March 18, 2020 – Philadelphia mafia boss Angelo Bruno was assassinated 40 years ago this week, sending his crime family reeling into a decade-and-half of on-and-off violence that destabilized a once cohesive organization. Nicknamed the Docile Don for his low-key, level-headed demeanor, Bruno, 69, had the back half of his head blown off by a shotgun as he sat smoking a cigarette in a car outside his understated South Philly row house on March 21, 1980.
The palace coup led by Bruno’s consigliere Antonio (Tony Bananas) Caponigro and two capos failed and Tony Bananas and his brother-in-law were brutally murdered in New York by order of the Commission a month later. Caponigro’s co-conspirators, crew chiefs John (Johnny Keys) Simone and Frank (The Barracuda) Sindone, were slain that fall for their roles in the unsanctioned hit. Leaders of the Genovese crime family in New York had falsely promised Caponigro support in his takeover attempt.
Bruno was born in Sicily and came to the United States with his family, settling in South Philly. His father owned a grocery store and he was sponsored by local crime lord Mike Maggio, the Philly mob’s cheese king, for induction into the city’s mafia family.
Upon Godfather Joe Ida fleeing for Italy in 1958 to avoid facing narcotics trafficking charges, Bruno maneuvered his way onto the throne. When Ida’s acting boss Antonio (Miggs) Pollina put a murder contract on his head in the aftermath of Ida leaving town, Bruno went to the Commission in New York and his confidant, “boss of bosses,” Carlo Gambino and got it removed, receiving permission to take control of the Philadelphia crime family himself. Subsequently, Bruno shelved Pollina (instead of whacking him) and earned his nickname and reputation for kindness.
Gambino gave Bruno a seat on the Commission and his time on top of the Philly and North Jersey underworld went smoothly for its first two decades. But by the late 1970s, dissension began to grow within the ranks of Bruno’s mob empire and he faced a groundswell of displeasure, some of it coming directly within his administration.
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