THE CHARLESTON CONNECTION
from Wicked Charleston, Vol. II: Prostitutes, Politics & Prohibition
The Great Brinks Robbery At approximately on
The men quickly entered the Brinks building and donned their masks. Within half an hour the seven men had looted the premises of $1.2 million in cash and $1.5 million in checks, money orders and other securities. By prior agreement the seven men handed their stolen money over to a Mafia syndicate for safekeeping. Their agreement was to not touch the money for at least seven years - when the statute of limitations for the crime would have passed. The seven men scattered.
It was the largest bank robbery in the
Specs O'Keefe targeted by the mob Soon after the robbery, the police were hot on the trail of every known crook and thief in
O'Keefe finished his sentence in
On June 14, O'Keefe paid a visit to Henry Baker, one of the Brinks partners. Baker was getting nervous about O'Keefe's constant visits. Baker pulled a pistol and shots were exchanged between the two men, but no one was injured.
Two days later, O'Keefe was attacked in his neighborhood, a quiet housing complex off
I was eleven years old at the time and living five streets away from
After being wounded in the shootout, O”Keefe disappeared for seven weeks. He was arrested on August 1 at
Elmer Francis “Trigger” Burke - Machine Gun For Hire Elmer Francis “Trigger” Burke was raised in
In 1946, Trigger was arrested for robbing a liquor store. He was arrested by police while sitting in the car outside the store counting the loot. He was sentenced to two years in Sing Sing Prison.
During Trigger's stay in Sing Sing, his brother, Charlie, was killed during a mob gun battle. Trigger swore vengeance for his brother's death, even though no one ever knew who the killer was. It did not matter to Trigger. Upon his release from Sing Sing, Trigger hunted down the man he suspected of killing Charlie and with a double-barreled shot gun shot the man point blank in the back of the head. With his personal business concluded Trigger went back into the killer-for-hire business. His standard fee for a mob hit was $1000. Trigger soon became known for his efficiency and utter lack of compassion. He also became known for his volcanic temper.
One night in a
“If he's not dead yet, he might as well be,” Poochy told Trigger. “Now, get outta here!”
Trigger went outside and smoked a cigarette. Ten minutes later he walked back in the tavern, pulled out a pistol and shot Poochy Walsh in the face twice. He then stepped around the bar and shot the already-dead Poochy again in the face. “He shoulda minded his own bidness,” Trigger told the stunned crowd, and then he calmly strolled out.
In 1954, the mob hired Trigger to go to
He was held in
The automobile was later traced to Anthony Pino, one of the original Brinks gang. Police questioned Pino, but he denied any knowledge of Trigger's escape.
Trigger Comes South Less than a week later Trigger arrived in
The two men were driving the car of Isaac “Issy” Sabel, a
For several months, Trigger and Duke lived the good life - spending their money, fishing, swimming, and boating. The two men even joined the YMCA Health Club where they mingled with the mayor, policemen and other city officials like Judge Ashton Williams. They also spent many evenings hanging out in Issy Sable's nightclub on
When Trigger mentioned he wanted new clothes Issy sent them to the best store in
Trigger and the Edge of
Trigger became a familiar face on the
Trigger said, “Yes, I am.” He offered no resistance when he was taken into custody. When agents searched his house they discovered two .38 caliber pistols and two .22 caliber rifles, one equipped with telescopic sights. Agents described his appearance as casually attired with well-manicured fingernails and “deeply tanned.”
He refused extradition to
After the hearing Henry Berlin lamented that no one ever mentioned how good Trigger looked in his fine suit and shoes (the wrong size) from
During his trial in New York Trigger was questioned about the whereabouts of Duke Connelly and his wife, Anne.
Q (N.Y. District Attorney) - Were the Connellys with you at the
A (Trigger) - I refuse to answer.
Q - What happened to the Connellys and their two children?
A - I refuse to answer.
Q - Who gave you the money to live?
A - I refuse to answer.
Trigger was found guilty of the murder of the bartender Edward “Poochy” Walsh, and given the death penalty. On
Specs O'Keefe, the man Trigger was supposed to rub out, was sentenced on
Author's Note: Ashley Cooper, columnist for the Charleston News and Courier, (more formerly known as Frank Gilbreath, Jr., co-author of the classic memoir Cheaper By the Dozen and longtime Charleston resident), weighed in on the Trigger Burke caper in his own inimitable way with this poetic little ditty.
For lovers and tourists and the poet who wrote “The Raven.”
But the shootingest tourist with the meanest quirk
Trigger had a buddy and shot him dead,
Used a pistol to fill him full of lead
Trigger had another buddy, shady as a spook
Name of Connelly, alias the Duke.
Duke and Trigger preyed upon the yanks,
Took their gold and silver and never gave them thanks.
When the cops put out their big alarms,
Trigger brought Duke to the Isle of Palms.
“Don't fret, buddy,” Trigger said to Duke,
“Only time they caught me, it was only a fluke.
Don't fret, buddy,” he repeated with a smirk,
“There ain't no jail can hold Mr. Trigger Burke.”
Duke must have felt he was in the middle.
What happened to Duke is still a riddle.
But Trigger was afraid the Duke would preach
So Trigger moved over to
Lived all alone, in a cement house,
Minded his manners, quiet as a mouse.
And all the time he was grinning like a pixie,
“Ain't the cops dumb Down South in
“Ain't the cops dumb? And ain' they hicks?
Safest place to be is here in the sticks.
Southern coppers? - Well, by golly
They'll never dream that I'm hidin' out at Folly.”
But the cops weren't dumb and that's no lie.
'Cause the cops and the sheriff and the FBI
Crept down to folly, there to lurk,
And trapped like a rat Mr. Trigger Burke.
“Put up your hands,” said the FBI.
“Face the wall, Trigger, 'less you want to die.
Burke, you've been acting mighty regal.
Now lie down, Trigger and do the spread eagle!”
Trigger done just like he was told,
Lay down like he was knocked out cold.
But all the time, only one thought lingered,
“I wonder," he grated, “who had me fingered.”
“Trigger,” said the cops, “it's sad to tell,
We got to take you now to Seabreeze Hotel.”
He heard those words and Burke turned pale.
'Cause the Seabreeze Hotel is the county jail.
There's not much more of the story to report
The cops brought Trig to the
When reporters too his picture, he didn't say “thank ye.”
Covered his face with a spotless hankie.
Burke told the judge with a mealy mouth,
“Please, yur honor, can I stay in the South?”
The judge replied with nary a snigger,
“You'll like it up North, Mr. Convict Trigger.”
They put Mr. Burke on the train “Champeen,”
And he said with a sneer that was almost obscene.
“What happened to me shouldn't happen to a collie,
When the Southern cops found me hidin' out in Folly.”
New Verse (by Mark R. Jones)
Back up North locked away in Sing Sing
In a place where no one could take wing.
Freedom did happen and Trigger finally died.
Not scattered, not smothered, but definitely fried.