Thanks to Prohibition, criminal gangs plagued the Twin Cities in the 1920s and ’30s. A corrupt St. Paul Police Department provided safe haven to gangsters and crooks of the era, as long as they agreed to stay out of trouble while in the city. The task of keeping the bad boys in line fell to “Dapper Dan” Hogan, a speakeasy owner and underworld leader. On Dec. 4, 1928, Hogan, “whose word was known to be law among many criminals,” was killed by a car bomb in the garage behind his St. Paul home.
Rival gangsters were the likely culprits, but his murder was never officially solved. The story below appeared on the front page of the Minneapolis Morning Tribune the day after his death.
Danny Hogan Slain; Victim of Auto Bomb
Blast Nearly Tears Off Leg of Twin Cities Underworld Lord.
Racketeers Vainly Offer Blood for Transfusion to Save Chief.
Police Keep Lookout for Possible Reprisals by Leader’s Friends.
The victim of a bomb which exploded his automobile, Danny Hogan, St. Paul restaurant proprietor and a well known figure in the Twin Cities underworld, died shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday in the St. Paul hospital, while police were seeking the men who murdered him and were watching for attempts at reprisals.
Hogan, a figure in many police investigations, and whose word was known to have been law among many criminals, was fatally injured Tuesday morning as he was attempting to drive his automobile out of the garage in back of his home at 1607 West Seventh street, St. Paul. The bomb, which very nearly tore off his right leg, presumably was detonated when Hogan pressed his foot to the starter.
Unable to Name Assailants.
Fragments of the bomb, missing his right foot entirely, entered the leg at the ankle and continued upward to the knee. The bone of the leg was pulverized. Other fragments severely lacerated his right arm, and tore off the ring finger. He suffered one deep cut over the right eye. The underworld leader died without being able to name his assailants.
“I don’t know what happened or why it happened,” he said in a brief statement to Edward Diehl, assistant Ramsey county attorney. “I touched the starter and that’s all I remember. I don’t know who could have done it. I didn’t know I had an enemy in the world.”
Rumors had been current among underworld members of St. Paul for several days that “someone was marked for death.” One theory held by police is that Hogan was killed by gambling racketeers. He is said to have been connected with a gambling house near Mendota which was closed recently.
In soft drink bars, cigar stores and small hotels of St. Paul, where underworld characters congregate, there were rumors Tuesday night that vengeance would result from the Hogan killing. Police understood that they would have aid from a lawless element in tracking down of the killers.
The blast occurred at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Hogan had gone into the garage to take out his car. His aged father-in-law, F.D. Hardy, 73 years old, was to have accompanied him. The two men had just finished a late breakfast and were going to drive to downtown St. Paul. When Hardy reached the garage he remembered a money order which he had left in the house, so he returned to get it.
A short time afterwards there was a loud explosion. When neighbors and members of the family entered the garage they found Hogan unconscious in the seat of the car, his right leg nearly torn off, and bleeding profusely.
Blast Wrecks Auto.
The explosive, believed to have been placed directly underneath the floor boards of the machine, and wired to the starter, had blown the boards to bits, shattered windows in the car and torn open its cowling. A large hole was made in the top of the automobile and the steering wheel was blown completely off its post. Holes in the steel sides of the car body showed where bits of metal had been buried through with the velocity of bullets. Detectives searching the scene of the crime later found bits of soft metal scattered about the wrecked car. The hood of the machine was blown off, but the engine was not wrecked.
A police ambulance was dispatched to the scene immediately and Dr. F.L. Webber, police surgeon, found Hogan still unconscious. At the hospital, Hogan’s right leg was amputated in an effort to save his life. It soon became apparent that blood transfusions also would be necessary.
Racketeers Offered Blood.
From all walks of life, the friends of the underworld chief, who was known as “Dapper Dan,” came to the hospital to offer their services for blood transfusions. Among them were racketeers, police characters and business men. These proffers of assistance were an indication of the esteem in which the murdered man was held by many people of the Twin Cities. Hogan’s condition became progressively more serious during the day and death came shortly before 9 p.m.
Police Chief E.J. Murnane and Captain of Detectives Herman Vall, St. Paul, took personal charge of the investigation of the crime. They have ordered every detective on the force to hunt for Hogan’s assailants.
Wife Saw Mystery Pair.
Mrs. Hogan reported that at 6 a.m. Tuesday she saw two men drive up and stop near the Hogan garage. She did not know the men and paid no attention to them. Police believe that it was these two men who entered the garage and planted the bomb. The assassins, according to police, evidently know well Hogan’s habits, as there was a second car in the garage, a large sedan. The car in which Hogan was fatally injured was a coupe and the men evidently knew that this was the machine he was in the habit of using.
Detectives searched the sedan to determine whether a bomb had been planted in it, also, but they found nothing. The explosive used in the coupe was nitroglycerine, which is both highly powerful and easily concealed.
Hogan was arrested by police in January, 1927, for alleged participation in a $35,000 mail robbery in South St. Paul. Arrested with him were Frank W. Sommer, former St. Paul police chief and secret service official; George E. Blaul, former agent at South St. Paul, and Reuben C. Lilley, alias “Black” Carter.
Friends Put Up $100,000.
Hogan’s bond was fixed at $100,000, a record sum, but here again his friends rallied to his support and within a short time 25 bondsmen had put up the sum.
The cases against Hogan and Sommer were dismissed July 5, 1927, by Federal Judge Andrew Miller. The dismissal was on defense motion, presented a month earlier when the government announced it was unable to proceed with the prosecution. The case against the men was understood to have fallen down when a star witness for the prosecution made a sworn statement that charges against the defendants had been hatched at Leavenworth penitentiary by Terry Moran, one of the bandits convicted of complicity in the mail robbery. Moran later was killed while an inmate of the federal prison at Atlanta.
Power In Underworld.
“Dapper Dan” was known throughout the northwest, and in many other places throughout the United States, as a man who had the power to settle feudal wars and “keep the heat out of town.” He is known to have told criminals, on many occasions, that they could stay in St. Paul as long as they behaved and started no “racket.”
Police knew that he had frequently ordered thieves and gangsters out of the Twin Cities and sometimes gave them money so that they “might be on their way.”
He was the idol of not a few persons and his word was said to have been “as good as a gold bond.” To numbers of persons he was something of a Robin Hood. There will be some fewer turkey dinners in St. Paul this Christmas as a result of his death, according to the talk in the soft drink bars in St. Paul Tuesday night.
O’Dowd Offers Aid.
Among the several score persons who waited in the ante-room of the hospital Tuesday afternoon for the chance to give blood to the dying man was Mike O’Dowd, former professional boxer, and at one time middleweight champion of the world.
Hogan was conscious and smiling throughout the operation of amputation. When Dr. Arnold F. Plankers, the surgeon summoned to do the operating, appeared in the room, Hogan said “hello” and told him blandly that he “better do his best.” He scorned a general anaesthetic and submitted to the amputation with only a local anaesthetic.
In the evening, when Hogan appeared stronger, preparations were made for a blood transfusion, but he sank into a coma and died at 8:55 p.m.
Inside of 15 minutes, the word of his death was passed around the city by “grapevine telephone,” and the hospital, police headquarters and newspapers were besieged with hundreds of calls from the dead man’s friends. Police, at that time, were bending every effort to discover Hogan’s murderers and prevent vengeance by the underworld chief ’s friends.
Gangster Must Go.
Rumors are current in St. Paul that the crime was committed by New York gunmen, experts in the newest form of bomb killing, hired by a gang of Minneapolis gamblers.
Police up to a late hour Tuesday night had only two clues on which to work, one the description of the two men seen in the rear of the Hogan home early Tuesday, and the other the fragments of the bomb taken from the garage, Hogan’s leg and his arm.
“The gangster must go,” Chief Murnane asserted Tuesday night after a day of major crime in St. Paul in which a murder was committed, a former policeman shot as a burglar, and a filling station robbed by a bandit who fired at the attendant.
“If there are gangsters or undesirables in the city they certainly will be cleaned out,” the chief said. “The gangster must go. We intend to enforce the laws and give St. Paul the best possible policing under existing conditions.”