Sammy “the Bull” Gravano is the former underboss of the Gambino crime family. Though he operated under the direction of mafia leader John Gotti, he eventually broke his blood oath and cooperated with the government to expose and capture Gotti.
Gravanos confessed to 19 murders after being arrested and jailed, but prosecutors gave him a reduced sentence for cooperating with the law. He was released in 2017—though former boss Gotti died in prison.
REELZ’s new docuseries, Mafia Killers: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, takes viewers back to Gravano’s days as a vicious mobster, and explains how a well-to-do child murdered his way into one of New York’s most feared crime families.
“Organized crime, mob, mafia, whatever you wanna call it: I was more or less born into that lifestyle. I grew up in Brooklyn in a very Italian area, and the celebrities in the area were the criminals, the mob guys,” says Gotti’s former friend, Andrea Giovino, in the show teaser.
“Sammy did a lot of damage in the streets, you know, 19 murders. He was a psychopath,” she adds.
Unlike Gotti, who grew up poor and resenting his father for failing to provide for the family, Gravano didn’t need to pursue the mob life.
Born on March 12, 1945, he was the youngest of three children in a comfortable and respectable family.
“His father was a clothing manufacturer. [They] lived in an area of Brooklyn known as Bensonhurst: [a] quiet, middle-class neighborhood,” says “5 Famiies” author, Selwyn Raab.
Despite his seemingly happy childhood, Gravano was bullied at school and had various issues, including an apparent learning disability and a hunger for aggression.
“By grade four, he was failing everything and getting picked on by the other kids. He liked violence,” says investigator and crime journalist Colin McClaren. “Some though he was dyslexic. Others thought he was a psychopath.”
Mafia Killers: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano airs Wednesday, September 5 at 9ET / PT on REELZ