March 30, 2012

Paranormal Fridays: The Puerto Rican Vampire Killings

I first heard about this very bizarre string of events back when I was doing my undergrad. In one of my classes (I believe it was a Latino literature course) my professor told us a little about a Puerto Rican gang in New York City called the Vampires. It was the late fifties, and Latino gangs were in an upswing in the city, and would inspire the writing of the musical West Side Story.

A kid named Salvador Agron went from being a member of the Mau Muas to the Vampires. Agron was known for taking his gang's namesake to a theatrical level, wearing a Dracula-style black cape with red lining inside everywhere he went. He also got a kick out hiding in the shadows on New York's streets, and then jumping out at people walking by to scare them half to death. Gaining a rising street reputation for his wildly unpredictable behavior, Agron was called by some "a creature of the night."

One late summer night the Vampires, along with members from a few other Latino gangs, went to Hell's Kitchen to rumble with some members of an Irish gang called the Norsemen. Upon entering a park where they expected to find the rival gang members, Agron and the others spotted two white kids sitting on a bench. Despite the fact that the two kids did not seem to know what was going on, the Latino gangsters viciously attacked them with broom handles and bottles. Another of the Vampires members, Hernandez, carried a large umbrella with a long and sharp tip he used to stab the victims. Agron upped the ante and pulled out a silver-handled knife. He stabbed one kid in the back and the other in the chest, killing both within a few short minutes.

The murders sent the city into a complete uproar, since two other kids in New York City had been killed by gang violence in the same week. You could fairly say it was the camel that broke the straw's back, and the kid who wanted so desperately wanted to strike fear into the hearts of the city's citizens that he dressed like a vampire found he was being treated just like a monster.  After his capture, though, Agron did not seem phased by the public's disdain for him. He even famously said "I don't care if I burn; my mother can watch."

In the end, Agron--who was then 16 years old--became the youngest person in United States history up to that point to have been sentenced to death, but later his sentenced was commuted to life. Agron was called by the press "The Capeman" while Hernandez was called "The Umbrella Man" as if they were comic book super villains of some sort.

Later, a musical called "The Capeman" was made. After Agron was released from prison in the late 1970s, a television movie was made about his life, as well as a book was written. Agron used the funds from his royalties to support his victims' families. He campaigned against gang violence until his death at the age of 42 from pneumonia and internal bleeding.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Prison must've done him some good if he changed his life around like that.

Steven said...

Alex, too bad prison doesn't do that for everyone who goes there.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I agree with both statements above!

What a chilling statement: "I don't care if I burn; my mother can watch." Sounds like a sociopath, but if he actually did change in prison, I suppose it was mostly bravado.