December 31, 1908
Coming to the country twenty-one years ago, Tony Armenio prospered in business but gained the enmity of the Society of the Mafia, or Black Hand, members of which early yesterday morning attempted to kill Armenio and his wife and child by exploding a dynamite bomb in his living apartments. The Italian owns a saloon at 550 Gillis street and lives on the fourth floor above the dramshop.
Preceding the explosion yesterday morning Armenio on Monday received a letter, which was unsigned, demanding $5,900. If Armenio failed to give the money to "friends," the writer stated, his entire family would be killed. The Italian saloonkeeper did not heed the warning and thought but little of it, because he received a similar letter about a year ago.
A tenement house four stories high with storerooms occupying the ground floor, situated at 536 to 550 Gillis street, is owned by Armenio. Along the rear of the tenement is a porch, and it was upon this porch that the Black Hand arranged the bomb.
An explosion, the detonation of which was heard as far as Sheffield, occurred at 1:30 o'clock yesterday morning and wrecked the rear rooms of the apartments occupied by Armenio and his family. In the front room were Armenio and his wife, while in the room to the west was their daughter, Mary, 16 years old. The dining room is directly west of that in which the daughter was asleep. A window opens out onto the rear porch.
Just beneath the window ledge the Black Hand agent had removed a brick from the wall, and placing a bomb on the window ledge, balanced it with the brick. A fuse was attached and set off. The force of the explosion tore the window casing out and knocked bricks out of the wall, and caused the plaster to fall off the ceilings and walls of every room.
Mary Armenio was covered with debris and unable to get out of bed until her father and mother assisted her. The shock greatly frightened the Armenio family and the other inhabitants of the tenement house. Window panes were broken in houses a block away. As soon as the first excitement was over the Italian family joined the throng in the street below. Luckily none was injured by the flying debris.
The explosion played havoc with the tenement, but also performed many peculiar tricks. A two-by-four scaritling torn from the porch was driven through the door from the dining room leading into Mary Armenio's room. A bird cage, imprisoning a canary bird, was hanging to a window casing. All of the casings was blown away except a small part to which was attached the cage. The glass and plaster fell into the cage, but the bird was uninjured.
Nails were driven into the walls and door frames and the police believe that the bomb was composed of a beer bottle filled with nails and iron slugs.
As is always the case where trouble has occurred among the Italian inhabitants of Little Italy, the police are at a loss. When asked, the Italians invariably shake their heads and mutter: "I don't know." Never have the police been able to make the Italians say they believe a murder has been committed by members of the Black Hand, so powerful is the influence of the society.
The report of dynamite explosion was heard by practically every policeman on duty in Kansas City. Immediately afterwards the patrolman called up their various stations and reported. But not one of them was able to give definite information as to where the explosion occurred. At police headquarters at 2:45 o'clock they learned that the explosion occurred at 559 Gillis street. And it was 3 o'clock before they learned that it was caused by a dynamite bomb placed in the building with murderous intent.