Elmer Francis Burke
Nickname: “Trigger;” “Machine Gun Burke”
Born: circa 1918, New York City
Died: January 9, 1958, Ossining, New York
Affiliations: Freelance Hit man for hire
Trigger also known as Machine gun Burke, the cold-blooded hit man named Elmer Francis Burke can not be considered a Boston mobster, but history tells us there is a Nexus some how.As the public records so reflect, when he was brought here for special assignment in the disposal business in 1954, he made his short stay particularly memorable.
Born in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, Burke was raised by his brother Charlie after the death of their parents.Burke was soon running afoul of the law, and after service in the United States Military which the U.S. government specifically trained him to kill on impulse with a knife, blunt instrument, firearm both hand gun and rifle he excelled.With that specific military training allowed him to also excel in the art of a hit man for hire. Needing very little marketing skills to make it a lucrative occupation with some occupational hazards usually on the other side of the bullet or knife.Known as a crazy-even psychotic–killer with a razor-thin temper, Burke coolly shot his best friend, longshoreman Edward “Poochy” Walsh, in a New York bar because of a 1952 beef. Then Burke, after the killing of his best friend had breakfast.Killing never bothered him one bit. He had been suspected in a number of serial acts of murder and mayhem and thus considered a reliable gun for hire, according to PUBLIC accounts.
- The Charles Street jail was a home away from home for many of the mobsters both historic and present feature in PROJECT MARINO.COM Even one of the founders of Project Marino, Vincent Michael Marino did time in the extremely old Charles Street Jail in 1987 with Jerry Angiulo, the once extremely powerful Under Boss of the New England Mafia, became very close to Marino, as Marino was going to State trial at the old Suffolk Superior Court in Boston for a drug trafficking charge which Marino was found NOT GUILTY of by the Boston jury trial. Marino has two total victories in two prior trials 1987 and 1998 RICO trial which Marino was also found by a Federal Jury NOT GUILTY of possession and use of a Machine Gun, Silencer, Muffler, Destructive Devices and hand grenades in the conspiracy to kill 14 separately named individuals and use of the above and the distribution and trafficking of Drugs and aiding and abetting see: Count Four and Count 31 of the indictment via: United States v. Marino, CR-97-40009-NAG. (District of Massachusetts/Boston/Worcester) also see United States v. Marino, 200 F.3d 6 (1st Cir.1999); United States v. Marino, CR-97-40009-NAG. (District of Massachusetts/Boston/Worcester).
Charles Street escape:
New York hit man Elmer “Trigger” Burke made a sensational escape in 1954 from the historic Charles Street Jail located on off Cambridge Street in Boston’s West End.One of the robbers in the 1950 Brink’s heist, Joseph James “Specky” O’Keefe, claimed he’d been cut out of his fair chare of the loot and was threatening other gang members.One of the robbers in the infamous 1950 Brink’s heist in the North End of Boston’s Little Italy section, Joseph James “Specky” O’Keefe, claimed he’d been cut out of his fair chare of the loot and was threatening other gang members, with exposing the then Biggest Heist in the United States History.Burke was brought in to equalize the situation, the mastermind of the Brink’s Job Tony Pino, to make sure O’Keefe didn’t spill the beans if the heist.
- On June 16, 1954 (35 years later The New England Mafia Boss: Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemmewas shot by automatic weapons on Rt.1 in Saugus, Massachusetts, just on the outskirts of Boston, allegedly by Marino, whom at the time just turned 27 years old, according to public accounts & via: United States v. Marino, CR-97-40009-NMG. (District of Massachusetts/Boston/Worcester),at about 3:00 A.M., O’Keefe was headed to the home of a lady friend, and while walking on Adams Street near Victory Road in Dorchester (home of famous actor: Mark Walberg), an area within Boston, he saw a car pull out and follow him.Suddenly, machine gun fire exploded around him.O’Keefe ran for his life through the neighborhood, returning fire as he ducked for cover.A bullet hit his watch, tearing it from his wrist, but miraculously, he sustained only minor wounds, although police later followed a trail of blood through the neighborhood.
Awakened residents thought a gang war had broken out.A shaken O’Keefe went into hiding, caring a machine gun for protection with numerous pistols loaded to the gills.Bizarrely, Burke did not leave Boston.A day later, a Boston police patrolman, alerted by New York police that Burke was in the area, saw the suspected trigger man in the Back Bay of Boston and managed to arrest him without incident. A veritable arsenal was found in Burke’s room in a Back Bay boardinghouse, along with the description closely resembles that of O’Keefe.With a strange pride and exhibiting wacky behavior that could have been an act only James Cagney could have played, Burke bragged about the shooting of Specky O’Keefe, saying that the Irish man was squealing like a pig when he was shooting at him.
Burke was probably dismayed to learn that he had failed to kill Specky. And also more likely than not the Police officer knowing Burke was there to kill Specky, made up the confession as Boston Police Officer’s are known to do, for publicity purposes.The attempts on Specky O’Keefe’s life finally convinced Irish Specky to rat out his fellow Brink’s robbers.Burke cooled his heels in the Suffolk County Jail on Charles Street (where later Vincent Marino and Jerry Angiulo were held in 1987), in Boston, but not for long.In August, in a flawless operation, the man described as “kill-crazy psychopath” escaped, aided by three men who managed to get through four locked heavily steel doors to reach the jail’s exercise area, where they rushed him to an escape car.Burke had walked through the infamous Charles Street Jail where earlier held German U-Boat from Hitler’s military and even Civil War military of the South at the facility, ‘like a ghost,” as the Boston Globe reported. The spectator escape rocked Boston. They also had sources that said the Italian Mafia supported his escape & return to his occupation as a hired gun.Burke only had another year of freedom. On August 28, 1955, he was arrested in South Carolina and returned to New York. He was arrested for the murder of Poochy Walsh, convicted and sentenced to death in the Electric Chair.
On January 9, 1958, he was electrocuted at Sing Sing Prison in New York, a historic event.Two Boston men, Allen G. Locke of the Back Bay of Boston and William E. Cavanaugh of Jamaica Plain Boston, were convicted and sentenced to seven to tens years in state prison for helping Burke escape.Today, the Charles Street Historic and famous jail where the hoodlums was once incarcerated has been transformed into the swanky Liberty Hotel, which feature still a few jail cells as part of its ritzy decor.