“Noon-day crowds were spectators at a wild melodrama of barking guns and sudden death”


Charles Hoff, [Police escorting Anthony Esposito from prison ward at Bellevue Hospital to a line-up at police headquarters, New York], January 16, 1941 (2012.16.2)


Charles Hoff, [Anthony Esposito leaving police headquarters for District Attorney’s office and then to his arraignment, New York], January 16, 1941 (2012.16.1)


New York Daily News, January 15, 1941, p. 1 (Photo by Max Peter Haas)

After sensational gun battle, passersby (rear) subdue William Esposito, killer-bandit. He has just fatally wounded Patrolman Maher (on sidewalk) and wounded hero cab driver (foreground). Scene 35th St. Fifth Ave. Killer’s brother was also captured.

After a spectacular sidewalk gun battle, passersby (rear) subdue William Esposito, killer-bandit, who struggles to get free although he is wounded. He had just shot Patrolman Maher (stretched out). Maher died. Struggling to rise (foreground) is cab driver Leonard Weisberg, shot in throat by William, when he came to the aid of Maher. Spectator at right holds one of the bandits guns. The killer’s partner-in-crime – his brother, Anthony – was also captured.


New York Daily News, January 15, 1941, pp. 30-31 (Photos by Max Peter Haas)

Noon-day crowds at 35th St. and Fifth Ave. yesterday were spectators at a wild melodrama of barking guns and sudden death as two brothers vainly tried to shoot their way to freedom after committing a $649 payroll robbery. They killed the possessor of the money, killed a policeman, and critically injured a heroic cab driver. Both were captured, one of them punctured by a cop’s bullet.


Life, January 27, 1941, pp. 28-29 (photos by Max Peter Haas)

Murder in Manhattan
Sicilian Killers Captured After Gun Battle in Fifth Avenue Shopping Area.

In January 14 two savage little men walked in the sun at noon with murder in their hearts… Next morning a tempest of revulsion swept New York. Police Commissioner Valentine branded the Esposito brothers “mad dogs.” A probation report disclosed their evil records of crime, truancy and utterly irresponsible and anti-social behavior. Their father, a Sicilian immigrant, had served time in prison. Two sisters were shoplifters. One brother lodged currently in jail. Their mother was a doting shiftless woman who had abetted from boyhood their hatred of the police and of law. In a prison ward, recovering from their wounds, the Espositos cursed, raged and wept in explosive orgies of self-pity. As officials moved to bring them to quick trial, they abruptly turned mute, stared blankly when people asked questions, hummed tunelessly. It was evident insanity would be their plea.
Life, January 27, 1941, pp. 28-29


PM, April 10, 1941, pp. 16-17 (photos by Max Peter Haas)

‘Mad Dog’ Trial Today Climax to These Photos

This may be the greatest series of crime pictures ever made. Taken by Max Peter Haas, it shows the “mad dog” shooting rampage near Fifth Ave. and 35th St., Jan 14.

Today the principals in this thriller William and Anthony Esposito, go on trial for murder in New York Supreme Court.

The Esposito brothers, who killed two men and seriously wounded a third in the running gun battle with the police, intend to base their defense on an insanity plea.

A main feature of the insanity defense was to have been the disheveled appearance of the killers, who have refused to shave or bathe for eleven weeks. Yesterday this setup was smashed, when, by court order, the two boys were barbered and washed…

12. Max Haas took 12 picturess. This is the first time all have been published in sequence. His last picture shows Leonard Weisberg, heroic taxi driver.
PM, April 10, 1941, p. 16


In the shadow of the Empire State Building the scene of the crime was the block around B. Altman & Co. The space between and the perimeter of 34th St., Madison Ave., 35th St., and Fifth Ave., Manhattan, New York City, New York. (Now home to CUNY Grad Centre and NYPL’s Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL), Oxford University Press, etc.)

Espositos Guilty of 5th Ave. Murder
Jury Deliberates a Minute – Brothers to Hear Death Sentences Wednesday
The New York Times, May 2, 1941

William and Anthony Esposito were convicted of first-degree murder on May 1, 1941. They were sentenced to death. A week later they were brought to Sing Sing to die. After a death stay and an appeal hearing, after hunger strikes and force feedings, after being bedridden for ten months, the Esposito brothers were brought to the execution chamber in wheel chairs on March 13, 1942. They “had to be lifted from the wheel chair to the electric chair.” Two guards lifted Anthony (who never fired a shot) into the electric chair at 11:03 and he was dead at 11:06. Two guards lifted William into the electric chair at 11:08 and he was dead at 11:11.

Feeble Espositos Carried To Chair
“Mad Killers,” Keeping Insanity Pose to End, are Wheeled to Death Chamber
Brothers, Weak From Refusal to Eat or Exercise, Die for Ruthless Crimes
The New York Times, March 13, 1942

People who risked their lives to assist the police were honored in a ceremony at City Hall on November 21, 1942. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia gave the main speech and the ceremony was broadcast on WNYC radio. Honorees included fifty-seven taxi drivers who received commendations, certificates, and $10 – compensation for losing a day of work to attend the ceremony. Forty civilians “received scrolls of honor,” including six people who helped capture William and Anthony Esposito just off Fifth Avenue and Thirty-fifth Street on January 14,1941. Crime doesn’t pay; selfless, good deeds do.

Police Honors Go To Civilians Today
Six Who Helped in Capture of Esposito Desperados to Receive Scrolls
The New York Times, November 21, 1942

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