Early on the morning of Thursday March 19, 1931 LAPD Detective Lieutenants Hickey and Corsini responded to Pacoima rancher Tony Collandri's report of a finding the body of a man sprawled near his ranch on a lonely stretch of Arleta Street near Van Nuys Blvd. Upon arrival the detectives noted a late model automobile facing west with the headlights still blazing. A few feet across Arleta lay Dominic's tattered remains.
Di Ciolla's 6-year run had come to an end in much the same fashion as it began, suddenly and violently. As the detectives began their investigation they noted a single pair of footprints leading away from the vehicle ending where Di Ciolla's body had fallen.
Erstwhile leader of a group of Chicago transplants formerly aligned with the Genna brother's organization. Di Ciolla arrived in Los Angeles permanently settling in here1926. Soon thereafter he set about carving out a sizeable portion of the Los Angeles liquor trade. His timing proved fortuitous as two of the cities prominent liquor rings were wilting under the heat of federal and local scrutiny.
Albert Marco the barrel chest partner of "Goodtime Charlie" Crawford was pre-occupied fighting off a number of legal challenges that promised to end his reign whereas the multi-national liquor ring run by Antonio and Frank Stralla was struggling to maintain its dominance as its chief executive officers were repeatedly drug into court to face charges relating to their booming enterprise. As Di Ciolla scouted out territory, Stralla fled the city seeking a reprieve from his legal quandaries. From exile he survey the changes in the Los Angeles landscape monitoring the progress of the transplant from afar. The "literal and physical" absence of these powerful figures provided added incentive to Di Ciolla as he prepared to move forward.
Di Ciolla meticulously formulated a seemingly fool proof plan and set about establishing an organization and base of operation from which he could slowly institute his master plan. A veteran of the brutal Chicago liquor wars, Di Ciolla knew how to play it rough but realized the need to proceed with caution. As an outsider and newcomer to Los Angeles, Di Ciolla's ability to negotiate and employ diplomacy would serve him far better than the guns and bombs he'd employed in Chicago on behalf of the Genna brothers and their political patrons.
What brought Di Ciolla west is something of a mystery. Was it an attempt by the Genna brothers to expand their influence? Or was it simply a case of an ambitious upstart carving a place for himself in a rich new territory? What we do know for certain is that Di Ciolla borrowed liberally from the ranks of the Genna organization importing friends and relatives on whom he could rely to take care of business. In time those methods would often involve violence but early on the most effective tactic was the formation of key alliances.
Personal Traits and Habits
As stated previously Di Ciolla borrowed or recruited heavily from the ranks of the Genna gang. Headquartered on the West Side of Chicago, the six Genna brothers -Sam, Jim, Pete, Angelo, Tony and Mike, employed the most efficient and terrifying squad of gunmen and urban terrorist in prohibition era Chicago.
All but one of the brothers actively strove to live up to their reputation as "the Terrible Gennas." Like Di Ciolla, they surrounded themselves with likeminded underlings whose activities and behaviors mimicked their own.
Many of the personal attributes ascribed to them were very much similar to those of Di Ciolla. From court documents and public statements made by members of his North Side Los Angeles gang we know that the relationship between boss and employee was often strained, due to the contempt and unpredictability of Di Ciolla. No one could be sure when the boss would fly off the handle and his proficient use of violence increased the tension filled moments when they were in his presence.
Young, wealthy and exceedingly arrogant, Di Ciolla's treatment of his gang vacillated between haughty and overbearing to considerate and patronizing. He was also contemptuous, savage, treacherous and extremely greedy in his business dealings. Smart, ambitious and personable when he chose or needed to be, he was a skilled politician, strategist and a natural double crosser. All of these traits served to provide him with a tactical advantage over his competitors especially during the months when he actively recruited from the ranks of the Genna gang and the ranks of competing liquor gangs located throughout southern California.
For Dominic alliances were temporary matters of convenience. On many an occasion he would enter into an advantageous agreement with every intention of renegotiating the terms or disregarding the deal in the most brutal and final manner possible. There was one deal he cherished and adhered to with all the conviction of a religious man. His partner was a man with whom he shared many personal traits and attributes. This partner was none other than J.E. "Two Gun" Davis, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. Despite standing on opposite sides of the law, Davis and Di Ciolla shared more than the pursuit of profit in common. Neither was particularly popular among their constituents.
A spit and polish lawman, it was once said the tall Texan "born James Edgar Davis was to "purty" to be a good Chief of police. His penchant for manicures and sharply creased uniforms rubbed many of Los Angeles's hardboiled southern transplants the wrong way. His open disdain for constitutional rights, "no benefit to anybody but crooks and criminals," wrinkled the feathers of the cities more liberal forces. None of that mattered much for Davis enjoyed the support of Otis Chandler the owner of the Los Angeles Times.
The Time's publicly ignored while privately endorsing many of Davis's controversial actions such as the stationing of LAPD officers along the states eastern border to "deny entry to those who didn't have liquid assets." It was an expansion of the auto blockades where officers routinely questioned drivers with little or no reason. Despite widespread criticism, Chief Davis continued to encourage his officers to use whatever force necessary to get the job done.
Nowhere was that edict carried out with more vigor than the officers assigned to the Venice division. The unabashed capitalist in Davis realized the value of employing a reliable squad of enforcement agents, and few were more efficient than the team of Detective Lieutenant Richard "Big Dick" Lucas, Captain of Detectives Herman Cline, patrolman Bowers and Assistant Captain of Detectives Frank Williams. These gentlemen were known for being anything but gentle as they employed the shotgun, pistol and Tommy gun with ruthless efficiency.
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