Old Missoula

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

‘Don’t Mess with Pete Croci’ @ D’Orazi’s!

E-mail Print PDF

‘Don’t Mess with Pete Croci’ @ D’Orazi’s!

First-degree Assault Charged Against Four in Holdup Try

First-degree assault charges were filed Friday afternoon at the courthouse against four young men suspected of taking part in a shooting Thursday night at D’Orazi’s Bar, 540 Woody St.

They had not been taken before the magistrate, Justice of the Peace E. W. Ziesemer. Three are in jail and the fourth in St. Patrick Hospital where he is being treated for three bullet wounds.

The charges deal with a foray at the tavern about 11:30 p.m. when a man demanded money from Pete Croci, 75-year-old bar operator. Croci didn’t comply, but hauled out a large revolver and began to blast away.

The bandit also began to shoot and before the trouble went further police arrived on the scene and began to make arrests. Two suspects were arrested in the barroom and two at a nearby hotel.

According to Police Lt. Edwin C. Russ, who interviewed the men Friday, they left Kansas City, Kan., July 2 and drove west hoping to obtain a job at Kellogg, Idaho.

They are identified on the complaint as Maurice John DeCaney, Paul Milton Reed, Leo C. Rogers and George Milton Wilson. The complaint, signed by Croci, says that they assaulted Croci at the bar with two firearms, instruments likely to produce grievous bodily harm and that they did so with intent to commit the felony of robbery.

A certain amount of good luck entered in behalf of the bartender with the arrival of the police at such an opportune time, while he and his customers still were scuffling with the intruders.

Lt. T. E. Foust and Officer G. E. Hanson arrested two men at once. Foust added that he believes the tightness of the man’s jeans was the only thing that kept him from withdrawing the pistol. The other suspect was arrested by Hansen, and the officer said later that the man had hidden in a back room and watched him for awhile, as if deciding whether to shoot. Hansen thinks that he had a narrow escape.

The trouble started about 11:20 p.m. when a man came into the bar, where several customers were on hand, and pointed a tiny .22 caliber Italian-made pistol at Croci.

“This is a stick-up” the man told Croci, the barkeeper related later. Croci says that he reached down for his revolver and began to fire at the bandit. Both crouched down to avoid being hit.

Confusion broke out at this point with bullets flying from both guns and men ducking and hiding. One of the bandits grabbed Croci’s gun from him and apparently used it to beat upon the head of Frank LaRue, a customer, who had joined the battle to aid the tavern-keeper. LaRue suffered scalp wounds and one of the bandits was hit in the ankle, lower leg and hand. The bandits began to flee the place and were met at the door by the police, who were arriving on a routine check.

After subduing the suspects, the police took one to jail and the other to the hospital. While on the way to the hospital the jolting of the patrol car caused the .38 caliber bullet to snap out of the wound in the man’s ankle.

Hospital attendants probed unsuccessfully for the missile, and were on the point of using an X-ray machine when the slug was found on the floor of the police car.

Meanwhile other police officers were alerted to hunt for other suspects and through the efforts of Policemen Calvin Cote, Herbert Roehl and Paul Willig, two more men were brought to police headquarters. Their car was hauled in as well. It bears a Kansas license plate and carries a bullet hole in a back wing window. A front wing window is smashed. Police said they found parole papers in the suitcase of one of the men.

Foust praised the work of his assistants.

The above article appeared in The Daily Missoulian on July 7, 1956. The following day The Daily Missoulian printed another article about the holdup:

Four Accused Are Arraigned

Two men pleaded innocent and two others took 24 hours to plead on charges of first degree assault at D’Orazi’s Bar at 540 Woody St. when arraigned before Justice of the Peace E. W. Ziesemere Saturday.

Maurice John DeCaney and George Milton Wilson pleaded not guilty. Paul Milton Reed and Leo Clarence Rogers took 24 hours to make up their minds.

Bail was fixed at $1,000 each but was not furnished so the quartet was turned over to the sheriff. All now are in the county jail, including Reed, who was released from St. Patrick Hospital where he was taken for treatment of gunshot wounds received in the fracas at the bar.

Rogers and Reed were reported by police to have entered the bar about 11:20 p.m. Thursday. Police said one of them pointed a gun at Pete Croci, 75 year-old bartender, and announced “This is a stick-up.” Croci was said to have reached for a revolver under the counter and started firing.

One of the assailants was reported to have snatched Croci’s gun and struck Frank LaRue, a patron, who had come to the bartender’s aid. The men were caught by police as they started to flee.

Subsequently other police picked up the two additional suspects at a hotel nearby.

Unsuccessful Holdup



Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 January 2018 15:36