Kansas City Massacre
- Gangsters vs.
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
Lackey had a chance to warn his fellow officers, one of the gunmen
shouted, "Up, up!" as a third man with a machine gun began to approach.
Special Agent in Charge, Vetterli turned just in time to hear a voice
commanding, "Let 'em have it!" At this point, from a distance
approximately 15 feet, an individual crouched behind the radiator of
another car opened fire. Officers Grooms and Hermanson immediately fell
to the ground dead. Vetterli, who was standing beside Office Grooms and
Hermanson, was shot in the left arm and also dropped to the ground. As
Vetterli scrambled to take cover, Caffrey was fatally shot in the head.
Already inside the car, Frank Nash and Chief Reed were killed by bullets
from the gangster's guns. Agents Lackey and Smith were able to survive
the massacre by falling forward in the back seat of their vehicle.
Lackey was struck and seriously wounded by three bullets. Smith was
The three gunmen rushed to the lawmen's car and looked inside, with one of
them shouting "They're all dead. Let's get out of here." With that, they
raced toward a dark-colored Chevrolet. Just then, a Kansas City policeman
emerged from Union Station and began firing in the direction of the
killers. One of them, later identified as Floyd, slumped briefly but
continued to run. The gangsters then scrambled into the car, sped westward
out of the parking area, and disappeared.
The three survivors -- Agents Smith, Lackey and Vetterli reported that the
assault lasted no more than 30 seconds. They were uncertain if three or
four gunmen staged the assault. From their account, it was apparent that
the two Kansas City Police Officers were killed immediately, followed
seconds later by Frank Nash and Chief Reed and then by Agent Caffrey, who
was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.
The FBI immediately initiated an investigation to identify and apprehend
the gunmen. The investigation developed evidence that the scheme was
carried out by
Vernon Miller, Adam C. Richetti, and Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy"
Floyd. The evidence included latent fingerprint impressions located by FBI
Agents on beer bottles in
Kansas City home, identified as those of Adam Richetti.
Following the Kansas City Massacre,
Vernon Miller, accompanied by girlfriend, Vivian Mathias, traveled to
arriving there about June 19, 1933. For a few days, he hid out with a
member of the Barker-Karpis gang. From there he then reportedly went to
New York. On October 31, 1933, an FBI investigation discovered he was back
his girlfriend. The next day, he escaped a trap set for him by the FBI.
However, Mathias was taken into custody and later pleaded guilty to
charges of harboring and concealing a fugitive.
Meanwhile, the FBI's hunt for "Pretty Boy" Floyd and Adam Richetti
continued. After fleeing from the Kansas City Massacre, Floyd and Richetti
made their way to Toledo, Ohio, where they met Beulah, also known as
Juanita, and Rose Baird in early September, 1933. From there, the four
traveled to Buffalo, New York.
On September 21, 1933, Floyd and Beulah
Baird, using the names of Mr. and Mrs. George Sanders, and Richetti and
Rose Baird, using the names Mr. and Mrs. Ed Brennan, rented an apartment
in Buffalo. The other occupants of the apartment building considered the
two couples very mysterious, as they seldom left the apartment, only for
brief visits to the grocery store. During that time, Floyd reportedly
walked from the front to the rear of the apartment almost constantly, an
activity that caused much curiosity on the part of the other building
occupants. The two couples never visited with any of their neighbors, but
the women occasionally threw money from the windows of the apartment to
the children playing in the street, or offered them candy.
In October, 1934, the couples agreed to return to
Rose Baird was given money to purchase a car to take them there. The four
began the trip on October 20th, with Floyd driving. A few hours later,
near Wellsville, Ohio, he skidded the automobile into a telephone pole.
Floyd and Richetti removed their firearms from the vehicle and remained on
the outskirts of the town, while Rose and Beulah Baird took the damaged
car into a Wellsville garage for repairs.
The Wellsville, Ohio, Police Chief, J.H. Fultz, following up on reports
that two suspicious looking men were seen on the outskirts of town, found
the two resting in a wood tract of land nearby. A gun battle ensued. Chief
Fultz apprehended Richetti after the gangster had emptied his gun at the
officer. Floyd escaped, but the Police Chief thought Floyd might have been
Afterwards, the FBI and local authorities conducted an intensive search
for Floyd in eastern Ohio, which included interviews of numerous persons
in the rural countryside, including doctors and hospital personnel whom
Floyd might approach if, in fact, he was wounded.
Eight of the participants in this search -- a squad of four FBI Agents,
along with a squad of four East Liverpool, Ohio police officers were
jointly patrolling a group of roads south of Clarkson, Ohio, in two cars
on October 22nd, when they noticed an automobile move from behind a corn
crib on a farm. The officers had been questioning all persons whom they
saw; and in an effort to question the occupants of this automobile, they
stopped the car. At this point, the vehicle that had attracted their
attention drove back to its original position behind the corn crib, and a
man whom the officers immediately recognized as "Pretty Boy" Floyd jumped
from the car with a .45 caliber automatic pistol in his right hand.
As the officers reached Floyd, he said, "I'm done for; you've hit me
twice." They took the pistol from his hand and also seized a second gun
that he carried in his belt. The two FBI Agents then left to summon an
ambulance to take Floyd to a hospital, but Floyd died about 15 minutes
At the time Floyd was killed, a watch and fob, consisting of a "lucky
piece," were found on his person. Groups of ten notches were found on each
of these items - reportedly carved by Floyd as an indication of the number
of people he had killed.
Rose and Beulah Baird, who were in the Wellsville garage attending to the
repair of the wrecked automobile when they overheard the discussion of
Richetti's being taken into custody, had left immediately for Kansas City,
Later they traveled to the home of Floyd's family in Sallisaw,
where they attended the funeral of Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd.
Richetti, following his apprehension, was returned to Kansas City,
on March 1, 1935, was indicted on four counts of murder in the first
degree. His trial, predicated on the indictment charging him with the
murder of Frank E. Hermanson, one of the police officers killed in the
Kansas City Massacre, began in Kansas City on June 10, 1935. On June
17th, the jury returned a verdict of guilty with the recommendation that
Richetti be given the death penalty and he was sentenced to be hanged.
Though Richetti appealed his conviction on grounds that he was insane, the
appeal was frutiless and he was executed on October 7, 1938.
The four individuals - Richard Galatas, Herbert Farmer, "Doc" Louis Stacci,
and Frank Mulloy - who were later found in the investigation to have aided
in the conspiracy to free Nash, were indicted by a Federal Grand Jury at
October 24, 1934. On January 4, 1935, the four were found guilty of
conspiracy to cause the escape of a Federal Prisoner from the custody of
the United States. On the following day, each was sentenced to serve two
years in a Federal Penitentiary and pay a fine of $10,000, the maximum
penalty allowed by law.
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