Mobsters -- William J. SharkeyBy Joe BrunoHe was a crook, a pickpocket, a Tammany Hall politician, and finally, -- a murderer. YetWilliam J. Sharkey was best known for his daring escape from death row, in New York City's TombsPrison.Sharkey was born in New York City in 1945, to well-to-do family, which resided in the NinthWard in Manhattan. Despite the affluence of his family, Sharkey gravitated over to the dark side. Hebegan hanging out with pickpockets, gamblers, and crooks, and soon he became a very capablepickpocket himself, and a gambler of some renown. One sad day, Sharkey was arrested for pickpocketing, and he had his picture taken by the municipal photographer, giving himself a definitivepresence in the criminal record section, of New York City Police Department.Sharkey soon elevated himself in the criminal ladder, dealing in stolen bonds. With the moneyfrom his endeavors piling in, Sharkey formed his own gang called “Sharkey's Guards,” which had their headquarters at the corner of Wooster and Houston Streets. It was there that Sharkey insinuated himself into the local political scene, and soon he was the darling of the crooks who ran Tammany Hall.Sharkey dressed himself in the finest clothes, wearing sparkling diamonds on his fingers, and aroundhis neck. Soon, Tammany Hall put Sharkey up for election, for Assistant Alderman. Even thoughTammany Hall's had influence, and muscle, working in their favor at the polls, Sharkey somehow lostthe election. Disappointed with his political failure, Sharkey decided to go back to his first loves – stealing and gambling.With the money he made from various illegal endeavors, Sharkey traveled to Buffalo, NewYork, and started a faro game. However, Sharkey was so unlucky, he managed to lose $4000 in justfive days. Downtrodden, Sharkey returned to New York City, and hooked up with his old friend RobertDunn, real name Bob Isaacs. Dunn was an employee of the City's Comptroller's Office, but he alsowas a faro dealer, in a Fulton Street gambling house. Figuring Dunn was a more capable faro expertthen he, Sharkey gave Dunn $600, and told him to go to Buffalo, and try his hand at faro. Dunn agreedthat if he was successful in Buffalo, he promised to repay Sharkey the $600, plus half his winnings. Asluck would have it, Dunn was just as unlucky in Buffalo as Sharkey was, and he lost his entire stake.Dunn returned to New York City, and told Sharkey the bad news.On September 1, 1872, Dunn and Sharkey attended the funeral of James Riley, a prominentmember of the Michael Norton Association, a political arm of Tammany Hall. After the funeral,Sharkey and Dunn traveled separately to a saloon owned by Charles Harvey, called “The Place,”located at 288 Hudson Street. By the time Sharkey had arrived, Dunn had already imbibed a few ryewhiskeys at the bar. Sharkey ordered a rye himself, and after he knocked it down in one gulp, Sharkeydemanded his $600 back from Dunn. Dunn told Sharkey he was tapped out himself, and couldn't repaythe money. Sharkey immediately drew a single-shot Derringer pistol, and pointed it at Dunn's chest.Dunn screamed, “Don't shoot, Billy! I'll pay you as soon as I can!”Sharkey would have none of that. He bellowed back, “You better pay me now!”Before Dunn could reply, Sharkey fired the Derringer point-blank at Dunn. The bullet piercedDunn's heart, killing him instantly. Sharkey fled the scene of the crime, but he was captured a fewhours later, in a boarding house on Washington Street, near Perry Street.