The Most Famous Assassinations in American History

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

31. Paul Castellano, 1985
> Known as: Organized crime leader
> Killed by: Organized crime rivals
> Assassination location: New York City, New York

The sight of Mafia boss Paul Castellano’s body sprawled on a sidewalk outside Sparks Steak House in Manhattan served as a reminder of the ruthlessness of mobsters vying for power. Castellano succeeded Carlo Gambino as head of the Gambino crime family in 1976. But he ran afoul of the more streetwise gangsters who thought another top mob figure, Neil Dellacroce, should have been named to run the crime family. When Dellacroce died, Castellano did not attend Dellacroce’s wake. This angered the ambitious gangster John Gotti, who began to solidify his power within the Gambino crime family. After Castellano’s murder, the well-dressed, publicity-loving Gotti became the head of the Gambino crime family.

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32. Huey Newton, 1989
> Known as: Founder of Black Panther party
> Killed by: Tyrone Robinson
> Assassination location: West Oakland, California

Born in Louisiana, Huey Newton was named after the state’s former governor, Huey Long. Along with Bobby Seale, Newton founded the Black Party for Self Defense in Oakland, California, and was a leading voice in the Black Power movement. His group adopted a more militant stance, with Newton once photographed holding a gun and spear. Numerous run-ins with the law and substance abuse problems didn’t prevent him from earning his doctorate in social philosophy from the University of Santa Cruz in 1980. Nine years later, he was gunned down in a street in Oakland by a drug dealer claiming self defense.

Source: George Stroud / Express / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

33. Meir Kahane, 1990
> Known as: Founder of Jewish Defense League
> Killed by: Killed by Arab gunmen
> Assassination location: New York City, New York

A staunch defender of Israel, Brooklyn-born Meir Kahane was at one time an elected member of the Israeli Knesset as representative of the anti-Arab Kach party. The party was later banned from running after its platform was ruled as inciting racism. Although Kahane’s assassin, Egyptian born El Sayyid Nosair, was acquitted of his murder, he was later charged and sentenced for his involvement in the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.


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34. Tupac Shakur, 1996
> Known as: Rapper
> Killed by: Unknown
> Assassination location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Despite his talent, good looks, and charisma, rapper and actor Tupac Shakur’s life was marred by violence and repeated legal woes. It’s likely his role in the East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop feud led to his fatal shooting near the Las Vegas Strip while the 25-year-old Shakur was a passenger in the car of Death Row label CEO Marion “Suge” Knight. The shooting followed a fight in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel that involved Shakur and Knight.

Source: By P.Lindgren - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


35. Notorious B.I.G., 1997
> Known as: Rapper
> Killed by: Unknown
> Assassination location: Los Angeles, California

Credit New York-born Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls and the Notorious B.I.G., with reviving East Coast hip hop. But a clash with the purveyors of the West Coast version of the music, such as Death Row Records, sparked a feud between the two factions. When the musician was gunned down in Los Angeles, many believe it was in retaliation for rapper Tupac Shakur’s killing. After Notorious B.I.G.’s murder, the two warring sides declared a truce. The murders of both artists remain unsolved.

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