Prantikos mug shots

Paulos Prantikos police photographs (mug shots), taken in November, 1911

In San Francisco there were several murder cases that involved the Greek Community.  None of them were as brutal as the Prantikos murder case, which included a vendetta, three murders, a highly publicized San Francisco murder trial, and the execution by hanging of Paulos Prantikos in 1913 for the murders he committed.

Paulos Prantikos was born in Mesini, Kalamata, in 1884. At the time, Mesini was also known as Nisi.  

This story begins when a Prantikos family relative had died and the will said that property was to be left to John Condos.  John Condos was from Velli, Colomas. Paulos Prantikos' father and John Condos were first cousins. Paulos Prantikos disputed the will and thought the property was his. He left for Velli to discuss this with John Condos.  Their discussion turned into an argument and then it turned violent.  A gunshot was heard,  John Condos was found dead, and witnesses observed Prantikos leaving the scene of the crime with a rifle.

Prantikos' family advised him to flee to the United States.  Prantikos arrived in New York City February, 1910. George Condos, John Condos' nephew, traveled to the United States to find Prantikos and bring him to justice.

While Prantikos was in the United States, he was convicted of murder in Greece. The form of capital punishment in Greece during this time period was the guillotine. 

Prantikos knew that Condos family relatives were tracking him.  He was a fugitive on the run. When he arrived in New York, he stayed one month. After New York,  he traveled to Omaha, Nebraska and stayed two months. After Nebraska, he left for Des Moines, Iowa, and stayed for two months. He left Des Moines and traveled to Clinton, Iowa, and stayed for one month. He then traveled to Moline, Illinois, and stayed there for six months. He then went back to Iowa for two months, followed by Omaha for one month, and then to Irwin, Iowa, for two months.

While Prantikos was in Irwin, Iowa, he got a job in Wyoming through an employment agency. While he was in Wyoming he purchased a revolver. Prantikos knew members of the Condos family were tracking him and he wanted to be able to defend himself. He stayed in Wyoming for six months before traveling to San Francisco.

Prantikos arrived in San Francisco Friday, November 24, 1911. He checked in at a Greek boarding house on 4th street. George Condos arrived in San Francisco the next day and spotted Prantikos on 4th Street. Prantikos hears that members of the Condos family arrived in San Francisco and he plans to leave Sunday morning by ferry to Oakland. 

On Sunday morning, November 26, 1911,  Prantikos walked down to the ferry building with friends from the Greek boarding house. While Prantikos is at the ferry building, George Condos stops a police officer Charles Castor and explains that Prantikos is wanted for murder in Greece. Prantikos is taken into custody. As they are walking away, Prantikos breaks free, he takes out his revolver, shoots George Condos and Officer Castor. Police Officer Thomas Finnerly comes to Officer Castor's aid and Prantikos shoots him.  Curtis Moss, a taxi cab driver, subdued Prantikos until police took him into custody. Officers Castor and Finnerly were taken to the hospital and later died of their injuries.

On November 27, 1911, the day after the murders,  George Condos was traveling from San Francisco to South Francisco by train. Condos was pushed off the train by Peter Balonas, a relative of Prantikos, and he later died from his injuries. Condos was buried in a Greek section of Mount Olivet Cemetery in Colma. His grave is unmarked.

A fund was started for the families of both police officers and over $10,000 dollars was collected. Greek community leaders, who expressed shock that a member of their own community could commit such a terrible crime, lead fundraising efforts on behalf of the officer's families. 

Prantikos was tried for murder and on January 18, 1912,  he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. He was sent to San Quentin Prison. Prantikos filed an appeal on March 4, 1912, and his conviction was upheld.

On July 23, 1912, Prantikos filed an appeal with the California State Supreme Court and on November 7, 1912, the California State Supreme Court upheld his conviction. The courts set March 14, 1913, as the date of his execution. 

On March 4, 1913, Consul General of Greece in San Francisco Richard De Fontana wrote to Prantikos:

Mr. Prantikos,

In answer to your letter I am very sorry to inform you that the Consular Office can neither interfere nor do anything in behalf of your case.

You were found guilty by the Court and the jury sentenced on account of the murder of two American police officers, without taking into consideration your crime in Greece.

Although I have in my hands the decision issued in Greece in which you were found guilty of murder, it has never been used.

With my regret,

R. De Fontana

Consul of Greece

On March 11, 1913, San Francisco newspapers reported that Prantikos broke away from a prison guard, climbed up a pole and begged the guards to shoot him or he would jump.  The prison guards convinced him to come down. Prantikos would later say that his soul would suffer if he committed suicide.

On the day of his execution, March 14, 1913, San Quentin Prison sent for Fr. Constantine Tsapralis, Holy Trinity's priest, to be his spiritual adviser and to deliver last rights. San Francisco newspapers reported that Father Tsapralis was a strong, tall man, and was so disturbed by the sight before him that he almost fell through the gallows. The prison chaplain put his arm around him so he could continue reading prayers.

Prantikos was buried in the San Quentin prison cemetery with a wooden gravestone showing his prison number.

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Copyright: Jim Lucas & the Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area