Shooting on Columbus Avenue

Organized criminal activity in North Beach appears to have taken place at different levels, by groups that ranged from small ad hoc or informal gangs to larger organizations. According to The Mafia Encyclopedia, one common type of criminal activity in the early twentieth century involved the black hand note, “a loosely run extortion racket practiced in the Little Italy sections of many American cities” including San Francisco. “It was not unusual for a businessman in financial trouble to send a black hand note to another businessman in hopes of solving his own money woes. When the recipient got such a note threatening him or members of his family, he automatically thought the Black Handers were most likely mafioso or Camorra gangsters.” (Sifakis 2005: 62) Those who didn’t comply were killed. On 30 November 1916, a threat from a black hand note came to a spectacular end in North Beach. Gaetano Tugrassio, a mantle builder, of 1622 Powell Street, had previously been given permission by the police to carry a gun after receiving a black hand note from Antonio Pedona of 6½ Scotland Street, his brother Joseph of 737 Greenwich Street, and their nephew, Antonio Pedona, Jr. “The shooting occurred in front of an ice cream parlor at 735 Columbus Avenue [extant]. The three Pedonas, according to the police, opened fire simultaneously, the brothers with revolvers and the nephew with a rifle. Tugrassio . . . returned the fire.” This “thrilling revolver battle staged at Columbus and Filbert street” resulting in the death of Tugrassio and the wounding of both Pedona brothers attracted “a throng of several thousand persons.” (San Francisco Chronicle, 1 December 1916) *Sifakis, Carl. 2005. The Mafia Encyclopedia, third edition. New York: Facts on File. Online edition.



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