the bodies. There were placed in linen-lined envelopes labeled
with the name of the body from which removed, and stored for safekeeping.
Mr. Massee, the foreman of the jury, being a man given to
action, consulted his attorneys as to his duties in the circumstances, and asked
them whether or not some scientific aid might be enlisted in the study of the
crime. Mr. Charles F. Rathbun, of his counsel, had spoken on the same program
with me at a convention some months previously, and suggested my name. Massee
called my office in New York. No public funds being available to finance the
engagement of an expert for an investigation of this character, Mr. Massee very
generously undertook personally to guarantee all costs in connection therewith.
Mr. Olson, not to be outdone, volunteered to shoulder half the expense, and did
When I arrived in Chicago a few days later, the bullet and
shell evidence was presented to me for study. It included the largest number of
exhibits that I had ever received from any one case. I catalogued these as
Analyzing the Ammunition Found
Exhibit A – 70 empty shells from the floor of the garage. All
caliber 45 automatic pistol type. All of United States Cartridge Company make,
with nickelled primers.
To these shells I assigned numbers in sequence as I examined
them, scratching its number on the outer and inner wall of each before going
further, having long since learned the importance of placing proper identifying
marks on every exhibit in my possession. After being numbered, each shell was
The first task was to determine whether it had been
fired in a revolver or in an automatic arm
Be it explained that a revolver is a weapon in which the
cartridges are brought one after another in line with the barrel through the
revolution of a cylinder-deriving its name from this revolving member. A
cylinder commonly holds five or six cartridges in as many chambers. (All
revolvers handling the .45 automatic cartridge have six chambers.) The empty
shells are removed in various ways; but in the revolvers adapted to this
particular cartridge they are withdrawn through the ejection of a ‘clip’ holding
three shells, from which they must then be removed by hand, or, if loaded
without the use of a ‘clip", by punching them one by one from the chambers in
which they are seated. See plate 4a, illustrating clips, also 4b and 4c, which
show the operation of a revolver ejector.
There is a more or less common impression that "automatic
pistol" cartridges may be fired in automatic pistols only. This is quite
erroneous. Thousands of revolvers made overseas are chambered particularly to
handle such cartridges, and a great many produced in the United States for use
with ordinary revolver ammunition will chamber and successfully fire cartridges
of this automatic type. In the last War, the standard sidearm of the American
army (and still is) a .45 caliber automatic pistol shooting cartridges of the
type figuring in the Clark Street Massacre. It was found impossible to produce
these fast enough for military needs, so two firearms companies, Colt and Smith
& Wesson, adapted revolvers to handle this type of cartridge. Since the rim of
an automatic pistol shell is of but equal or (sometimes) slightly greater
diameter than the forward part of the shell (plate 5a-next page), it became
necessary to devise some means whereby the fired shells might be quickly, and
simultaneously extracted. The rim of a revolver shell (plate 5b) has a
(relatively) much greater diameter than the forward part, and affords the usual
revolver extractor a shoulder to exert leverage against. So there were designed
the clips, already illustrated, holding three cartridges each, two clips being
used to load a cylinder. These clips the revolver extractors ejected quite
Now a .45 caliber automatic shell, that has been fired in a
revolver through the use of a clip, will show certain scratches around its rim
acquired when it was forced into, or withdrawn from, the clip. It will show no
scratches, however, extending up onto the head (base) of the shell, other than
accidental and adventitious marks. If loaded singly, the clip marks will
naturally be missing, though certain others, varying in character in each
instance, may be present in case it has been necessary to pry it out of the
chamber by a force greater than that which can be exerted by the fingertips.
But such a shell, when fired in an automatic arm, always
exhibits certain markings on its head and rim left by the passage of the
extractor over this area. In arms of this type, the shell is pulled out from the
rear; in revolvers it is pushed out from the front. The pullings is effected by
a bit of steel inserted into one side of the breech bolt which, when this bolt
closes against the head of the shell preparatory to firing, snaps over the shell
rim into the groove shove it and, traveling rearward with the bolt after firing,
drags the shell back with it. This small bit of spring steel with a hooked tip,
known as the extractor, leaves a very definite mark on the edge of the rim of
any shell it grips, and the presence of such a mark on a fired shell (in
conjunction with others to be described) labels it as having been used in an
automatic arm. (see plate 6-next page) All of the shells of Exhibit A bore such
The very fact that the shells were found in the garage at all
was of itself sufficient indication, considering the known circumstances
surroundings the shootings, that they were fired in automatic arms. For to fire
with any accuracy seventy such shells in revolvers, would consume a matter of
minutes, and would be a waste of valuable time. Has they been so fired, no clips
being used, each one would have had to be laboriously pulled or pushed from its
chamber, in the matter already described, before the arm could be reloaded with
six fresh cartridges.
Even using clips the procedure would have been relatively
slow, and the victim, with certain death facing them, would have had ample
opportunity to rush their executioners, with a fair chance of overpowering them.
But all accounts were to the effect that the whole burst of fire was over in a
A second characteristic mark, which an automatic arm imprints
on a shell fired in it, and a revolver does not, is that of the ejector. This is
a small bit of steel fixed to the breech of such a weapon, which interrupts the
rearward travel of the shell as it is drawn backward by the extractor and does
this so suddenly and forcibly that the empty case if flipped out of the gun.
(Plate 7) The shell being of brass, a relatively soft metal, takes the imprint
of this shell block on its head, and this imprint is uniformly present. Its
location, with respect to the mark left by the extractor, is constant for a
given make of automatic weapon. All of the shells of series A showed such an
imprint, and in each case its geographical relationship on the shell head to
that of the extractor, was the same.
I now knew that all of these shells had been fired in
automatic arms and the arms of the same make.
The next question was to determine what this make was
There are manufactured in the Unites States but two automatic
weapons chambering the .45 automatic pistol cartridge. One is the .45 Colt
automatic pistol, already referred to (plate 8), and the other the .45 Thompson
"sub-machine gun," manufactured for the Auto-Ordinance Corporation of New York
by the Colt Company (plate 9). The Savage Arms Corporation, of Utica, New York,
did produce, some years ago, 200 pistols of this caliber, but no more. Most of
these are now in the hands of arms collectors. There have also been made from
time to time experimental specimens of arms handling this cartridge (e.g., the
Grand-Hammond, of which but a dozen or so were finished altogether). It was
therefore reasonable to confine our studies to the Colt automatic pistol, the
Savage automatic pistol, and the Thompson machine gun.
In the Colt and Savage pistols, the head of the breach bolt,
when in its extreme rearward position, lies very close to the rear end (head) of
the top of the cartridge in the magazine, so that when the face of the bolt
engages the head of the cartridge to push it forward into the chamber, the bolt
has as yet acquired but little velocity, and the impact, being a relatively
gently one, leaves but faint imprint upon the brass of the cartridge. In the
Thompson gun, however, the magazine well is situated relatively further forward,
so that the bolt is traveling very rapidly when it strikes the cartridge, and
leaves upon its head a deep arc-shaped indention corresponding to the arc of the
bolt rim which impinges upon it. (Plate 10). All of the shells of exhibit A
showed this feature.
It was therefore a reasonable assumption that all had been
fired in Thompson guns.
The next point of interest was a determination of many Thompson guns
had been employed.
Since it is not possible, no matter how careful the effort,
to produce any two gun parts exactly alike (though they are easily made enough
alike to be interchangeable) it follows that each part that comes in contact
with a shell will have certain individual characteristics which it can imprint
upon the softer metal of that shell, thereby leaving upon it a signature, as it
were. Two shells bearing the identical "signature" must necessarily have been
fired in the same gun.
In addition to the imprints of the extractor, ejector, and
bolt rim, there are other marks upon a shell, which may be used in linking it to
a particular weapon. These include the indentation of the firing pin upon the
primer or "cap," and marks left upon the primer and metal surrounding it by the
face of the breech when the shell recoils against it at the moment of firing.
The pressure developed in such a shell, or firing, is around 15,000 lbs., to the
square inch. It is exerted equally in all directions, and naturally the shell is
pressed backward against the face of the supporting bolt with tremendous force.
If the bolt face shows the concentric circles that are left by shaping with and
"end mill" in the course of manufacture, these circles are like to be reproduced
on primer and shell head. If, after milling, the bolt has been filed or ground,
the marks from these procedures are also subject to transfer to the shell.
Nickel primers, such as those used in the shells studied, for
some reasons do not take the imprint of the breech face so consistently as those
not so treated. (The primer metal is a mixture of copper (95%) and zinc (5%).
These are now commonly dipped in a nickel solution, as in this case.)* Further,
owing to certain variables that enter into the way the pressure within the shell
is applied rearward, the imprint left by the same firing pin in two primers
fired by it in succession may vary to some extent – through it frequently is to
all intents and purposes identical. The arc-shaped mark on the shell rim left
there by the bolt of a Thompson gun is quite variable in location, length, and
depth, owing to certain structural features of this particular weapon. The
scratches left by an extractor may also vary somewhat in appearance from shell
to shell, owing to the degree of play that must be allowed it as it functions.
And the position of the ejector mark with relation to the distance from it to
the shell rim, is never a fixed factor for a given gun. But this ark itself is
likely to have certain definite characteristic details, which will go far toward
effecting an identification. Thus, the face of the (Thompson) ejector usually
shows a series of parallel lines left there in the process of machining it.
(Plate 11) But these lines are never spaced quite the same distance apart, or
cross the face at quite the same angle, on two different ejectors. The ejector
mark on a shell is of relatively large size, easily studied, and the parallel
lines transferred from it to the shell head readily compared with those upon
another shell. Hence, by confining myself for a moment solely to an examination
of the ejector marks left upon the 70 shells of exhibit A, I was able to readily
differentiate them into tow groups according to the character of the mark
present. In one group, this mark had a sharp straight base line, from which ran
upward to the right at an acute angle a large number of evenly spaced parallel
lines (plate 12),
* In years past, primers were of plain copper or brass.
Recently the practice of giving them a coat of nickel has come into vogue. While
in the other the base line was wavy, and the few lines running upward from it,
irregularly spaced and rather wavy also (plate 13). Twenty shells fell into the
first classification, which I called "a", and fifty into the second, which I
I now compared all shells in one group "a" with one another
to note other points of identity. They all showed the same type of firing pin
imprint – a smooth, round indentation (plate 14), and similar extractor marks.
Breech-face markings, when present, were alike as well.
In-group "b" a different kind of firing pin imprint appeared.
There was an irregular elevation at the base of the crater left in the primer by
the impact of the firing pin (plate 15). Extractor marks were alike – and
different from those on shells of group "a". Breech face marks, when present,
were alike, and also different from those on shells of group "a".
Standard cartridge containers for the Thompson gun are
furnished in three types – a 20-shot vertical magazine, a 50-shot circular
"drum", and a larger, 100-shot "drum" (plate 9). All these may be used
interchangeably in the same arm.
So my shell studies led me to the conclusion that two
Thompson guns had been used in the massacre, one loaded with a 20-shot clip and
one with a 50-shot drum. I felt that I was making some progress, and turned to
the next exhibit.
Exhibit B. This consisted of 14-fired bullets picked up from
the floor of the garage. (Plate 16). All were of .45 caliber automatic pistol
type, all full metal jacketed, and all of the 230 grain or "military" type. (The
.45 automatic pistol cartridge may also be loaded with a lighter (200 grain)
bullet known as the "sporting" type. This is fast becoming obsolete.)
An interesting feature of these bullets – and one which will
be seen later to have considerable significance – was the fact that they were
"cannelured"- or encircled – at the base of their ogival positions, by a ring of
knurling marks (see plate 17). Above the cannelure was stamped a small letter
"s" – an identifying mark used only on U.S. Cartridge Company bullet in this
caliber and type which I purchased were uncannelured (plate 18). Accordingly, I
wrote to Mr. Merton A. Robinson,* Ballistic Engineer of the Winchester Repeating
Arms Company, at New Haven, Connecticut, where the U.S. Cartridge Company line
has been made for some time past, and learned from him that this particular
vintage of U.S. ammunition had been produced for a relatively short period only,
i.e., July, 1927, to July 1928.
(By the terms "jacket" and "core", I refer to the gilding
metal envelope, which is the portion of the bullet on view to the eye, and to
the lead core, which it contains. The jacket provides a thin sheath for the lead
within (plate 5c) and weighs but 28¼ grains – the core thus supplying something
over 200 of the total weight of 230 grains. Only at one point is the lead
exposed (plate 5c), and this is over a portion of the base of the bullet. Such
bullets are commonly, and erroneously, termed "steel jacketed." There is no
steel in them, however. The jacket is of copper and zinc, nickeled, and the core
of lead with or without a small percentage of tin. Jacketing of bullets reduces
the danger of malfunction from deformation of their noses, which caused jamming
of the mechanism of the arm in which used, and results in less fouling of the
barrel, and greater penetration in the target.)
A study of the rifling marks left upon these bullets showed
all to bear the imprint of a barrel rifled with six grooves inclined to the
right. Or arms so grooved, there are but three made to handle this cartridge,
i.e., the Smith & Wesson Model 1917 revolver, the Savage automatic pistol, and
the Thompson sub-machine gun.
Although the examination of the shells had already eliminated
for all practical purposes the possibility of either of the first two named arms
having been used, it was thought well to rule them out from the bullet viewpoint
as well. Accordingly, the angles and widths of grooves on the bullets in
evidence were compared with those on specimen bullet known by me to have been
fired through Smith & Wesson revolvers, Savage automatic pistols, and Thompson
Now it so happens that all American arms makers employ
different specifications in rifling their barrels – a fortunate fact for one
wishing to determine through which particular make of arm a given bullet has
been fired. Thus the "lands", or elevated portions of the bore between the
grooves, of a Savage automatic pistol – and these are the agents that cut the
grooves seen on the fired bullets (the grooves on the bullet being the
reflection of the land in the gun, and vise versa) – are much narrower than
those in a Thompson gun or a Smith & Wesson .45 caliber revolver, as is evident
when we compare the grooves on the bullets in plate 19 (from Savage pistol), 20
(from Smith & Wesson revolver) and 17 and 18 (from Thompson gun). Since all the
grooves on the recovered bullets were of the same width, and much wider than
those found on a bullet fired through a Savage pistol (and all pistols of a
given make, model, and caliber, will have grooves alike as to number, direction,
angle and width) we can safely say that none of the bullets of Exhibit B came
from a Savage pistol.
As between a Smith & Wesson revolver and a Thompson gun, the
difference in width of groove, or angle, is not readily appreciable on casual
examination. But it will be noted, when we compare a bullet from the Smith &
Wesson revolver, plate 20, with one from a Thompson gun, plate 17, that, in
addition to the clean cut grooves inclining upward to the right from the bottom
of the bullet, we find on the revolver bullet a second set of grooves, including
upward to the left, rather smeary, and ill defined. This second set is
characteristic of a bullet fired from a revolver, no matter how well made, and
is present only in much attenuated form on bullets from automatic arms. The
reason is that bullets from revolvers must jump through a space, in passing from
the cylinder into the barrel, the diameter of which is greater than their own,
which inevitably results in their tipping to one side or another, entering the
barrel "off centered," and showing the results in the reduplication of groove
marks already described. The automatic pistol bullet has no such tippy journey
to perform n passing from chamber to barrel, and as a result the groove marks
upon it fail to show this particular type of reduplication.
All of the bullets of Exhibit B were free from these
"tippage" marks, and had therefore not issued from revolvers. By exclusion, the
only arm remaining that could have fired them was the Thompson machine gun.
To determine which of these bullets had been fired from one
of the Thompson guns employed by the killers, and which from the other of the
two, would have been a matter of many hours, or days, of effort, and would have
added nothing to our information. This work must be done under a comparison
microscope, and is usually tedious and difficult at best. So I satisfied myself
with finding one or two matching pairs of bullets among the fourteen – i.e.,
bullets which had issued from the same barrel, and let the matter rest there for
the time being.
Exhibit C. This was made up of 25 jacket fragments found
about the floor of the garage. These were all of the same type of metal,
"gilding metal," such as is used in the jackets of .45 caliber automatic pistol
bullets made by the U.S. Cartridge Company. Such fragments as were large enough
showed the typical identifying cannelure and the letter "s" I already described.
Arranging them roughly in order of their decreasing size, I scratched upon them
serial numbers of 1 to 25. Those of them that showed rifling marks, which
included the majority, bore groove characteristics of the Thompson type of
rifling. All fragments were incomplete, i.e., less than 28 ¼ grains in weight.
The total weight of all fragments was 458 grains.
Exhibit D. The next exhibit constituted 22 core fragments
from the garage and was labeled Exhibit D. Grading these roughly in order of
size, I assigned them numbers 1 to 22. Their total weight was 2289 grains which,
added to the weight of the jacket fragments, would account for 11 complete 230
grain bullets with an excess of 217 grains or almost enough to make up a
Exhibit E. comprised of 2 empty 12-gauge shotgun shells, U.S.
Cartridge Company make, "Climax" brand, black color. These had been picked up on
the floor of the garage and examination of their interiors showed that they had
contained smokeless powder and had been loaded with buck-shot. This latter fact
was evident from an inspection of the inner walls where the resting points of
the individual buck-shot could be seen as small dark splotches.
A study of the firing pin imprints in their primers, and of
the extractor and ejector marks on their rims and heads showed them to have been
fired from the same gun. The presence of ejector marks on their heads gave
evidence that the weapon firing them was of a repeating or automatic type, for
such marks do not appear on shells fired in double-barrel or single-barrel
Exhibits F, G, H, I, J, K, and L. These were made up of
bullets, bullet fragments, and buckshot from the bodies of the seven victims
(plate 21). The body of Adam Heyer yielded 14 such, which were designated
Exhibit F. That of James Clark produced 7, Exhibit G. From Pete Gunsenberg a
single complete bullet, much flattened, was recovered, Exhibit H. Alexander
Weinshenk’s body gave up 6 bullets, Exhibit I. 3 more came from the body of John
May, Exhibit J. 7 practically complete bullets were extracted from the body of
Frank Gusenberg, Exhibit K. That this man could have lived some hours following
the infliction of such terrific wounds (as he did) was mute evidence of what the
human organism can sometimes withstand. * The remains of Reinhardt Schwemmer
were the only ones in which buckshot were discovered. His body yielded 1
complete .45 caliber bullet and 7 buckshot.
All of the bullets removed from the bodies were of .45
automatic pistol type, U.S. make, cannelured, in other words, identical in
caliber, type, make and vintage with those found on the floor of the garage. The
buckshot found in the corpse of Schwemmer were identical in type with those used
by U.S. Cartridge Company in Climax brand shells. All complete bullets from the
several bodies and all bullet fragments on which rifling marks appreared, showed
evidence of having passed through the barrel having 6 grooves inclined to the
right, the grooves being the width and angle, which tallied with the Thompson
Here again I made no effort to determine exactly through
which of the two Thompson guns used each particular bullet had been fired. As in
the case of Exhibit B, I satisfied myself with matching an occasional pair of
bullets here and there to ascertain whether they were from the same gun or not.
When two were found that had passed through the same barrel, they gave a picture
under the comparison microscope such as seen in plate 22.
Testing Various Chicago Guns
Since two of the members of the execution squad had worn
police uniforms, and since it had been subsequently intimated by various persons
that the wearers of the uniforms might really have been policemen rather than
disguised gangsters, it became a matter of no little importance to ascertain, if
possible, whether these rumors had any foundation in fact. One way of
approaching this subject was to test out various Thompson guns in the hands of
the Police of the city of Chicago, its suburbs, and of the Cook County Police
Force to determine if possible whether any of these had been employed in the
massacre. Accordingly, I examined altogether some 8 Thompson guns, 5 in the
hands of the Chicago Police, 1 at Melrose Park Police Headquarters, and 2 from
the Cook Count Highway Police. I fired a number of rounds of ammunition of the
same caliber, type, make and vintage as used in the murder, through each of
these. The bullets were recovered undeformed from a receptacle of cotton waste
into which they were fired, and each bullet and empty shell was numbered with
the number of the gun from which it had issued. The bullets and shells so
recovered were carefully compared with specimens of the fatal bullets and
shells. In no instance did I find a duplication of markings to indicate that any
of the police weapons had been employed in the killings.
Since shotgun shells had been found in the garage, it became
desirable to study the shotguns used by the various police authorities in and
around Chicago. Consequently, a number of such weapons were tested. These
included 2 Marlin riot guns of the Chicago Police, 4 Remington automatics, and 1
Remington hammerless repeater from Ciceo Police Headquarters; 3 more Remingtons,
1 Winchester, and 1 Revenoc (Marlin) from the Melrose Park Police, and 4
Winchester repeating hammerless guns use by the Cook County Police. U.S. Climax
shells were fired in all of these and the marks left upon them by extractor,
ejector, firing pin, and breech face, compared with those on the two shells
recovered at the scene of the murders. In no instance were similar markings
I returned to New York, to my office in which city various
Thomson machine guns were forwarded from time to time by Coroner Bundesen for
testing. These were all carefully studied, but in no instance did any bullet or
shell fired from them show markings identical with the fatal bullets or shells
from the garage. We seemed to have reached the end of a blind alley.
* He died without revealing any information at to the
identity of his assailants.
Testing the Michigan Guns
In December, 1929, a police officer, Charles Skelley, of St.
Joseph, Michigan, undertook to take to a local police station two motorists who
were having an argument over the damage done in a minor collision between their
cars. One of the men suddenly drew a .45 caliber automatic pistol and fired
three shots, killing the policeman in his tracks. He attempted to escape in his
own car, but started out at such a pace that he soon had another collision,
which disabled the machine. Abandoning the fatal pistol and the car, he held up
a passing motorist with another weapon, commandeered his car and disappeared.
Papers found in the wrecked automobile led the search to the
murder’s home in St. Joseph. Here it was discovered that this individual, who
had been posing under the name of Frederick Dane and reporting himself as owning
various gasoline stations, was no other than Fred Burke, a man whom the police
had reason to believe was a member of the execution squad on the previous 14th
of February. Eyewitnesses of the murders had picked out his photographs as
resembling one of the killers, and other evidence also tended to support his
The house was searched, and a closet revealed a veritable
arsenal, which included 2 Thompson machine guns and numerous clips and drums for
The district attorney of St. Joseph, Michigan, very kindly
consented to bring these guns, clips and dims to Chicago so that I might conduct
tests with them. On December 19, 1929, he arrived with the exhibits. In the
drums I found ammunition of various makes. Among the cartridges were a
considerable number of U.S. Cartridge Company manufacturer and bearing on their
bullets the same identifying cannelure, as did those in the Clark Street
Massacre. The very presence of these cartridges was initself a highly
significant feature, since as already explained; this vintage had been on the
market but for a short period and had not been distributed since July 1928.
I selected 35 of these cartridges and fired 20 of them
through one of the guns in bursts of 5 rounds of automatic fire, and 15 through
the other. A container of cotton waste was used as before to stop the bullets
without the deformation. Each bullet and shell was given a mark as soon as
recovered to link it with the gun from which it was fired. The serial number on
one of the weapons had been polished off but this had been etched back at the
request of Coroner Bundesen, so that it was legible.
I made long and careful comparisons of the shells and bullets
recovered in this test with those from the garage. The result of these studies
was to demonstrate conclusively the fact that the two guns found in the Burke
home were those that had been used in the massacre.
This was established both from the shell angle and from that
of the bullets as well. Once again I did not devote unnecessary tome to pinning
various of the fatal bullets to one particular gun (I did pin every shell to the
gun that fired it), but satisfied myself by determining that the single bullet
from the body of Reinhardt Schwemmer had been fired by one of the two guns, and
that one of the bullets from the body of James Clark had been issued from the
My microscopic findings in these studies were put on record
photographically with the assistance of Mr. Francis T. Harmon, an expert
photographer of Chicago, who devoted an entire Sunday to his work. (See plated
23 and 24).
Practically all of the rest of the photographs, from which
the preceding plates, were prepared (save plates 12 and 13, which are Mr.
Harmon’s work) were taken by Mr. L.L. Marr of New York City, who has been
associated with me in my bullet identification work for some past years. His
photography of bullets, shells, weapons, etc., cannot be surpassed, and without
the photographic records prepared by him in connection with my original studies
in the massacre investigations many important points could not have been
properly preserved as permanent record.
On the following day (December 23, 1929), I presented my
findings before the Coroner’s Jury which had been reconvened for the purpose,
and showed them the photographs which portray the identity in markings found
upon the shells from the scene of the massacre and upon those fired
experimentally through the Burke guns. My resort was evidently sufficient to
convince them that the right guns had been discovered, as witness the following
verdict in the matter of the death of James Clark:
"__________________he came to death on the 14th
day of February in premises known as 2122 North Clark Street as a result of
gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, said wounds received from bullets fried
from a machine gun in the hands of a person or persons at present unknown to
this jury at above location on February 14th about 10:30 A.M. From
the testimony presented to us, we, the jury, recommend that the said Burke, now
a fugitive from justice, be apprehended and held to the Grand Jury on the charge
of murder as a participant in the said murder and that the police continue their
search for other said unknown person or persons and when apprehended that he or
they be held to the Grand Jury on the charge of murder until released by due
process of law."
The signatures of the jurors followed.
*I wish here to give testimony to the splendid and
wholehearted cooperation received in this case, and in all others upon which I
have been engaged, from the makers of arms and ammunition upon whom I called for
assistance or information.