A prelude to establishing a national crime syndicate in America was the purging from the underworld of unorganizable pathological types. Of course, the Mafia still has its pathological members, and such traits are still highly valuable to the masters of organ-ized crime. But the brass could retain only those brutes who took orders and conformed to orderly criminality. If they did not, they were more dangerous than a loose cannon on the battlefield.
The Dion O’Banion Gang, which dominated Chicago’s North Side during the early Prohibition years, were considered the zanies of the underworld. (Deanie himself may be described as a charming psychopath, as could many of his followers in the mainly Irish gang.) However, even by standard O’Banion measurements, Louis “Two Gun” Alterie was a “bedbug.” Alterie, born Leland Verain, owned a ranch in Colorado, but came east to join up with O’Banion’s booze and gambling operations. Wearing two pistols, one on each hip, he boasted of his perfect marksmanship with either left or right hand, often shooting out the lights in saloons to prove his point. Quite naturally the press dubbed him Two Gun Alterie, which pleased him most of the time. However, at times he carried three pieces and was disappointed that he was not generally christened as the more-imposing “Three Gun” Alterie.
Alterie reputedly masterminded the hit on a horse guilty of transgressions against the mob. A leading member of the O’Banion Gang, Nails Morton, had been thrown by a horse in a riding mishap in Lincoln Park and kicked to death. Alterie demanded that vengeance be done and he led the gang to the riding stable. The boys kidnapped the horse, led it to the exact spot of Morton’s demise and executed it. Alterie was so worked up by the “murder” of good old Nails that he first punched the hapless horse in the snout before filling it with lead.
When Dion O’Banion was murdered by Capone gunmen in 1924, Two Gun Alterie went on an hysterical tear. In a tearful performance at the funeral, Alterie raged to reporters: “I have no idea who killed Deanie, but I would die smiling if only I had a chance to meet the guys who did, any time, any place they mention and I would get at least two or three of them before they got me. If I knew who killed Deanie, I’d shoot it out with the gang of killers before the sun rose in the morning.” Asked where in his opinion the shootout should occur, he said Chicago’s busiest intersection, Madison and State Streets, at high noon. Mayor William E. Dever countered, “Are we still abiding by the code of the Dark Ages?”
Hymie Weiss, who took over leadership of the O’Banions, tried to get Alterie to tone down, explaining that his ranting was forcing politicians and police to put pressure on the gang’s operations on the North Side. Alterie responded with a knowing wink and managed to shut his mouth for an entire week. Then he turned up, swaggering into a Loop nightclub brandishing his two pistols and announcing to gangster and reporters who frequented the joint: “All 12 bullets in these rods have Capone’s initials carved on their noses. And if I don’t get him, Bugs, Hymie or Schemer will.”
Weiss, trying to put on a peaceful front while planning an attack on Capone, was livid. He told Bugs Moran to “move him.” Moran went to the cowboy gangster and growled, “You’re getting us in bad. You run off at the mouth too much.” Alterie took Moran’s words for precisely what they were, an invitation to get out of town. Alterie went back to Colorado and played no further role in the Chicago gang wars. He thus escaped the virtual extinction of the O’Banion Gang, save for Moran, who in the 1930s was reduced to insignificance. In 1935 Alterie showed up in Chicago for a visit. Was it possible Alterie still lived by his old words?
Almost certainly not. But perhaps out of respect for his old days with O’Banion apparently he was bumped off.
- August, 02, 1886
- July, 18, 1935
- Chicago, Illinois
Cause of Death
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park
- Glendale, California