Giuseppe Zangara

... was an Italian–born casual labourer who had emigrated to the United States in 1923, at the age of 23. On 15 February 1933, he was in the audience as president–elect Roosevelt gave an impromptu speech from the back of a car in Miami. Zangara had bought a .32–calibre pistol for $8, in a pawn shop, "a couple of days earler". He was only five feet tall, and had to stand on a wobbly folding chair to see his target. After he fired his first shot, other members of the audience grabbed his arm, but he still managed to fire four more times. Roosevelt was untouched, but five people were hit, including Anton Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, who was standing on the running board of the car next to Roosevelt.

Zangara pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted murder, and was sentenced to 80 years in jail. Seventeen days after the shooting, Cermak died (of peritonitis); Zangara pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to death. He was executed by electric chair on 20 March 1933 – 33 days after the shooting and 16 days after Cermak's death.

Most accounts, for years, reported that Zangara intended to kill Roosevelt. More recently, it has been suggested that his intended victim was Cermak, and he was a hired killer working for the head of a Chicago crime syndicate. It has also been pointed out that as a former soldier in the Italian army he could perhaps be expected to have hit his target. However, Wikipedia reports Zangara's statement at the time of his confession, that "I kill kings and presidents first and next all capitalists", and his last words – "Goodbye to all poor peoples everywhere ..." – and concludes that Zangara simply hated all rulers.

It was reported at the time that as Cermak was driven to hospital, cradled in the arms of Roosevelt, he said "I'm glad it was me, not you." These words were engraved on his tomb; but "most scholars", according to Wikipedia, doubt whether he actually said them.

© Haydn Thompson 2019