Bomb Wrecks Division Street Dairy in Midnight Blast

Scene of Camden Bombing - At left, standing: Adam Coccia. Kneeling Matteo Coccia

Camden Evening Courier – October 11, 1928


Police Seeking Mysterious Stranger in Terrific Downtown Blast


Crudely Made Explosive Placed in Trench Beneath Steps

With the owners and the police attributing jealously of business success as the only plausible motive for the bombing last night of the plant of the Sanitary Milk Dairies Company, at 311 Division Street, the search was started today for a tall, heavyset man, with mixed blue suit, as the bomber.

City detectives mingled among the throngs of men, woman and children who today viewed the damage caused by the bomb – a crude, home – made time device – which, in exploding, rocked the neighborhood, shattered window panes, doors, fences and the exteriors of nearby properties. Machinery in the Coccia plant was damaged by the concussion and by parts of bomb shrapnel, which pierced or bent it.

Mrs. Angelino Coccia, mother of the Coccia brothers, her daughter, Theresa Coccia, 14, and Mrs. Mary De Luzzio, 59, of 317 Division Street, were in the kitchen of the Coccia home when the bomb exploded. The dairy is at the rear of the home of Primo Coccia, one of the owners. His brothers – partners in the business are Paul Coccia, 242 Pine Street; Adam Coccia, 346 Cherry Street, and Matthew Coccia, 941 South Third Street.

Saw Mysterious Stranger

Mrs. Coccia cannot speak English, but through her son, Matthew Coccia, it was learned today that, before the explosion, she had seen a man passing the kitchen window.

“The man walked down the alley at the side of the house,” Mrs. Coccia told her son in Italian.” He was a heavy – set man and tall; I thought he was a customer who had come for milk. People often come at night to buy milk, and I did not think it strange about the man.

“But then I waited for him to knock at the back door, as customers usually do,” she continued.

“When he did not knock, I wondered what he might be up to, and I was just ready to leave the kitchen to see where he went when I heard the explosion. I did not know what happened after that, I was so nervous, I didn’t even see the man leave the way he came. But he was the one who set the bomb. Of that I am sure.”

Dog Vainly Warns

The Coccia’s have a big Italian Bulldog chained to a gasoline tank at the rear of their home. The dog barked continually last night to warn the Coccias, they were so used to his barks, they said today, that they thought he had been growling at a customer, as he sometimes does late at night.

Mrs. Coccia said she was unable to give a detailed description of the man she saw last night because an electric bulb in the alleyway was not lit. It was the first time the alley was in darkness at night. Matthew Coccia said, and this the bomber apparently took into consideration in seeking to go about his diabolical tasks without possible detection.

Coccia said boys living in the neighborhood saw the man enter an automobile, with lights out, immediately after the explosion shook the neighborhood. The car, they said, had been parked near the Coccia home with its front and rear lights out.

Detective Fiore Troncone, who is investigating the bombing, informed Coccia today that he had received a description of the automobile from Coccia’s neighbors. They said they had seen the driver put on the lights of Fourth and Division Street as he turned the corner to go north in his escape.

Rev. John S. Hackett, pastor of the Wiley M.E. Church, Third and Berkley Streets, who was among those viewing the damage done by the bomb, said he saw the man acting nervously at Third and Pine Street last night, immediately after the explosion. His description of the man tallied with that given by Mrs. Coccia.

“I was waiting for the first edition of the Morning Post to arrive at the store at that comer,” Mr. Hackett said today, “when my attention was attracted to this man. He seemed to be very nervous about something. He was fairly tall and heavy – set and wore a mixed blue suit, with light coloring.

“When the papers arrived and I bought a copy, he seemed to be very anxious to see what was on the front page. I did not know about the bomb until I read the paper, but it occurred to me later that perhaps this man was acting suspiciously and was eager to see what damage had been caused. I’m sorry now I didn’t question him. But I can give police a good description of him.

The Coccia’s said the only reason they could see for the bombing was jealousy of their business success by a person with a deranged mind.

“We had no enemies,” Matthew Coccia said, “and we never fought with anybody. I cannot understand it. It must have been jealousy at the way we were getting along.”

Coccia said no threatening letters had been received. He insisted that there was no reason why the “Blackhand” should desire to ruin Primo Coccia’s home or their business.

Neighbors called police and fireman.

Detectives found a firemen’s shovel near where the stone steps to the dairy had been. They believed it had been used to dig a trench under the steps in which to insert the bomb.

Primo Coccia, who had been to the theatre, came home five minutes after the explosion. He found a throng in front and dazedly pushed through until his mother hysterically screamed the news to him.

The bomb burst in the dairy door and sprayed big pieces of the iron pipe along the side of the house and into the room, where it caused most of the damage to the machinery.

Fifteen windows of the Coccia house were shattered and police believe the foundations at the rear may have been weakened.

The worst damage to neighboring buildings was to the rear of the Seven Brothers Bakery, owned by the Canzanese Brothers, 318-322 Pine Street, which backs against the dairy. Twenty windows of the bakery were crushed in, the door was riddles with small pieces of the pipe and the rear was peppered with the “shrapnel.”

Mario Manarefi, 912 South Fourth street, a bookkeeper in the bakery, was at his home nearby. He ran to the street and looked several minutes for the bombers before he joined the crowd.

Joseph Scotthouse, 317 Division Street, ran to the yard at the rear of his home to find the fence had been peppered with tiny pieces of the pipe, some of which had tom into his kitchen through windows and doors.

Six windows of the home of Sabatino Di Paolo, 321 Division Street, were broken. Fragments of the pipe were found on the floor of rooms on the second floor of his house, he told police.

A police cordon was thrown around the neighborhood by Chief of Police Stehr, who took personal charge of the investigation.

Police from every district in the city were rushed to the scene and patrols were dispatched to be prepared for any eventuality.

The neighborhood was searched carefully and every resident was questioned, but no one was able to give any clue which might lead police to the bombers.

Squads of detectives and police patrolled the neighborhood for hours after the explosion, seeking objects, which might have been dropped by the bombers.

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