Joseph "Joe" Colombo Sr. (December 14, 1914 - October 1, 1978) was leader of the Colombo crime family, one of the "Five Families" in the American Mafia.
Colombo was originally part of what was called the Profaci family in New York. In 1961, a gang war broke out in the family between the family leadership and the renegade Gallo brothers. During this conflict, boss Joe Profaci died and his supporter, Joseph Magliocco, succeeded him. Later in the conflict, Magliocco decided to murder Tommy Lucchese from the Lucchese crime family and Carlo Gambino of the Gambino crime family for their support of the Gallos. Magliocco gave obthe job to Colombo, who promptly notified the intended With their support, Colombo became family boss after Magliocco died of a heart attack
On June 28, 1971, the morning of the second Italian Unity Day rally, Joe Colombo was approaching the podium to address the crowd. An African American street hustler had somehow managed to obtain press credentials from the league. Disguised as a photojournalist, the gunman approached Colombo and fired three shots from an automatic pistol into his head.
Colombo's son and several others wrestled the gunman to the ground. At that point, a second man stepped out of the crowd and shot the gunman dead. The second assailant managed to escape and was never identified. The dead gunman was positively identified as Jerome Johnson.
The crowd in attendance quickly dispersed, although some made a feeble attempt to continue the festival. Colombo was seriously wounded, but survived the shooting. He lingered in a coma without regaining consciousness for nearly seven years (he was "vegetabled", in the words of Joe Gallo). On May 22, 1978, Joe Colombo died at his New York estate.