Arnold L. Schuster (1927 – March 8, 1952) was a Brooklyn clothing salesman and amateur detective known for his involvement in the capture of bank robber Willie "The Actor" Sutton and for Schuster's subsequent murder by the Gambino crime family. He was a distant paternal cousin of literary agent and book publisher M. Lincoln ("Max") Schuster of Simon & Schuster.
A longtime Brooklyn resident, 24-year-old Schuster recognized wanted bank robber Willie Sutton while riding on the New York City Subway in February 1952. Following Sutton to a garage, Schuster quickly notified police of Sutton's whereabouts, resulting in the robber's later arrest as Sutton was changing a dead battery from his car, which had stalled in the street.
After receiving a modest amount of publicity from New York City press, as well as appearing on the hit TV show I've Got a Secret, Schuster himself was murdered outside his home on March 8, 1952, shot twice in the groin and once in each eye. Although a manhunt was quickly organized by police, their search failed to apprehend any suspects. Eventually, Frederick J. Tenuto was arrested for the crime. Tenuto, an associate of Sutton's, was also a member of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list and positively identified by witnesses as having left the scene of the crime.
Several years later, government informant Joe Valachi claimed Albert Anastasia had ordered Schuster's death after witnessing one of his television interviews. Although Sutton had no connection with the Gambino crime family, Anastasia was reportedly angered by Schuster, stating, "I can't stand squealers! Hit that guy!" and had Tenuto killed to eliminate any links to the criminal organization. It has been speculated that the negative publicity from Schuster's death may have been one of the factors contributing to Anastasia's murder in 1957, by mobsters who believed the New York mobster to be out of control.
Schuster's estate sued New York City for failure to protect him. In accordance with the law at that time, their complaint was dismissed and the dismissal was affirmed by the intermediate appellate court (1955). In general, governments were held not to owe duties of protection to citizens for fear of straining public treasuries (among other reasons). But in a landmark case, New York's highest court reversed the decisions below and ruled that in a case where a member of the public has furnished the sort of cooperation that the police have asked the public for, a duty of protection of a person who comes forward to help the police is created. Schuster v. City of New York, 5 N.Y.2d 75 (1958). This important precedent meant for the Schuster family that the case could now go to trial. The City of New York eventually settled for $41,000, a reasonably large sum at the time, especially considering that even the presumably exaggerated sum the complaint sought was only $1,000,000. New York Daily News, Sept. 11, 1998.
- Sifakis, Carl. The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York: Da Capo Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
- Sifakis, Carl. The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File Inc., 2001. ISBN 0-8160-4040-0