Louis Koullapis
Louis Koullapis
Background information
Occupation Machinist (retired)
Born (1894-09-18)September 18, 1894

June 13, 1968(1968-06-13) (aged 73)
San Luis Obispo, California, United States

Cause of death Heart failure
Penalty Five years to life
Imprisoned at California Men's Colony
Parents Theodoulos Koullapis
Despina Karoula
Attack information
Date January 12, 1965
1:02 a.m. – 1:12 a.m.
Location(s) Gardena, California, United States
Killed 1
Injured 26+
Weapon(s) Double-barreled shotgun
Three revolvers
Four pistols

Louis Koullapis (September 18, 1894 – June 13, 1968) was an American retired machinist who killed one person and wounded at least 26 others in Gardena, California, United States on January 12, 1965. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to five years to life imprisonment. He died in prison on June 13, 1968.


Koullapis was born on September 18, 1894 to Theodoulos Koullapis and Despina Karoula. Newspapers reported he was a native of Crete, Greece,[1] though according to his death certificate he was born in Cyprus.[2] Koullapis became a naturalised US citizen in 1944, was married and divorced once, and worked as a machinist for 50 years. His last place of employement was at Airtex Dynamics, an aviation company in Compton, California.[2]

At the time of the shooting Koullapis had been a California resident for about 20 years[2] and spent his last two years in Gardena, where he had rented a room for $10 a week.[3] His landlady, Fannie Erdmann, described him as a gentleman who was well liked in the neighbourhood, especially by the children, who referred to him as "Pops".[4]

Six months prior to the shooting, he was diagnosed as suffering from a severe illness, which Mrs. Erdmann suspected of being cancer. The ailment caused a change of his personality and he became a loner,[5] though he sent Christmas cards and a dollar to those neighbourhood children who had sent him cards, while he was in hospital for treatment.[4] A short time prior to the shooting he travelled to Crete, Greece and visited his brother there.

For years Koullapis frequented the "Rainbow Club", a poker parlor in Gardena, where he ate dinner and occasionally gambled. On January 10, just two days before the shooting, he told an employee at the club that "this year I am going to die, and before I do I am going to take 20 or 30 people with me."[6][7]



In the early hours of Jan. 12, shortly after 1 a.m., the 70-year-old drove to the "Rainbow Club" at 13915 S. Vermont Ave., armed with double-barreled shotgun, three revolvers, and four pistols,[9], stepped out of his car, fired two shots from shotgun through plate glass window, switched to two pistols, fired at least 16 times, injured about 25 of the 250-350 guests inside. He also shot guard Dave Whitmore in the hip, when he ran outside.[10]

Koullapis started his car, went to nearby "Monterey Club", shot once inside with pistol, wounding one person, and then back at car drove south along street, fired another shot at the "Horseshoe Club" several blocks away, hitting none, and then fled back home. Went into his room, then returned to his car[7] By that time he had emptied six of his guns.[5]

In total 28 people received hospital treatment, some of them for chest and neck wounds,[11] while an unknown number of people wounded by glass fragments did not seek medical help. 73-year-old Arthur Adrian Archbold, who had been inside the Rainbow CLub, was in critical condition after a shot in the kidneys.[7] He died during the night of Jan. 13.[5] Five others were seriously injured.[4]

Louis Koullapis arrest

Koullapis after his arrest.

Police was alerted immedately after the shooting at RC, was given license number of Koullapis's car. Ten minutes after the shooting police located his car 1 1/1 miles from the crime scene, near his home parked on the wrong side of a street with motor running. When officers approached the vehicle Koullapis stepped out of shadows between two houses/from his car, a revolver in each hand, mumbling incoherently. He tried to shoot three times into the air, but the guns didn't fire although they were loaded. Officers fired two shots on the ground at Koullapis's feet, then overpowered and disarmed him. Koullapis broke collarbone, three ribs, possibly suffered chest injuries during struggle,[12] was brought to Los Angeles County General Hospital for treatment and was charged with assault with the intent to cpmmit murder.[7][11][13][14]


  • Arthur Adrian Archbold, 73

Among those wounded were Howard Elgort, 30, Bruce McNeil, 26, John C. Smith, 52, Walter J. Toups, 40, Harry Warner, 58, and Dave Whitmore, 28.


Immediately after the shooting Koullapis refused to reveal his motives, but a search of his apartment recovered three torn drafts of a letter addressed to Jerry Dunphy, a local television newscaster in a wastebascet indicating that he wanted the poker clubs to be closed, and that shooting into them would force them to shut down. He also feared he was dying and thought he and his victims would die together.[6] "Tonite [sic] I am sacrifising [sic] my life just to see if the clubs will be close [sic] forever. I am old and very sick man. Is nothing left for me in this world." "What I am doing tonite, [sic] it would be don [sic] long time ago. But never too late. (...) It could save a lot of innosents [sic] and good peoples." "These gyp joints destroyed lots of homes. Thousants [sic] of divorces and good many thousants [sic] of childrent [sic] are without good homes. The crimes are increasing at least 100 per cent. Many young women became prostitute [sic] just to have enought [sic] money to play card..."[15][16] and "Close them, close them, close them at once. The only thing bothers me I am going to hurt innosents [sic] and passing by people, but I have no choise [sic]."[17]

Other sources, citing people who have played with Koullapis, indicated that the shooting may have been incited by gambling losses.[18]

Trial and convictionEdit

On January 14, 1965 Koullapis was formally charged with murder and attempted murder,[1] but on January 18 his arraignment had to be postponed indefinitely due to his injuries.[12] On April 14 the same year he pleaded guilty to murder, other charges for attempted murder and firing into an occupied dwelling were dismissed. On May 13 he was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to five years to life imprisonment.[19] He died of a heart attack at the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo, California on June 13, 1968.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Poker shooting, 1 dead, 1 charge, The Deseret News (January 15, 1965)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Death certificate at Rootsweb
  3. Gunfire victim dies of wounds, Reading Eagle (January 14, 1965)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gardena gunman shoots 32, Press-Telegram (January 12, 1965)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Shooting victim dies at Gardena, Lewiston Evening Journal (January 14, 1965)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gardena, Calif. shooting poses riddle as to cause, Lewiston Evening Journal (January 13, 1965)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Gunman blasts poker parlors, 30 persons hurt, Lewiston Evening Journal (January 12, 1965)
  8. Gunman fires into 3 Calif. poker clubs, The Lewiston Daily Sun (January 13, 1965)
  9. At least 30 are hit by gunman on coast spree, Lawrence Journal-World (January 12, 1965)
  10. Berserk gunman blasts poker parlor patrons, Eugene Register-Guard (January 12, 1965)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Wild shots - 30 are hit, The Deseret News (January 12, 1965)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Poker parlor gunman in serious condition, Reading Eagle (January 19, 1965)
  13. Gunman wounds 32 people in 2 poker parlors, Reading Eagle (January 12, 1965)
  14. Gunman wounds 30 in spree on coast, The Pittsburgh Press (January 12, 1965)
  15. Mad gunman wounds 31, The Miami News (January 12, 1965)
  16. Police holding man on charge of shooting 29, The Times-News (January 13, 1965)
  17. 30 poker players wounded as gunman sprays 3 clubs, The Montreal Gazette (January 13, 1965)
  18. Hayano, David M.: Poker Faces: The Life and Work of Professional Card Players; University of California Press, 1982. ISBN 9780520050679
  19. Gunman, 70, sentenced for poker palace blitz, Press-Telegram (May 14, 1965)

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