Kansas City Massacre

Sometimes the memory of an event is ephemeral as a birthday candle, while its consequences last as long as a Christmas fruitcake . . .

Frank “Jelly” Nash¹ was a career criminal who was being transported by the Department of Investigations (the DOI) to the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, KS when he, three police officers and one DOI agent were killed by three unknown Tommy gun-wielding assailants at the Kansas City Union Station on June 17, 1933. While Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd and Adam Richetti were indicted for the massacre, with Floyd subsequently killed in a shootout with law enforcement and Richetti later executed, an alternate theory is that they were completely innocent and the massacre was really just a hit on Nash to prevent him from cooperating with the authorities.

*Note: You can read a blow by blow account of the massacre below.

The Kansas City Massacre changed the DOI. Prior to this, agents did not have the authority to carry firearms or make arrests, but a year later as a direct result of the massacre, Congress gave them the authority. The DOI then subsequently acquired their first Thompson submachine guns and Winchester Model 1907 self-loading rifles.

On March 22, 1935, the DOI was subsequently renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

And the rest is history . . .

Union Station: Then (June 17, 1935) & Now (November 19, 2020)

¹ “Jelly” (shortened from “Jellybean“) was a childhood nickname, due to his poise and his well-groomed appearance (although some associate the nickname with the explosives used to open bank safes).

* According to Jay Robert Nash (no relation), Annals of Crime:

The three assailants all held Thompson submachine guns and . . . shouted to the lawmen: “Up! Up! Get ’em up!” The four lawmen outside the car, Agent Vetterli, Agent Caffrey, Detective Hermanson, and Detective Grooms, stood motionless for some seconds, their eyes riveted on the three gangsters slowly approaching them, guns aimed directly at them.

Then Grooms’ hand instinctively reached into his coat pocket and he withdrew his police revolver. He fired two shots, and although one appeared to hit a heavyset gunman in the arm, the gunman showed no signs of being wounded.

“No! No!” Frank Nash shouted from inside the car.

Then one assailant said “Let ’em have it!” to the other two gunmen.

Three submachine guns sent a torrent of bullets into Caffrey’s car and sprayed the group of officers inside and outside the car. Two of the assailants ran around behind the Caffrey car, continuing to fire at it so that it was caught in a cross fire. Within seconds, the killers fled and five men were dead: FBI agent Caffrey, Chief Reed, detectives Grooms and Hermanson, and Frank Nash, the very man the attackers had intended to free. Nash was not wearing his traditional wig when found behind the wheel of the car. He had removed the wig and waved it at the machine gunners so that he could be properly identified.

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