For years before they caught him, the Italian police had no idea that Paolo Di Lauro was one of Naples’s most powerful crime bosses, running a drug and counterfeit-goods empire—and responsible for a peace his turf had rarely known. Now authorities may long for the days when he was in charge.
The thing about being murdered, it usually comes as a surprise. Even in Naples, where the criminal clans known collectively as the Camorra are again struggling violently for control of the streets, no victim wakes up expecting on that given day to die. He shaves carefully, dresses in his beloved clothes, slips on an expensive watch, and maybe squeezes his wife before heading out to meet with his friends. If he suspected his fate, he might at least kiss his wife good-bye. But the neighborhood has been home for generations to everyone he knows who counts. He deals there in extortion, protection, narcotics, and counterfeit goods. He abides by alternative rules. For this he is respected. He rarely carries a gun. His experience until now has been that murder happens only to others. Then someone comes along and kills him.
It is a strangely final event. There may be a moment of recognition at the end, but by then the man can no longer stay alive. Recently, in a northern district called Secondigliano, it was obvious that the victim knew his fate for about seven seconds before he died. Secondigliano is an old farming town that has been swallowed by the city. It has evolved into one of Europe’s largest open-air drug markets and a working-class stronghold for the Camorra. The victim was a mid-ranking member of one of its clans involved in a typically convoluted struggle, and not known to the police before. He was in his mid-30s and beginning to bald. He was immaculately dressed and groomed. As was his habit, he had come to a small street-front gambling shop to play a bit of one-armed bandit. Surveillance cameras there captured his demise. It was broad daylight. As a cautionary measure he had placed three guards outside, one of whom was burly, but none of whom was armed. The gambling shop was narrow and had space for only six machines against one wall. In the back was a closed door. The victim was alone in the room. He sat on a stool to gamble....MORE.