The Hogans Hit Back

     When three gunmen shot William Egan, leader of St. Louis’ powerful gang Egan’s Rats, on October 31, 1921, Egan’s lieutenant William “Dinty” Colbeck swore revenge.  St. Louis Police beat him to John J. Doyle but Colbeck’s gunmen assassinated Luke Kennedy on April 17, 1922.  Colbeck now set his sights on James Hogan, the younger brother of Hogan Gang leader Edward “Jellyroll” Hogan.

William "Dinty" Colbeck, Leader of Egan's Rats during the early to mid 1920s.

William “Dinty” Colbeck, Leader of Egan’s Rats during the early to mid 1920s.

     Knowing how ruthless Colbeck could be, Edward Hogan decided not to wait for Colbeck to make another attempt on his younger brother.  James barely avoided being shot during Colbeck’s first attempt to get the men.  Colbeck’s gunmen ambushed Hogan, Kennedy and their mob lawyer Jacob Mackler.  This shooting left Luke Kennedy an invalid and an easy target during the second attempt on Kennedy during April 1922.  Edward Hogan ordered his men to get Colbeck before Colbeck killed any more Hogans.

     Colbeck, however, would not be an easy target.  Colbeck served as an infantry man during World War I.  A powerful man, who obtained his nickname because his large hands dented the pipes he worked with as a plumber, Colbeck could fight with both fists and weapons.  Hogan knew the best way to kill Colbeck would be by surprise and from a distance.

     During the day on May 18, 1922, Hogan made his first attempt on the new leader of Egan’s Rats.  Besides being the leader of the Rats, Colbeck ran a legitimate plumbing shop at 2215 Washington Avenue.  Colbeck and William “Red” Smith, who St. Louis Police also believed was a Rat, were working with Miss May Redman, a 16-year-old girl.

willie-egan-and saloon

Willie Egan and His Saloon Where He Was Shot from the Public Domain

     A large touring car moved slowly down Washington Avenue until it was directly in front of Colbeck’s shop.  Over ten shots were fired in those few seconds from two revolvers and a shotgun.  The Hogan hit squad missed their marks entirely.  Miss Redman was cut by flying glass but no one was shot or seriously injured.

     St. Louis Police quickly responded to the reports of a shooting.  The officer arrested Colbeck and Smith for questioning but both men lied about being in the shop.  They told police they were in the office of State Senator Michael Kinney, the younger brother of Egan’s Rats co-founder Thomas E. “Snake” Kinney.  Thomas Kinney also was a Missouri State Senator.  Colbeck stated he and Smith walked back to the plumbing shop shortly after the shooting.

     St. Louis Police were increasingly concerned with either the Rats or the Hogans killing innocent bystanders in this growing warm.  When would the shooting end?

     The Police Department did not know “Dinty” Colbeck was contemplating the same question.  Was it time to end the war and get back to their profitable criminal activities?  While Colbeck mulled these questions, he decided at least one more message needed to be sent.  Would the Rats finally get James Hogan?

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Source: The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, May 18, 1922 edition, p. 1

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