Mafia kingpin gunned down with hands sawn off after befriending FBI informant

Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano loved his pigeons.

Despite being "a vicious killer who would kill anybody in a heartbeat if they crossed him", he'd spend hours caring for the pedigree racing and homing pigeons he bred at the coup he had built on the roof of his Brooklyn apartment.

One day the FBI filmed him looking worried and depressed surrounded by his feathered friends.

The reason? He knew he was a dead man. The feared and respected gangster had made a deadly mistake.

Nicknamed Sonny Black after he started dying his hair in his 20s when it turned white, Napolitano was a powerful captain in the Bonanno crime family.

In the early 1970s the burly, broad-shouldered gangster had risen up the ranks following the murder of crime boss Carmine Galante – nicknamed "The Cigar" because he smoked so many of them.

Galante was assassinated by a rival mob hit team while having lunch at a family-owned Italian restaurant.

His body still had a cigar smouldering in his mouth when police arrived at the scene.

Few tears were shed for his demise. As a hit man at the start of his career, The Cigar was rumoured to have killed around 80 men.

The murder led to a split in the New York mafia, with two men vying for control.

Sonny Black helped his boss, Phillip Rastelli, settle the dispute by helping with the murder of three of his rival's men.

They were lured to a nightclub basement to discuss a peace deal and were gunned down where they stood.

Sonny Black then became a trusted mobster, running his own crew of 500 soldiers and associates who were involved in everything from extortion to contract killing and drug trafficking.

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Described as a gentleman, he was pleasant enough (unless you crossed him and ended up dead), and his crew was widely-recognised as being one of the best in the mob.

One of his lowly foot soldiers was Joseph Pistone and the two became close friends. He grew to trust and rely on Pistone, even allowing him to sleep at his apartment.

He started introducing him to other mafiosi as "a friend of ours", the first step to Pistone becoming a made guy.

It was a bad case of judgement. Joseph Pistone was, in fact, undercover FBI agent Donnie Brasco.

When Napolitano ordered Brasco to murder another gangster, the game was up. The FBI paid him Sonny Black a visit and told him his trusted friend was one of their own.

He could have turned supergrass and survived, but decided to accept his fate. He told his wife he felt no ill will towards Brasco, saying he had just been doing his job.

On August 17, 1981, he was called to a mob meeting. He knew what was coming, and gave his jewellery and the keys to his apartment to a favourite bartender so that his pet pigeons could be cared for.

He was taken to the building's basement and shot. One of the hitmen later said as he lay injured on the floor, Sonny Black looked up and said: "Hit me one more time. Make it good."

His decomposed body was later discovered shot 23 times with its hands cut off as a warning to other mobsters to be careful who they introduced as friends.

For a long time after there were rumours the body was not Sonny Black's but the FBI said they knew he had gone when workmen arrived to dismantle the pigeon coups on his roof.

A stool pigeon had effectively killed Sonny Black.

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