Led by the violent and ambitious Jimmy Coonan, The Westies was New York’s Irish mob of the late 1970s and 1980s. Backed by the Italian Gambino crime family, the Westies turned Hell’s Kitchen upside down, flooding the streets with massive amounts of narcotics, murder and mayhem. While latter-era Irish crime lords from Hell’s Kitchen like Hughie Mulligan and Mickey Spillane resisted Italian mob influence, Coonan and his Westies felt empowered by their affiliation with the Gambinos and wore it as a badge of honor. Coonan seized control of the Irish mob in Hell’s Kitchen in 1977 —, in concert with the Gambino and Genovese crime families — with the killing of Spillane and several of his most-trusted lieutenants and ruled until he was jailed for life in 1988 courtesy of a federal racketeering conviction.
The Top 5 “Westies” Hits – The Rise To The Top Murder Timeline (1976-1977)
1 Mickey Spillane: May 13, 1977 – The neatly-coiffed old-school boss of the Irish mob in Hell’s Kitchen is gunned down in front of his Woodside neighborhood residence in Queens. Spillane, the quintessential “gentleman gangster,” had fought off the Italian mob for years from invading the West Side rackets and Jimmy Coonan used the rivalry to his advantage by forging an alliance with Italian Godfather Paul Castellano and the Gambino crime family. With backing from the Gambinos and Genovese mobs, Coonan engineered a war against Spillane which ended in Spillane’s assassination and Coonan taking his place as boss of Hell’s Kitchen. Spillane, 44, had moved from Hell’s Kitchen to a quiet section of Queens out of fear for his safety in the year before he was slain.
2 Charles (Ruby) Stein: May 15, 1977 – A well-connected 62-year old Jewish mobster with one of the biggest loan sharking operation in the country and links to a number of New York Italian crime families is killed at the 596 Club (also known as McCoy’s Bar) on Tenth Ave in Hell’s Kitchen, his body partially dismembered and disposed of in the Hudson River. Stein’s former bodyguard and driver was the new “Westies” boss, Jimmy Coonan, who wanted his huge shylock business for himself now that he was in charge of “The Kitchen.”
3 Tommy Devaney: July 20, 1976 – Mickey Spillane’s main enforcer is shot dead by hired gun Joe (Mad Dog) Sullivan in the middle of a Midtown Manhattan bar after attending a wake across the street with Genovese mobster George (Georgie the Jet) Barone, the man who founded the “Jets” street gang made famous in the stage play and film West Side Story. Barone set Devaney up for the kill. Devaney’s murder started the domino effect that wound up toppling Mickey Spillane’s Irish mob empire less than a year later.
4 Edward (Eddie the Butcher) Cumminsky: August 20, 1976 – The feared hit man and one of Mickey Spillane’s most reliable enforcers, is gunned down by Mad Dog Sullivan while drinking at the Sunbrite Bar in Hell’s Kitchen.
5 Thomas (Tommy the Greek) Kapatos: January 22, 1977 – The Hell’s Kitchen mob strong arm is blown away by Mad Dog Sullivan on a snowy night walking in Midtown Manhattan along 34th Street. Kapatos was Mickey Spillane’s last layer of protection and with him out of the picture Spillane was at the end of his lifeline on the street.