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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Off On

Fifty-five year old Chu On was a member of the Four Brothers Tong and Chinatown gossip had it that he was one of the men responsible for the infamous murder of actor and Chinese Theatre manager Ah Hong the previous year.

Since that killing On had been staying in Albany making periodic visits to the city. It was on one such visit exactly one hundred years ago today that he crossed the border from Pell Street over in to Mott Street, the territory of the rival On Leong tong, and was shot five times; twice in the chest, twice in the back and once in the wrist. A cop who was nearby caught the gunman after a short chase over some rooftops.

Chung Sam Lok, the head of Four Brothers Tong, assured the police that their would be no outbreak of war saying in effect that On got what he deserved for going onto Mott Street. “Chu On did wrong,” Said the Tong leader, “He knew he musn’t go on Mott Street. He knew he would get shot. He went there a few days ago. He got a warning, but he did not need a warning. He knew they would shoot him…This shooting today means nothing new. There is no new quarrel between the On Leongs and Four Brothers. It’s just the rule, On Leongs keep off Pell Street or get shot; Four Brothers Keep off Mott Street or get shot.”

On died the following day. Like the smoke from an opium pipe word spread through the narrow streets and alleys of Chinatown that the surviving On brothers, Dream, Get and Hold vowed to avenge their brother's murder but Chung Sam Lok had them exiled to the streets of San Francisco.