1916: Chicago’s first conviction of a white man for murdering a Chinese

The Midwest saw much less anti-Chinese violence than the West in the 19th and early 20th centuries, even though cities like Chicago were violent places.  Their homicide rates were as high as those of any city west of the Rockies.  It was just that both whites and blacks murdered members of their own communities more often than they murdered Asians.  In proportion to their numbers during the period 1870-1930, Chinese in Chicago were murdered about as often as whites and less often than blacks.

Most of the murderers of Chinese were neither white nor black.  In Chicago between 1900 and 1930, 33 such murders took place where the killers were identified. In 4 cases, the killers were white and in another 4, they were black.  In the other 25 cases, those who killed Chinese were themselves Chinese.

Thus the murder rate of Chinese was both intra-ethnic and not particularly high by local standards.  However, Chicago shared an ugly fact with the western states.  The European-American criminal justice system  was very slow to prosecute whites for killing Chinese.  In California, it is said that not a single conviction was obtained in the several hundred cases of white murders of Chinese that occurred in the 19th century.  In Chicago, there were four such killings before 1900.  None resulted in the conviction of the apparent murderer.

The first non-Chinese to be convicted of murdering a Chinese individual was African-American.  On November 12, 1910, Leroy Howard, described as “colored,” received a life sentence in Joliet Prison for the fatal stabbing of Little Wong at 2557 S. State St.

The first European-American to be so convicted was a 17 year-old named Earl Simpson, who in 1916 robbed and murdered one Lee Bow at 3037 S. Dearborn St.   In October 28 of the same year, Simpson too was sentenced to life in Joliet.

The most notorious white-on-Chinese murder, always excepting the stabbing of Charles Sing by Alice Davis Sing in 1913, was the beating death in 1927 of Frank Moy (not the same Frank Moy who was the unofficial mayor of Chinatown) in front of Guey Sam Restaurant at 2203 S. Wentworth. The perpetrators were two Italians, Savaria Cortes and Pasquale Lumetta.  Both were convicted and sentenced respectively to thirty-five years and life in Joliet.  The motive was stated to be robbery.  However, Guey Sam, at the corner of Wentworth and 22nd Street, was not only a very public place for a robbery but also a known hangout of Al Capone’s gang.   Moy’s killers, as Italian-Americans, must have known this.  They either were very foolhardy indeed or they were acting on orders, perhaps from either Capone or one of his enemies.

Data from Northwestern University’s website, Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930, http://homicide.northwestern.edu/database/