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David Fisk (Lens of
Kansas City Massacre
- Gangsters vs.
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A shootout taking place at the Union Station railroad depot
in Kansas City,
Missouri on June 17, 1933, this gun battle occurred when a
gang led by Vernon Miller attempted to free Frank "Jelly" Nash, a federal
prisoner. The Kansas City Massacre shocked the American public into a new
consciousness of the serious crime problems in the Nation.
The killings, which took the lives of four peace officers
and their prisoner, involved the attempt by Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy"
Floyd, Vernon Miller and Adam Richetti to free their friend, Frank Nash.
At the time, Nash was in the custody of several law enforcement officers
who were returning him to the U.S. Penitentiary at
from which he had escaped on October 19, 1930.
Station, Kansas City,
Nash's criminal record reached back to 1913, when he was
sentenced to life at the State Penitentiary in McAlester,
murder. He was later pardoned. In 1920, he was given a 25-year sentence at
the same penitentiary for burglary with explosives, and again, was later
pardoned. On March 3, 1924, Nash began a 25-year sentence at the U.S.
Leavenworth for assaulting a mail custodian but he escaped
on October 19, 1930.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched an
intensive search for Nash which extended over the entire United States and
parts of Canada. Evidence gathered by the FBI indicated that Nash had
assisted in the escape of seven prisoners from the U.S. Penitentiary at
Leavenworth on December 11, 1931. The investigation also disclosed Nash's
close association with Francis L. Keating, Thomas Holden and several other
well-known gunmen who had participated in a number of bank robberies
throughout the Midwest. Keating and Holden were apprehended by FBI Agents
on July 7, 1932, at Kansas City,
Missouri. Information gained by the FBI
as a result of the apprehension of these two indicated that Nash was
receiving protection from his underworld contacts in Hot Springs,
Based on this information, two FBI Agents, Frank Smith and
F. Joseph Lackey, and McAlester,
Police Chief Otto Reed located and apprehended Nash on June 16, 1933, in a
store in Hot Springs,
Arkansas. The law officers then drove Nash to
at 8:30 that night, they boarded a Missouri Pacific train bound for Kansas
Missouri. It was due to arrive there at 7:15 a.m. on June 17th.
Before leaving, the lawmen made arrangements for R.E. Vetterli, Special
Agent in Charge of the FBI's Kansas City Office to meet them at the train
Meanwhile, a number of outlaw friends of Nash had heard of
his capture in Hot Springs. They learned the time of the scheduled arrival
of Nash and his captors in Kansas City and made plans to free him. The
scheme was conceived and engineered by Richard Tallman Galatas, Herbert
Farmer, "Doc" Louis Stacci, and Frank B. Mulloy.
Vernon Miller was
designated to free Nash, and while at Mulloy's tavern in Kansas City, he
made a number of phone calls for assistance in the scheme. At about this
time, two gunmen, "Pretty Boy" Floyd and Adam Richetti, arrived in Kansas
City, and they agreed to aid in the mission.
On their way to Kansas City, Floyd and Richetti had been
detained at Bolivar,
Missouri, early on the morning of the 16th, when their
car broke down. While the two were waiting
in a local garage for the necessary repairs, Sheriff Jack Killingsworth entered the building. Richetti, who immediately recognized
the Sheriff, seized a machine gun and held the Sheriff and the garage
attendants against the wall. Floyd drew two .45 caliber automatic pistols
and ordered them to remain motionless. Floyd and Richetti then
transferred their arsenal into another automobile and ordered the Sheriff
in with them.
Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd
The two gangsters, along with their prisoner, then drove to
abandoned that car and commandeered another. After releasing the
Sheriff, they arrived in Kansas City about 10:00 p.m. on June 16th.
There, Floyd and Richetti abandoned the car and stole
another before meeting up with met Vernon Miller, who they went with him to his home.
After arriving, Miller told them of his plan to free Frank Nash and Floyd
and Richetti agreed to help. Early the next morning
Miller, Floyd and Richetti
drove to the Union Railway Station where they took up their
positions to await the arrival of Nash and the authorities.
When the train arrived in Kansas City, Agent F. Joseph
went to the loading platform, leaving Agent Frank Smith, Chief Otto Reed
and Nash in a stateroom of the train. On the platform, he was met by
Special Agent Vetterli, who was
accompanied by FBI Agent R.J. Caffrey and Officers W.J. Grooms and Frank Hermanson
of the Kansas City Police Department. These men surveyed the area
surrounding the platform and saw nothing that aroused their suspicion. Vetterli
then advised Agent Lackey that he and Caffrey had
brought two cars to Union Station and that the cars were parked
Agent Lackey then returned to the train and, accompanied by
Chief Reed, Agents Vetterli, Caffrey and Smith, and Officers Hermanson
and Grooms, proceeded from the train through the lobby of Union Station.
At the time, both Agent Lackey and Chief Reed were armed with shotguns,
while the other officers carried pistols while escorting Frank Nash. Upon leaving Union Station, the lawmen, with their captive,
paused briefly; and, again seeing nothing that aroused their suspicion,
they proceeded to Caffrey's car which was parked directly in front of the
east entrance of Union Station.
As the agents and their captive began to climb into the
cars, Agent Lackey noticed a green Plymouth parked about six feet away and
two armed men approaching from behind the car. At least one of them had a
Continued Next Page
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