The East Harlem Red Wings were an Italian gang that had it’s beginnings in the late 1940s. I already have a webpage devoted to some Red Wings shooting and killing a Fordham Baldie in the Bronx in June 1954. Click here for more details on that if you haven’t seen it yet.
On Memorial Day 1958, the Red Wings struck again. At around 9 p.m. on May 30, a 22-year old Cuban man named Julio Ramos who had recently moved from Havana, was sitting on the bench with his sweetheart. As they watched the swimmers and enjoyed being with each other, some Red Wings on the other side of the park noticed him there. In a chaotic and devastating scene, seven Red Wings fell upon Ramos in a fury. Alfred Catino, Frank Monti, Louis Camp, George Clemente, Norbert Belbo, Philip Petrone and Edward Castallazzo attacked Ramos with their fists, a wine bottle and slats from a park bench they had ripped up.
It was Catino who led the attack announcing to everyone that there was a “Spic in the park.” He came up behind Ramos as he sat on the bench and smashed the wine jug on his head. Ramos jumped up to escape but the Red Wings chased him down, beating him with their fists, kicking him and hitting him with the park bench slats. Their attack was too much for Ramos who fell to the ground. Louis Camp then finished the attack by lifting up a parks garbage can and lobbing it onto Ramos’ head. He died the next day of his injuries.
When the news hit New York City, the papers reported heavily on the murder. The New York Times even reported that the “Viceroy Dragons” were banding together to take revenge on Italians. They wrote a threatening letter to two of the families of the defendants stating that the “Spanish have united.” If this is true it is remarkable as the Viceroys and Dragons were not one gang as the Times reported, but two separate gangs, the Viceroys and Dragons who had been bitter enemies for years. All seven Red Wings pleaded not-guilty and went on trial as they all pleaded not-guilty. The trial was held the following year in April 1959.
The trial was an acrimonious affair with Reynolds the Assistant District Attorney clashing early and often with the defense attorneys of the boys. Prior to the trial, Grand Jury witnesses were impounded to see if there was enough evidence to go to a real trial. There was enough evidence, but one of the main witnesses who testified in the Grand Jury recanted during the trial, exasperating and making Reynolds job more difficult. Police were assigned to protect witnesses and I found this interesting schedule for the different policemen assigned to watch over the witnesses so no harm came to them.
With so many defendants and with similarity to the trial of Michael Farmer’s killers in 1958, the trial was complex with seven defendants (two who were later tried in Children’s Court). Below is a chart I found that the prosecution made to assist in keeping everything in order. As you can see it is old and cracking and yellowing on the side where it was taped but it was still in relatively good condition (although I took care in opening it up).
In the end all of the Red Wings were found guilty and the Judge sentenced them all to prison terms. At least one of the Red Wings has died since 1959, one appears to have been let out of prison and then got involved in the Mafia and others appear to be around still, but not interested in talking about the case.