Tag Archives: B. Altman building

Time, January 27, 1941

Slaughter on Fifth Avenue

“At noon Fifth Avenue was crowded. Alfred Klausman, middle-aged office manager of a linen firm, walked across the street from his office to the bank on the corner and drew the weekly pay roll: $649. [Approximately $10,365.50 in 2014, according to an Internet inflation calculator…”]
As the genial, round-faced Klausman walked back, two men silently threaded through the crowd behind him, two strange, grey-coated creatures washed up from the depths of New York City’s criminal world. One was Anthony Esposito, 35, a long-nosed, horse-faced hoodlum who had been in & out of New York’s prisons and reformatories for 16 years, had once been deported to Italy and sneaked back in. His brother William, 29, had robbed drunks, snatched pocket books, done a seven-year stretch in Sing Sing. Their father had served time for forgery. Their brother was in Clinton Prison, Dannemora, N. Y. for parole violation. Their lives had been spent in squalor. petty crime, prison and torpid, hard-eyed loafing. Klausman entered the elevator to his office. The Esposito brothers stepped in after him. Between the second and third floors they drew revolvers from their overcoat pockets, ordered the operator to stop, face the door. He heard Klausman cry “No! No! No!” -then one of the gunmen put his revolver to Klausman’s head and pulled the trigger.
They ordered the operator to take the elevator down, ducked out into the street, disappeared into B. Altman’s big department store.
Out into the street the operator yelled “Hold-up! Murder!” The cry spread. Two patrolmen raced from the corner, into the store, a long way behind.
Down the crowded aisles of the store darted the Espositos, through the block-long building. At the far entrance they climbed into a cab, put a gun at the driver’s head. But Madison Avenue was jammed with traffic; they were trapped. “Get going. Make it fast. Get moving or we’ll kill you.” Back in the store panic was spreading as police with drawn revolvers moved down the aisles shouting, “Get down!” The cab stalled behind a bus. Like men leaping over a cliff, the brothers
jumped out into the traffic. At sight of the two running men, waving revolvers, people flattened themselves against the buildings or ducked to the sidewalk. A taxi driver ran to Patrolman Edward Maher, directing traffic on the corner, yelled “Stick-up!” and pointed at the fleeing men. Maher raced after them, only 20 feet behind, afraid to shoot into the crowd. Motorists left their cars and joined the chase. Maher saw a clear space, shot twice, and William Esposito staggered side- ways, fell face downward, one arm outstretched, one twisted under him, apparently dead.
A little crowd collected around him. Patrolman Maher held the gunman by the overcoat, started to turn him over, turned to warn the crowd away. “Back up, please,” he said, “someone’s liable to get hurt. As he rolled William over, the gunman’s .38 came up. William Esposito pulled the trigger and Patrolman Maher slumped over, dead.
The crowd surged back, then forward. A taxi driver named Leonard Weisberg leaped on the prone gunman. He grabbed for the revolver, missed. Esposito jerked it back a few inches, fired again. Weisberg, clutching his throat, gasping for breath, fell to the sidewalk.
Esposito, still lying down, drew another gun from his overcoat pocket. Two men leaped on him. Then the crowd closed in, kicking and beating.
Anthony ran on when his brother fell. Behind him the police fired into the air. He shot a few times, wildly, apparently to clear crowds out of his way on Fifth Avenue. He ducked into Woolworth’s, bowling over the women shoppers. He plunged to the basement, put away his guns, walked up again to hide in the crowd – and met six policemen at the head of the stairs, went down with revolver butts thudding on his skull.
The Espositos went to the hospital, to the line-up, to indictment for murder. Leonard Weisberg, recovering from his throat wound, was promised a new cab of his own and won a hero’s praise. The Nazi press gleefully played up the crime as evidence of democratic depravity.”

LIFE, January 27, 1941

“In Manhattan Jan. 14 two savage little men walked in the sun at noon with murder in their hearts. They were the brothers Esposito. At 12:20 p. m. they saw their victim, Alfred Klausman, emerge from a bank in the Empire State Building. Silent on his heels they followed him across Fifth Avenue, into the elevator of the office building in which he worked. As it started up, Anthony Esposito jammed a gun against Klausman’s head, demanded the $649 payroll in his pocket. “No, no,” cried Klausman clutching his coat. A bullet tore into his brain. The elevator descended and the Esposito brothers raced across the street. In the next ten minutes, Manhattan’s busy shopping district became a bloody no-man’s land. Sprinting in and out of Altman’s huge department store in and out of a taxicab, the Espositos raced around the block. Bullets whizzed. Shoppers cowered in doorways. The younger Esposito, William, fell wounded in the leg. As Patrolman Eddie Maher bent over him, William raised his gun and fired three times. A brave taxi driver named Leonard Weisberg lunged full at the spitting gun in an effort to save Maher, who was his friend. But the policeman fell dead and Weisberg writhed on the sidewalk, a bullet in his throat. Before civilians battered William Esposito into submission, another man had been wounded in the shoulder. Anthony Esposito was captured by police in a 5-and-10ยข store across Fifth Avenue. 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


Life, January 27, 1941

Mad Dogs in LIFE