What would cause a man to murder his best friend?
It happened on June 1, 1938, at South San Francisco’s Baden Dog Racing Track. Concetto “Tony” Ziccone, an electrical assistant at the track who had controlled the fake rabbit the dogs chased, shot his best friend and supervisor Edmund Kaiser twice in the head with a pistol. He also shot James Patterson, who had taken over his job, but Patterson survived. After the shooting, Ziccone escaped through a copse of willow trees near the track. Once alerted of the shooting, South San Francisco police and sheriff’s deputies gave chase in an effort that included the use of bloodhounds.
It’s unclear how Ziccone had been removed from his job of six years and replaced by Patterson, a journeyman. The track blamed the local electrician’s union, and the union blamed the track’s management.
Patterson gave a statement about the shooting itself: “Kaiser was bending over the electric motor…when suddenly I heard three shots and felt as though someone had slapped my arm. I thought it was a joke. Then I looked up and saw Ziccone with a gun in his hand. He fired two shots at Kaiser. Then I ran.”
A witness who phoned for an ambulance and the police “saw Ziccone walk off the racing course through a gate and into the willows.”
Kaiser was a well-liked employee who lived with his wife, Grace, on Fifth Avenue in San Bruno. When Ziccone was out of work the previous winter, Kaiser had paid his union dues.
But Ziccone must have blamed Kaiser for being let go from his job. Ziccone told some friends the night before the shootings: “It’s like getting a dinner ready and then having someone else sit down and eat it - well, we’ll see about that.”
To honor the memory of Kaiser, the track canceled the 45 races scheduled on the day of the murder.
In the meantime, the hunt for Ziccone was on. Formal murder charges were filed against him on the 4th, and bulletins with his information were quickly distributed to local law enforcement agencies. It didn’t take long. On the 6th, sheriff’s officers found him walking along railroad tracks near Salinas and closed in. Instead of being taken, Ziccone put his pistol to his head and killed himself.
And there the story ended. Patterson recovered from his injuries. Ziccone was buried at Olivet Memorial Park in Colma, and Kaiser’s widow took his ashes back to their former home in Louisiana.