Courts & Crime

Was 1970s murder of a black Missouri politician a mob hit?

Forty years after black political leader Leon Jordan was gunned down, new evidence suggests local mobsters or their associates were involved in his murder.

A police report obtained by The Kansas City Star shows the shotgun used to kill Jordan may have made its way into the hands of the mob several years before the murder. The report said the gun was part of a cache of stolen weapons sold through a “North End Italian fence” in 1966.

In addition, key sources have said that a low-profile mob associate known on the street as “Shotgun Joe” may have provided the gun and recruited the killers in what appears to have been a complex plot to murder Jordan.

The man, Joe Centimano, died of cancer in 1972, and police never questioned him.

The Jordan killing was “contracted by the North End and carried out by blacks,” according to a convict named Walton I. Froniabarger, a police informant who in 1972 identified Centimano as the middle man, and another source who Saturday corroborated that story for The Star.

The original police investigation identified numerous possible motives for Jordan’s murder. A co-founder of the black political club Freedom Inc., and one of the most powerful politicians in Missouri, Jordan had associates who ranged from senators and faction-connected politicians to violent street hoodlums.

But his bare-knuckled politics, and what one friend called his “truculent manner,” had angered influential people in the worlds of crime and politics, and may have been part of the motive for his murder.

Cold Case Squad detectives with the Kansas City Police Department re-opened the case this summer following stories in The Star and have been asking questions about Centimano, his possible role in the Jordan murder and his connections to the mob, according to persons who have been interviewed.

Police, however, declined to comment publicly on their investigation.

If Jordan was the victim of a Mafia hit, said Alvin Sykes, a local civil rights leader who pushed police to reopen the case, “that scary fact will not deter me from cooperating with the thorough and credible investigations being conducted by the Kansas City Police Department and The Kansas City Star.

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