Gangster Shot During Melee In Sixth Ward

Camden Courier-Post – January 14, 1928

Joseph Deven Held On Murder Charge After Death

Boxer’s Brother; ‘Mose’ Flannery and 4 others Held as Witnesses; Was Craps Game Says County Police

Holdup Attempted City Cops Declare

Victim of a shot fired in a melee, the exact cause of which remain undetermined, Joseph Cimini, 31 years old, was killed in the Sixth Ward Republican Club, 908 Broadway.

Cimini, declared by police to be a Philadelphia gangster, was killed before the eyes of two district detectives, Clarence Arthur and Clarence Bunker, who had been summoned to the club by warning that a fight was in progress.

Joseph Deven, 28 years old, known to his associates as “Polack Joe” and a colorful figure in Third Ward politics, fired the shot that killed Cimini.

Declaring that he had fired in self-defense, after Cimini struck him with the butt of a revolver, Deven was locked up without bail on a charge of murder.

Joseph ‘Mose’ Flannery, 26 years old, picturesque Eighth ward political worker, was held as a material witness. Detectives had seized Flannery who was to have precipitated the battle by brandishing a revolver just before Cimini was shot. The officers say that Flannery fled after the shooting and was captured afterward at Broadway and Federal Street.

The name of the dead man was given as Joseph Gannon, but shortly before one o’clock this afternoon, he was identified as Joseph Cimini, 1301 Ellsworth Street, Philadelphia. The identification was made by a brother, William Cimini, a pugilist who has boxed in this city several times under the name of “Billy” Gannon.

Six Others Quizzed

Six other men who were present at the time of the shooting, or when the argument began, were questioned by city and county detectives.

They are Newton Blanchard, 30, 923 St. John Street, former Camden boxing referee and declared by some of the witnesses as the man who conducted the crap game at the club; Michael Dandrea, 26, 1067 Norris Street; Russell Sage, 26 years old, of 1102 Marion Street a taxicab driver who is said to have driven Gannon and Flannery to the club in his car; Maurice O’Brien, 27 years old, of 1429 Bradley Avenue, a former New Jersey State Trooper, Harry Trooper, Harry Waterhouse, 28 years old, whose address was given as the same as Sage’s; and Charles “Chick” Hunt, 27 years old, of 1218 Broadway, a former Camden boxer.

Blanchard and Dandrea were released after questioning and after each had made a statement to Chief of County Detective Lawrence T. Doran. The others were held with Flannery as material witness.

Differences of opinion between county and city detectives investigating the shooting were heightened during the afternoon. The county sleuths insisted upon the theory that the shooting had resulted from a feud between Flannery and Hunt, with Cimini taking the former’s side and Deven the latter and said that the heat of the argument had possibly been heightened by disagreement over a crap came.

The city police, on the other hand, declared that the entire affair was the result of an attempt by Flannery to hold up the other men. Deven’s statement to Chief Doran made no mention of a hold-up.

Building up a case against Flannery, the officers this afternoon lodged charges of attempted hold-up, carrying concealed deadly weapons, atrocious assault and battery and assault to kill against him. The two latter charges were made as the result of identification of Flannery as a participant in two recent robbery attempts. J.E. Feinstein, café proprietor of 508 Kaighn Avenue, declared that Flannery, Cimini, and Sage were thereof four men who held him up on New Year’s Day. He defied them and they left when he said, “Go ahead and shoot,” he asserted. Flannery was also identified, according to police, as the man who had beaten and attempted to rob Henry Mehrer, an Audubon policeman, and his two companions outside the Ringside Inn, on the Black Horse Pike, a fortnight ago. Mehrer and Feinstein were taken to police headquarters by County Detective Howard Smith, who is authority for the statement that they identified Flannery.

Cimini was shot shortly after 3:00 this morning and died almost instantly. Doctors at Cooper Hospital pronounced him dead on arrival. He had been shot just above the heart by a bullet from Deven’s gun.

Events preceding the shooting remain, to some extent clouded today. Chief Doran said he learned of an enmity existing between Flannery and Hunt. Deven appeared to have attempted to quiet “Mose,” the county detectives said. Cimini struck Deven and Deven fired.

Chief John Golden of the Camden city detective bureau stated, on the other hand, that the shooting had apparently followed an attempt to hold up the other men in the room. Golden based his view on the statements of Clarence Arthur, a city sleuth. According to Arthur, when he and Bunker appeared at the door of the room, Flannery and Cimini held revolvers and the other men in the room were standing with their hands upraised.

According to the story pieced together by county detectives from the statements of witnesses, a group of men had apparently gathered at the club for a crap game. Blanchard, it was stated, acts as the “stick man,” the term used in gambling parlance to designate the man who conducts a crap game.

City and County agree that Flannery and Cimini arrived together in Sage’s taxicab. Whether there was an argument, the result of an enmity between Flannery and Hunt, or whether the attempted hold-up theory is correct, remains to be learned by additional official investigation.

Chief Doran stated the witnesses had told him that words passed between Flannery and Hunt and that the former had gone downstairs. Returning he brandished a revolver.

Two Flee Place

It was at this point that Blanchard and Dandrea left the room and fled down the stairs. On the street, they encountered Detectives Arthur and Bunker, who were patrolling Broadway in a police automobile.

In describing the subsequent events today, Arthur declared that Blanchard had informed him that “two Philadelphia gunmen are up in the Sixth Ward Club holding up a bunch of fellows”.

The detectives did not immediately go to the club, but found Patrolman Frank Del Rossi and followed him up the stairs of the building.

“There were about fifteen men in the room,” Arthur asserted. “When we got to the door Flannery and Cimini had their guns out and apparently were about to search the others. The other men had their hands in the air.

“When they saw us Flannery and Cimini threw their guns down and the others lowered their hands. I went up to Flannery and started to frisk him. Bunker went to another man, whom I don’t know, and started to frisk him”.

It was then he said that he heard the shot. Believing that it was Bunker who was shot, he released his hold on Flannery and swung around. As he did Flannery turned and fled downstairs, Arthur declared.

Bunker said he believed that it was Arthur who had been shot and he too released his grasp on the man he had been searching. The detectives turned in time to see Cimini fall.

“I did it! I shot him!” Deven is declared to have shouted, throwing his revolver on the table.

According to the story told by witnesses to the county detectives, however, Deven had stepped up to Flannery just before the shot was fired and had said, “Mose, you can’t get away with this here.”

Flannery is said to have had a gun in his hand at the time.

As Deven spoke, the witnesses say, Cimini stepped behind him and struck him with the butt of a revolver. Just then detectives entered. Deven whirled and, drawing his gun, fired.

Cimini was placed in a police ambulance and taken to the hospital. After he had been pronounced dead his body was taken to the morgue, where it was awaiting identification today. Neatly dressed, Cimini is of Italian extraction. He has coal-black hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. Coroner Charles T. Murray will perform a post-mortem examination, he said.

Flannery Captured

When he fled from the club, according to Arthur, Flannery jumped on a Public Service bus driven by David Smith, of 423 Haddon Avenue, which was passing at the time.

“Faster! Faster” he is declared to have urged Smith as the latter drove along Broadway in the direction of Federal Street.

At Federal Street and Broadway, Arthur and Bunker caught up to the bus and arrested Flannery as he descended from the vehicle.

“Why don’t you give me a chance to get to Philadelphia?” Arthur declares Flannery asked him. “I can get bail over there.”

Seek Written Statement

Chief Doran stated this afternoon that he was attempting to obtain a written statement from Flannery and would also seek to have Deven sign a statement regarding the shooting. During the morning, Flannery refused to talk while Deven, although admitting that he fired the shot, declared that he shot in self-defense. He made no reference to the hold-up attempt, according to the county detectives.

Cimini has a Philadelphia police record but, according to his pugilist brother, “was not bad but just wild.” He was recently arrested in Philadelphia after a fight with policemen.

“But he never held up or robbed anybody,” his brother declared this afternoon after identifying the body. “He got into a jam now and then. Yes, I know that he knew ‘Mose’ Flannery, but I never mixed with that crowd.”

It was reported at City Hall this afternoon that Samuel Orlando had been retained as attorney for Flannery and that Walter Keown, Camden county solicitor, would represent all the other men. The presence of Keown at detective headquarters, during which he had a conference with Captain Golden, seemed to lend credence to the latter report but neither rumor could be confirmed.

Flannery for years has figured in police cases and in political warfare in the Eighth Ward, where he was sometimes a lieutenant and sometimes an opponent of “Mikey” Brown, the Republican leader of the ward. Last March he was arrested and indicted on charges of atrocious assault and battery on is wife and her mother. At one time he was held as a suspect is a Philadelphia shooting but later was released.

The accused man, Deven, is a short, slim little man with an air of meek complaisance. He has been a taxicab driver and was last arrested on a charge of drunken driving. In May of 1926 he attempted suicide by shooting himself after he had failed to effect a reconciliation with his estranged wife. At that time, he shot himself but the bullet only grazed his chest.

Joe Deven, long a political power in the Third Ward, first flashed into citywide prominence in 1925, when he was employed by federal authorities as a deputy U.S. Marshal to guard the padlocked Poth brewery at Bulson Street, just off Broadway. At the time Deven was thus maintaining the sanctity of the Eighteenth Amendment, he was also operating a bootlegging establishment downtown and had been arrested once or twice for violating the Volstead Act.

The Courtier at that time exposed this paradoxical situation, with the result that the U.S. Marshal summarily dismissed Deven. He keenly resented the political chicanery that had been used to put Deven in office. In explaining how Deven was appointed, the Marshal said that he had been recommended by “prominent Republican leaders” in Camden, chief among whom was William D. Sayrs, now a city commissioner but then a field agent in the office of the Internal Revenue Department.

Sought City Job

Not long after Deven’s dismissal as brewery guard, Sayrs and other Republican leaders made strenuous efforts to secure a city job for him under the Non-Partisan administration. They sought to exact a promise from The Courier that this newspaper would remain silent in the event Deven was appointed to a city position. No such promise was made and Deven remained jobless, politically at least.

Then came a humorous twist to the situation. Billy disagreed with some of the Organization leaders and, for a time, walked his own political footpath. Some of the leaders, fearful of what Sayrs might attempt politically, killed two birds with one stone by hiring Joe Deven to shadow Sayrs and to report to them the number of times he conferred with Non-Partisans. Thus, Joe had a job and Billy was watched.

Sayrs knew he was being shadowed by his old friend, and apparently he knew who had hired Deven to do the work, but he refused to take the situation seriously and chortled, frequently, when he would see his “Shadow” trailing about town.

In the last year, however, Deven has again been the particular political protégé of Commissioner Sayrs and also has won the friendship of many other political leaders. Nevertheless, he has not been, so far as can be determined, the recipient of any particular political patronage, though his political influence in the Third and Fifth Wards is said to have expanded rapidly under the new administration.

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