The memory of seven men ruthlessly gunned down in a garage on Chicago's North Side 66 years ago still conjures images of "Scarface" Al Capone and a city held captive by crime.
History records the killings on the morning of Feb. 14, 1929, as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre: members of Capone's gang of bootleggers blasting away with submachine guns, shotguns and a revolver inside a garage at 2122 N. Clark St. to wipe out competition from the gang of George "Bugs" Moran.
Chicago criminologist Arthur Bilek, who has studied the case for 30 years, has published a theory that claims, once and for all, to establish the identities of the five gunmen, along with other mobsters involved in the killings who made up an "all-star team of really bad guys." Writing in the spring issue of Real Crime Book Digest, Bilek said he is convinced that Anthony Accardo, who rose through the ranks to command the Chicago mob for many years in the post-Capone era, was among the triggermen.
Bilek's scenario for the massacre is drawn from FBI files, dusty court transcripts and his studies as founding chairman of the criminal justice department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In an interview, Bilek said Accardo's participation in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre "was the start of his rise from Capone bodyguard sitting in the Lexington Hotel with a machine gun in his lap to boss of the Chicago mob."
Bilek said Capone henchman "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn assembled the murder team, which included lookouts Byron Bolton, Jimmy Moran (no relation to Bugs) and Jimmy McCryssen. Their job was to alert Accardo and the other triggermen -- Fred Burke, Gus Winkler, Freddie Goetz and Robert Carey -- when Bugs Moran appeared. Former FBI agent William Roemer, author of a forthcoming book about Accardo, supports Bilek's identification of the shooters.
Except for Accardo, who died of natural causes in 1992, the others named by Bilek as the massacre gunmen met violent deaths.