Fred Burke and the Valentine’s Day Massacre

Fred Burke (born Thomas Kamp) was born May 29, 1893, in Mapleton, Kansas. He was said to be an above-average student who regularly attended Sunday school. Burke’s first criminal act occurred at age 17 when he was involved in a land-fraud scheme with a traveling salesman.  In order to escape prosecution he fled to Kansas City, Missouri. He would move around joining various gangs and a even served a stint in the army, but it was his move to Chicago that landed him in Al Capone’s gang. 

Fred Burke
Courtesy: Berrien Co., MI Sheriff’s Dept.

A battle between Capone and Bugs Maron’s gangs broke out in late 1928. Leading to February 14, 1929, when Burke and his men lured seven people from Moran’s gang to a garage on Clark street. Dressed as police, they entered the garage and executed the Moran gang members.

Original location of the Valentine’s Day Massacre
Courtesy: The Mob Museum

The only survivor was a German Shepherd named Highball.  He belonged to John May and was found chained & trapped under a beer truck. Highball was so distraught after the massacre he was “put down.”

After the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Burke continued his illegal activities. In 1929 he was in a traffic accident and killed police officer Charles Skelly. 

Burke fled to Missouri where he married Bonnie Porter, a nurse, in 1930. 

On March 26, 1931, a Missouri resident recognized Burke, who was going under the alias Richard White, and notified authorities. Burke was captured without incident. He was returned to Michigan, where he stood trial for Officer Skelly’s murder and given a life sentence at Marquette State Prison. 

Burke died of a massive heart attack on July 10, 1940.

So what happened to the building and the guns used in the famous shooting.  

The garage at 2122 North Clark Street was torn down in 1967.  It’s a parking lot now.   

The bricks from the north wall were purchased by a Canadian businessman named George Patey.  He sold off about 100 of the bricks individually to collectors. After his death, the remaining bricks were moved to Las Vegas and are now on display at the Mob Museum. Which is a fascinating museum. Take a few hours to visit next time you are in Vegas. The pictures below are from the museum. I took the photos on our last visit. The bottom picture features each of the bullets removed from the victims.

The two Thompson submachine guns reside with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department in southwest Michigan, where the guns were seized on December 14, 1929.

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