Crime figure 'Crowbar'held on slay charge

October 03, 1990|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,Evening Sun Staff

Dominic J. "Crowbar" Carozza, a longtime Baltimore crime figure and in recent years a city public works superintendent, is in City Jail, charged with killing a man who was gunned down on a Fells Point street in June.

Carozza, 58, and two other men are charged with first-degree murder and use of a handgun in a crime of violence in the shooting death June 22 of Russell Charles Baker, 42, of the 1900 block of McHenry St.

The others charged are Robert Vizzini, 26, of the 200 block of Dorell Road in Baltimore County, and John Long, 40, of the 1300 block of McHenry St.

Long was arrested by homicide detectives Sept. 18, Carozza a day later and Vizzini on Sept. 20, according to homicide Detective Vernon Holly. All three are being held without bail, he said.

Holly said Carozza is incarcerated in the hospital ward at the jail because of his handicap -- he lost his right leg in a car-bomb explosion in 1971.

Timothy Doory, chief of the city state's attorney's violent crimes unit, said all three suspects will face preliminary hearings later this month.

Carozza, who is on the city payroll as a superintendent with the Department of Public Works at an annual salary of $35,900, also faces recent federal charges.

Geoff Garinther, an assistant U.S. attorney, said Carozza is charged as being a convicted felon in possession of ammunition after a team of city police raiders found 29 .38-caliber bullets in his home at 401 Albemarle St.

Garinther said Carozza is charged federally with threatening to do bodily harm to a 36-year-old woman who is believed to be the pivotal witness in both the state and federal cases.

Sources said the murder case against Carozza and the two other suspects is linked to a trip the woman and Baker made to New York City late last spring. The two allegedly had several thousand dollars of Carozza's money and purchased a sizable amount of cocaine.

The sources did not say that Baker and the woman had bought the narcotics on Carozza's behalf. Instead, the sources said, Carozza became extremely angry when they returned to Baltimore without his money, and Baker's body was found June 22 by a night watchman in the 800 block of Lancaster St.

The woman, sources said, is now a protected witness. The bullets taken from Baker's body have been sent to the FBI laboratory for tests.

Carozza is storied in a three-decade criminal history as having survived the car bombing and numerous allegations and convictions involving violent shootings, stabbings and federal firearms charges.

The 1971 bombing occurred outside Carozza's then-residence in the 4700 block of Shamrock Ave. Three other associates of Carozza also were wounded in the explosion.

A plumbers union figure was eventually arrested and charged with putting a dynamite charge in Carozza's red Cadillac but he was acquitted after Carozza complained of being intimidated and refused to testify against the suspect.

According to one knowledgeable source, the bombing followed by several days a meeting between Carozza and a Philadelphia organized-crime figure in a Perring Parkway lounge. Carozza was said to have cursed the gangster and stormed out of the establishment.

"The guy from Philadelphia didn't move a facial muscle, but several days later Crowbar's car exploded," the source said.

Today, outside Carozza's current home on Albemarle Street, a municipal sign on the curb announces "Parking Reserved for Dominic Carozza." Such a sign can be erected, according to city ordinance.

Born on High Street in Little Italy, Carozza as a young man managed a pool hall in the 800 block of S. Broadway. In the 1960s and 1970s, he was linked to Local 16 of the Ironworkers Union, AFL-CIO, where he picked up his street nickname of "Crowbar," had various run-ins with police and spent time in prison.

In 1961, Carozza was acquitted of a murder charge stemming from a street brawl outside a Clinton Street bar and in 1969 was acquitted of killing two workers at the Lord Baltimore Laundry in the 3700 block of E. Baltimore St.

But in 1962, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the shooting of a doorman at Hector's, an after-hours spot on Ensor Street. He served six years of the sentence at Patuxent Institution and was released.

Carozza also served 60 days in jail for fighting a man on The Block and was fined $60 in 1961 for a spat with a woman at whom he threw dishes at Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street.

"He was a tough kid who grew up on the streets," said one longtime Baltimore figure who has known Carozza since childhood.

"There was always the talk he was organized crime and, yes, he dealt with the hard guys from out of town," said the man. "But everybody who knew him kind of doubted that. He flew pretty much on his own."

The man asked that his name not be printed. "After all," he said, "everybody thought Crowbar was through when the bomb went off in his car. But, hey, he's what, 58 now, and counting."

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