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Shakedown in Reno Escalates (Part 2)

Shakedown in Reno Escalates (Part 2)

1944-1945 The trial of Andrew Jackson “Jack” Blackman, free on $10,000 bail, began in April 1945, six months after he’d fatally shot James Lannigan in the Bank Club in Reno, Nevada. District Attorney Melvin E. Jepson, in his opening statement, asserted the state would prove the defendant had committed premeditated and deliberate murder. Blackman’s attorney, Harlan L. Heward, offered that his client admitted to shooting Lannigan but the act had been in self-defense; that because his client, a man with a solid reputation, was disabled, he’d had to carry a gun to protect himself; and that his injuries had indicated Lannigan likely had used brass knuckles or a similar weapon when he’d struck Blackman.   Livelihood as Gangster During the trial, various witnesses revealed snippets of Lannigan’s past. His real name was John Nicholson, but he went by Lannigan because an aunt and uncle with that name partially had raised him. The monikers under which he’d served time were John C. Nicholson, John Cline and James Moran. As a youth, Lannigan, along with fellow gang members, had held up speakeasies routinely and by age 20, had been believed to have committed murder. In 1928, he’d begun a five-year-to-life sentence at San Quentin State […]

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Shakedown in Reno Escalates (Part 1)

Shakedown in Reno Escalates (Part 1)

1944-1945 A thug’s confrontation of a casino owner on October 30, 1944 radically altered both of their lives. Andrew Jackson “Jack” Blackman, co-proprietor of the Town House gambling saloon* in Reno, left his business for the night at about 2:30 a.m. and went into the Bank Club** to see his good friend, Walter Parman, the manager. He noticed Edward “Swede” Olsen and three ex-convicts — James Lannigan, Joe Devine (aka Joe Frisco) and George “Pretty Boy” Hilliard — sitting at the bar. As Blackman, 32, was passing them, Lannigan, 39, said to him, “Come here. I want to see you.” When Blackman replied he was busy and kept moving, his summoner grabbed him by the sleeve and yanked him toward him. “Am I coming across or not?” Lannigan queried, in other words asking whether Blackman was going to give him the money he wanted. “Are you trying to high hat me?” “No,” Blackman asserted. “I’ll kill you,” Lannigan said, among other threats.  He reached into one pocket, then another, and slugged Blackman in the face while saying, “You’re gonna come over.” A stunned and reeling Blackman pulled his .38-caliber Colt revolver and shot at Lannigan five times. Two of the […]

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