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The Market Street Massacre
A.K.A.: "Bad Boy"
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Shooting rampage
Number of victims: 8
Date of murders: November 6, 1948
Date of birth: 1910
Victims profile: Men (including Elery Purnsley, Chester's first black police detective)
Method of murder: Shooting (.22 caliber rife)
Location: Chester, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day

The End of Bad Boy Collins

Monday, Nov. 15, 1948

Anybody in Exmore, Va. would have known that Melvin ("Bad Boy") Collins was a colored man who might try to blow your head off. He was 38 years old and had been in the big house twice for shooting scrapes. He had cut his own brother with a knife. But Bad Boy had left Virginia last month. He had headed north, and in the Negro district of Chester, Pa., nobody knew his reputation.

One morning last week Bad Boy leaned out the window of the second-story furnished room where he had holed up in Chester. A knot of men were standing below. Bad Boy began acting silly. He dropped a dime and called down, "Call the cops." One of the men picked up the dime, said: "This will get me a cup of coffee." Bad Boy got crazy mad. He reached back, got a .22 rifle, aimed it out the open window, killed one of the men below him.

A detective named Elery Purnsley was across the street; he ran a few steps, pulled out his revolver and fired. Bad Boy shot back and killed him, too. Then Bad Boy started shooting at everybody in sight—at people leaning out windows, at people on the street. He was a good shot—he killed six more and wounded three.

In a few minutes the cops came—78 city, county and state policemen. They started shooting revolvers, shotguns, Tommy guns and tear-gas shells into Bad Boy's window. After they had shot in 20 gas shells, they ran across the street and up the stairs of the rooming house. Bad Boy turned his .22 around and shot himself through the roof of the mouth. He was dead when the cops broke down his door.


My recollection of the Market Street Massacre

By Lou Warfel

The Market Street Massacre took place on Nov. 6, 1948. I was working in the Buten Paint Store at 624 Edgmont Ave. It must have been around nine o'clock in the morning when a customer came in and told us that a sniper was shooting people down in Bethel Court. We kept getting vague, confused reports for the next few hours. It wasn't until much later in the day that we found out what had happened.

Melvin Collins, a 38 year old migrant worker from Virginia, had argued with some small time numbers writer, on the sidewalk in front of his place of residence on Market Street below Third. In the end Collins shot and killed the man. The enraged gunman then fled to his second floor front room apartment Collins opened fire from his front window killing a couple of people who had come to the aid of the first victim. He continued to fire at everyone within his vision and range. Only one of those killed was a white man. He had driven to the neighborhood to pick up a man who worked for him and before he knew what was happening he was dead. At some point Elery Purnsley, Chester's first black police detective arrived on the scene and he was shot and killed. Everyone who could, fled the area. But some people who had taken shelter behind parked cars were trapped, afraid to move.

Eventually the police put together a plan to enter the building. As they stormed the building Collins turned his 22 caliber rife on himself and put a bullet through the roof of his mouth. In all, eight people were killed and six wounded I do not know the names of the dead and wounded.



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