Melvin Collins
Melvin Collins
Background information
Ethnicity African-American
Born ca. 1910

November 6, 1948(1948-11-06) (aged 38)
Chester, Pennsylvania, United States

Cause of death Suicide
Parents John H. Collins
Emma Collins
Attack information
Date November 6, 1948
8 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Location(s) Chester, Pennsylvania, United States
Killed 8
Injured 3
Weapon(s) .22-caliber rifle

Melvin "Bad Boy" Collins was an American who killed eight people and wounded three others in Chester, Pennsylvania, United States on November 6, 1948, before committing suicide.[1][2]


Collins, a native of Exmore, Virginia, was the son of John and Emma Collins. His parents described him as "the nicest boy you'd ever want," however, they also stated that when he got mad he would act like crazy and wanted to hurt anybody he came across. In his hometown he had earned himself the nickname "Bad Boy Collins," according to George Turner, sheriff of Northampton County, he was arrested a dozen times, and he was at least twice in prison for felonious assaults with a firearm – the first time he received seven years for shooting a boy and the second time two years for another shooting incident. In spring of either 1947 or 1948, eighteen months after his last release from the penitentiary, he was arrested for knifing his brother, but he escaped and at the time of the shooting was sought as a fugitive.[3][4]

Around 1940, while in Exmore, Collins was hit on the head with the butt of a gun and since complained of severe headaches. As the pain became insufferable he went to see a physician who came to the conclusion that something was wrong with his mind. His parents claimed that the blow on the head was the reason for his mental problems, but according to a doctor, who had treated him for gunshot wounds at the age of 20, he was "never any good" and a "very dangerous man with homicidal tendencies."[3][5]

Collins mostly worked as a farm labourer in the vicinity of Exmore, but at one point apparently moved to Chester where he worked for five years at the Scott Paper Co. and Congoleum. He purchased the .22-caliber rifle later used in the shooting in Galapp, according to his father to protect himself from bears and wildcats on his way to work.[4]

During the inquest Fred Jack, chief county detective, revealed that on October 31, 1948 Collins kidnapped a woman, held her captive at his father's home in Exmore, and threatened to kill her. The same day he left the town to find a job in Chester, and also mentioned to his father that he wanted to look up a girl from West Virginia, named Louise, there.[4][5]

On November 1 Collins arrived in Chester, where he met a man named James Smith and asked him where he could rent a room. Smith took him to Mike Pappas at the Victory Restaurant at 233 Market Street, where he himself lived, and Collins was provided with a room on the second floor. Smith also suggested he should look for work at the industrial plants in the area. On November 3 he accompanied Collins during his search for a job and the same evening they had a talk at Smith's room. The following day Smith helped Collins to get a job in Ridley Park, but when he wanted to wake him for work on November 5 he found Collins' door locked and Collins himself nowhere to be found. Collins spent his last night in Chester with Edward Benson living in the same building, who later described him as a nice quiet fellow.[4][5]


How the incident began is unclear since various sources gave different accounts.

Edward Boyer was the first person shot, died of bullet through heart. Shot Hattie Nichols when she looked out of her apartment window across the street.[4]

According to reports because he welshed on a bet. Police officer Purnsely was killed by a shot to the heart. Collins committed suicide by shooting himself in the head. James Simon was shot through head, Samuel Hill in heart and lung, Aiken Johnson shot through heart and lung, Peter Parker of stomach wounds, Louise Moore shot in head. Fred Casino shot in heart. 59 police officers were dispatched to the scene, [5]

All victims were black, except Fred Casino, who was white.



  • Edward Boyer, 24
  • Fred Casino, 38
  • Aiken Johnson, 49
  • Samuel Lytle, 57
  • Louise Moore, 40
  • Peter Parker
  • Elery B. Purnsley, 56, police officer
  • James Simon, 41

Initially Samuel Hill was reported as another fatality, however, this later proved to be a double-counting of Samuel Lytle, whose birthname had been Hill.

Those wounded were:

  • Alfred J. Green, 39, shot in right shoulder
  • Hattie Nichols, 29, shot in right eye and side of the skull
  • William Wilson, shot in right hip and forearm

Also injured during the incident, but not by Collins, were:

  • Martha Brown, 30
  • Bert Purnsley, 36
  • Monroe Wyche, 57


Inquest was held at the Media Courthouse on January 18, 1949. His father stated he "was as good a boy as anybody ever saw, if nobody didn't bother him. But if someboy bothered him, he'd fight back." also stated: "I never knew him to start anything and do any damage."[4] No motive for shooting could be found. Chester Times reporter Orrin Evans, who reported the cause of the shooting was a numbers racket refused to reveal the source of this information, stating he was asked to keep it confidential.[5]


External linksEdit

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