JUNE 2020

JUNE   2020
He Has Dragged Us Back Forty Years.


Saturday, January 14, 2017


I believe I have stumbled upon a way to spot a deranged maniac with a gun before they get the gun, and it ain't their choice of video games or violent movies that gives them away. Simply criticize their poetry, and the unbalanced individual is instantly revealed. My case in point  -  in early 1910 Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough once again had “insisted on inflicting his home-made poetry and epigrams on all who would listen",  according to William Mossman,  manager of the Pittsburgh Orchestra.   Now, the experienced members of the orchestra always listened politely to Fitzhugh, and kept their spit valves firmly closed until the maudlin verse was over,  but on this day, brass section member Otto Kegel could no longer resist trumpeting his opinion that Fitzhugh wrote the worst poetry ever written   Fitzhugh's response was to grab his own $400 violin and smash it over the critic's head.  Fitzhugh then fled screaming from the building.  He sulked for 72 hours, and when he returned he was not a better poet.  That, I believe, was a certain indication Fitzhugh was a lunatic destined to kill somebody.
Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough's story began inside 1331 K Street Northwest, Washington, D.C.. The row house  mansion stood just across the street from Franklin Square Park, on the corner lot with 13th Street.  In this wealthy abode resided the imminent Dr. Edmund K. Goldsborough, his wife Julia and their children - two sons, Fitzhugh, the eldest, and Edmond the youngest child, - and two daughters in-between – Francis the older and Ann the younger girl. Julia doted on all her children, and denied them nothing,  But Fiitzhugh was her favorite. He showed real talent with the violin and he loved poetry, which he produced in prodigious quantities.  He composed, by his own admission, a new ode to Venus about once a week. And his mother assured him every line was sheer genius.
In 1898 Dr. Goldsborough decided his son needed a profession. And that year the would-be poet was dispatched to Harvard College, to become an attorney.  After just one year however, the boy withdrew and returned home. Tensions in the house on K Street began to rise.  Fitzhugh  (above) told his diary that he was being followed by private detectives, and increasingly,  the volitile young man would intervene when his father tried to discipline Francis or Ann,  eventually even threatening violence if the doctor “so much as laid a hand” on either girl.  There is no record, Dr. Goldsborough ever did. After two years of this, in 1901, and by mutual consent, Fitzhugh  left home again,  this time for Europe, to study the violin.  Here he met with considerable success, and he did not return for four long years, coming home briefly during the winter of 1905-06. That spring he left again, first to Montreal, Quebec where he worked as an instructor, and then in 1907 he followed a Berlin acquaintance, Karl Pohlig, who had been hired as the new conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The city of brotherly love offered Fitzhugh his best chance for normality, and he became first chair violinist. However, at the same time he took to signing his name with a multi-pointed star, with his name forming all the spokes. But then in 1909 he followed an offer of more money, when half the Pittsburgh orchestra quit in a dispute with their new cold intellectual conductor, the Frenchman Emil Paur. The labor tensions had an impact upon Fitzhugh, as shown by his attack upon the head of the unfortunately outspoken Mr. Kegel.  As the orchestra teetered on the verge of bankruptcy early in the 1910 season, the 31 year old Fitzhugh learned his little sister Ann had become engaged to William Stead, and the pair intended on moving to England. Shortly there after Fitzhugh Coyee Goldsborough disappeared from Pittsburgh, leaving behind only a note of explanation. “The Pittsburgh smoke has driven me crazy”, he wrote. “You will never see me again.” He confided to his diary that he had decided to murder a man he had never met, the journalist, social novelist, and affected eccentric, David Graham Phillips.
The tall, handsome and beryl eyed Phillips once said he would rather be a journalist than President. His 1906 series “Treason in the Senate”, serialized in the magazine “Colliers”, was such a scathing indictment of political corruption that it led by 1912 to the 17th amendment to the Constitution, requiring the open election of senators. Phillips was a workhorse,  writing late into the night while standing at his desk (above), grinding out 6,000 words a day.  He said, “If I were to die tomorrow, I would be six years ahead of the game”  And beginning in 1901 he also produced six popular pot boiler novels like his 1909 best seller “The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig”.
His characters were little more than caricatures, but because Phillips (above) told interviewers he based them on living people, readers were intrigued. Phillips described his female protagonist in “Craig” , the wealthy “noodle-head” Margaret Severence, in venomous terms. “To her luxurious, sensuous nature every kind of pleasurable physical sensation made keen appeal, and she strove in every way to make it keener.” In reality Phillips wrote from his fertile imagination, and what he knew his readers wanted. The hint of slander was a marketing ploy, like the white suits with a mum in the lapel Phillips always wore in public, or his crumpled alpine hat. The problem was, Fritzhugh fell for the ploy.
And when the mad young Mr Goldsborough read the “Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig” he was convinced the unflattering character of Miss Severence (above)  was based upon his own younger sister, Ann.  Fitzhugh wrote to Phillips, claiming libel and asking for an apology. However, since he did not sign his name and failed to provide a return address, Phillips could not apologize, even if he had wished to. Fitzhugh took the lack of response as arrogance, and wrote a series of increasingly angry and threatening letters, eventually signing them in Phillips' own name,  convincing the novelist his mysterious correspondent was a lunatic - which he was. Clearly this miss-communication could not continue.
With his sister Ann's wedding day scheduled for 25 February, 1911,  Fitzhugh rented a top-floor rear room for $3 a week at the Rand School on East 19th Street in New York City.  His check in date was 2 November, 1910.  He informed no one of his new address.  His family thought he was still in Pittsburgh. In fact he was now just a block away and just around the corner from the brownstone National Arts Club at 16 Gramercy Park South – where David Graham Phillips lived. And almost directly across that small private Gramercy Park was the Yale Club, where Phillips received his mail.  Fitzhugh spent the next two months stalking his victim.
As was his usual habit, the 42 year old David Phillips rose late on Monday, 23 January, 1911. He had been working the night before, grinding out his six thousand words, and after breakfast and dressing, it was well after one before he took the elevator to the first floor and hurried down the front steps of the Arts Club (above) . He carried with him the corrected proofs of his new short story, “Susan Lenox:  Her Fall and Rise”,  ready to be mailed to the Saturday Evening Post magazine
Rather than cutting through the gated park, Phillips turned left and walked the few steps to the corner of Gramercy Park West, and then turned right.  It took him less than a minute to cross 21st Street, or Gramercy Park North, where he turned right again, walking the half block toward Lexington Avenue, which “T”ed into Gramercy Park. At the corner was the mansion that housed the Princeton Club (above).
As Phillips approached 115 East 21st Street a man stepped away from the cast iron fence he had been leaning against, and blocked Phillip's way. From his coat pocked the assassin pulled a ten shot .38 caliber pistol, and was heard to announce, “Here you go.”  Then, with a sweep of his arm he fired six shots, each one hitting Phillips, once in the right lung, once in the intestines, the left forearm, the right hip and both thighs. Phillips staggered backward against the fence, almost falling into the arms of John Jacoby, a passing florist. Then, according to two other wittiness who had just come out of the Princeton Club, and without bothering to look at his victim,  Fitzhugh stepped into the gutter and, announced, “And here I go”. Fitzhugh then shot himself in the head.
The Princeton Club's paper recorded the incident as follows. “David Graham Phillips, (class of ) '87, editor, publicist and novelist,  was shot six times today as he approached the Princeton Club, by Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough, a Harvard man...”
The three witnesses carried Phillips into the club's foyer and laid him on a settee. There the victim said he had no idea who his assassin was, and begged them not to tell his mother of his shooting because “the shock might kill her.” Out in the gutter Fitzahugh's body lay under a sheet for hours while police tried to understand. In Fitzhugh's pockets they found two short story manuscripts, and a membership card for the American Federation of Musicians. Now they knew the who and what, and after they read Fitzhugh's diary found in his room at the Rand School, they understood the why. He was a lunatic.
Three days after the shooting, David Graham Phillips died in a fever of septicemia. He was survived by his sister Caroline, who had been sharing his apartment at the Arts Club after leaving her abusive husband. She finished up her brother's final short story, and it was published posthumously. And in 1931 it was made into a motion picture, staring Clark Gable and Greta Garbo (above) . The Goldsborough family sent their sincere regrets to the Phillips family. The Goldsboroughs held the mad man's funeral service in the family home at 1331 K Street Northwest, and a month later held Anne's wedding in the same rooms. After the wedding, Mr and Mrs. William Stead moved to Nottingham, England, where he served as the United States Counsel.
The only positive outcome from the shooting was the passage of gun regulation, named after its co-author, State Senator Tim (Big Feller) Sullivan, which went into effect in August, just seven months after the shooting. To this day, the Sullivan Act requires a license to carry a hand gun in New York State, and allows each county to set their own limits on handgun licenses. Possession of an unlicensed gun in New York City results in an automatic one year in jail. Similar murders have occurred since, of course, but then crime prevention does not have to be 100% effective. Every life saved is of value, even if it is the life of an arrogant obnoxious lunatic like Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough
- 30 -

Friday, January 13, 2017


I want to give Captain Limantour (above) the benefit of the doubt. He might have been a thief, but theft is the corner stone of California history. The Spanish stole the place from the natives, the French stole it from the Spanish, and in 1821 the Mexicans stole it from the French. So after the American armed robbery of 1848, M. Limantour should have fit right in with the Yankee power elites. Yes, he was argumentative, crude and vulgar. He spoke his native French clumsily, and managed just enough Spanish and English to curse and insult his competitors and even his partners. And he did try to steal most of the city of San Francisco. However, many of his harshest critics were bigger thieves than he was.
Captain Joseph-Yves Limantour. arrived at the Golden Gate on 26 October, 1841. For the previous decade the 28 year old had lived hand to mouth aboard his 232 ton brig the “Ayucucho”, trading along the Pacific coast. But on his first visit to San Francisco Bay, he wrecked his ship in the fog. Suddenly bereft of his only source of income, he dragged her salvageable cargo onto the sand spit that now bears his name – Limantour Beach (above)  – and opened a store in the nearby village of Yerba Buena. 
The problem was that Yerba Buena, in fact everybody in California, was cash poor. So the Captain was still stuck there in December when a traveling merchant advised Captain Limantour that if he could “obtain a grant of land on the Bay of San Francisco, he would one day be as rich as a prince.” Limantour liked that idea.
A year later, Limantour engineered a swap of goods and services that got him a new ship, in which he returned down the coast. Stopping to do a little trading in Los Angeles he ran into the Mexican Governor of California, José Micheltorena. The flat broke Governor of  the flat broke Mexican state of California was happy to trade a heavily inflated $4,000 worth of real goods for a grant of empty land south of Yerba Buena, and one including all the empty islands inside and outside of the bay, and a third land grant for empty land around the beach where the “Ayucucho” had run aground. These grants were finalized on 27 February, 1843. But Captain Limantour was too busy with his shipping operations to exercise his dry land property rights. Or so he later said.
In 1848 $2 billion worth of gold was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Over the next four years, Yerba Buena became San Francisco and the population mushroomed from 1,000 to 50,000, all the while suffering six major fires, assorted earthquakes, a few epidemics and uncountable bank failures. 
About the only way to go broke in San Francisco during the gold rush was to be a miner. Levi Strauss made a fortune overcharging for pants. John Studebaker made a fortune profiteering on wheel barrows. 
Henry Wells and William Fargo made a fortune gouging their banking customers. And the original “robber barons”, Leland Stanford, Collis Huntington, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker each made fortunes foreclosing on miners in debt. San Francisco was a thievery boom town. And in the midst of this capitalistic orgy, on 2 January 1853, the three man United States Land Commission began ruling on the validity of grants made under Spanish and Mexican rule.
Back in Mexico City, Captain Limantour had found a bright young Frenchman working at one of his investments, a would-be inventor named Auguste Jouan. In 1850 Limantour dispatched Jouan to San Francisco (above)  to begin title searches on properties. 
And just a month after the Commission commenced hearings in 1853, Limantour filed a claim to 17,800 acres of San Francisco, south  from “California Street”, including “The Mission district”...   
Nob Hill,  The Tenderloin,  the Sunset district,  and everything south, half way to Monterrey Bay - about $33 million worth of real estate. Referring to Joseph now as “Jose' ”,   one mocking newspaper snorted, “Can’t he also find...some papers that will permit him to establish claims to Vancouver Island?” Vancouver, Canada, that is.
In 1854, while the commission was considering Limantour's claim,. Auguste Jouan started asking for his back pay.  Limantour kept putting him off.  Jouan finally got angry enough to quit, and started hinting in public that his ex-boss was a crook. According to Limantour,  Jouan's gossip had created “such animosity and furor...that my life and property were in danger”. Belatedly the Captain agreed to pay Jouan what he was owed, tossing in a $25,000. bonus.  However, Limantour insisted they return to Mexico to close the deal, away from prying American reporters. The trusting blackmailer returned to Mexico with Limantour and was immediately arrested for forgery and attempted murder.
In January of 1856, to great public surprise, the Land Commission validated Limantour's claims. San Francisco went into panic mode. 
Half the banks in town, half the newspapers, half the bars, churches, hotels, bawdy houses and private residences, City Hall, and...
most importantly, all the mansions on Nob Hill, were now officially owned by Joseph-Yves Limantour.  The new land lord tried to put his victims- ah, tenants – at ease. 
From his suite of rooms in the Washington Hotel, the Captain offered to provide quit claims to all property for just 10% of the listed value. It became instantly known as the “Limantour Tax”. 
Many paid the tax,  just to be rid of the troublesome Frenchman. Estimates of his “take” ranged  from $100,000 to $250,000, in 1855 dollars. And then, Auguste Jouan managed to escape from his Mexican jail, and reappeared in San Francisco, still looking for his bonus. He now accused his ex-employer of framing him, and offered to provide proof that Limantour had committed fraud, for an additional $30,000.
A pro-Limantour paper called Jouan “a rascal of the worst kind....he attempted to extort money by means of threats, or a pretended knowledge of secrets, which is not calculated to modify our opinion of this blackleg.” Jouan responded by hitting the paper with a million dollar libel suit. Observed another editor, “For all we know he may be justly entitled to it; but we doubt whether there is an editor in San Francisco who has that amount of loose change about him...” Evidently, somebody paid at least part of Jouan's price. In April, the inventor sailed quietly for New York, claiming he was going to exploit his patent for new paddle blades for steam ships.
Meanwhile, the thieves of San Francisco funded an investigation of M. Limantour's documents, and came up with enough inconsistencies to justify a Grand Jury. And the local U.S. Attorney filed suit in Federal Court (above, left) to the overturn the Land Commission's decision. No thieving lawyer works harder or is more effective than a thieving lawyer protecting his own “ill gotten booty”. The only problem was, for every allegation or witness who swore the obnoxious captain was a thief, there were others who swore he was not. It did not matter. The Grand Jury indicted “Jose' “Joseph-Yves Limantour for fraud and perjury, and he was promptly arrested. The captain posted $35, 000 bail, and headed back to Mexico,  swearing to return with more evidence.
When Limantour did return in July of 1857, one surprised reporter noted a vigilantly committee had threatened to lynch him. The captain replied, in French, “I should rather be hanged than to pass for a forger.” His self assurance, and his new witnesses and documents had the local thieving class nervous. The government's case was flimsy at best. The locals might provide a conviction, but an appeal would be heard in the big pond back east in Washington, where the local thieves were small fry. And then, the new U.S. Attorney General, Jeremiah Black, decided to provide $70,000 to fund the prosecution of   “the most stupendous fraud ever perpetrated since the beginning of the world.”. Barely pausing after that hyperbole, he dispatched a special prosecutor to take over the case, Edwin M, Stanton.
Stanton (above) arrived in San Francisco in March of 1858, just about the time a new box of Mexican records which cast more doubt on Limantour's claim was found. It was almost as if the prosecution had decided to play by the same rules they assumed Limantour was playing by. But the prosecution also managed to produce close up daguerreotypes taken of the document daguerreotypes introduced to support Limantour's claims.  Blowing up the images clearly showed the forgery errors. The signatures of the Mexican officials were real. But the seals applied to them were fakes. 
 Stanton made a three hour closing argument, filled with hyperbole. Limantour's lawyer gave no closing argument at all. He must have already suspected his client had cut his losses, taken his own ill gotten booty, jumped bail and returned to Mexico.
Back in San Francisco, on 19 November, 1858, Federal District Judge Ogden Hoffman, Jr.'s (above)  56 page judgment, admitted “The case...is extraordinary and surprising...astonishing if not incredible”, before claiming a “scandalous conspiracy”, adding the vast over-statement, “the proofs of fraud are as conclusive and irresistible as the attempted fraud itself has been flagrant and audacious.” Limantour was convicted, but never jailed, and never pursued. Better gone and quickly forgotten.
Edwin Stanton went back to Washington, where in 1861 he was appointed Secretary of War in the administration of Abraham Lincoln. He was eventually named a Supreme Court Justice, but died before taking his seat. The wealthy thieves of San Francisco added to their wealth, in particular the Big Four, Stanford, Huntington, Hopkins and Crocker, doubled or tripled their wealth by duping shareholders in the Southern Pacific, the western leg of the Transcontinental Railroad. 
Joseph-Yves Limantour left California with somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 in gold, which made him one of the lesser robber barons of San Francisco (above). The government even failed to collect from the bail bondsman, after the Captain's escape.  The public ended up footing the bill for the prosecution, and then shared few of  the fruits of the victory.  
Joseph-Yves first born son,  Jose' Yves Limantour (above),   added greatly to his father's fortune. But after the Captain's death in 1885, and his mother Adele's  death,  her will left the fortune to his younger son Julio. Jose's took the blow in stride, and went on to become Secretary of Finance of Mexico. However, in 1911 this son-of-a- thief was forced to leave Mexico, and died in a self imposed exile in Paris, in 1935. The Limantours had come full circle.  And there is honor in that.
- 30-

Thursday, January 12, 2017


I think if the train had been late, things might have turned out differently. Perhaps the waiting men would have attracted attention, or grown bored or been out of position. But the overnight Missouri Pacific train from Fort Smith, Arkansas was unfortunately right on schedule, pulling into Union Station on Track Twelve, at 7:15 A.M. on Saturday 17 June, 1933. And because it was punctual, the train efficiently and smoothly delivered three FBI agents, three local cops and one gangster right on time to their destination. And then there was the wild card in the deck, which turned all the aces into eights.
It all started 24 hours before with the capture of Frank “Jellybean” Nash, ““the most successful bank robber in U.S. history”.
Frank was a 20 year career thief who worked with the Barker gang and the Dillinger mob among others, and of whom it was difficult   “…to find anyone who didn't have something nice to say…”, according to Clyde Callahan, co-author of the book “Heritage of an Outlaw”. Even the cops liked "Jellybean"  
While serving a 25 year term in Leavenworth (above),  in October of 1930,  Frank walked right out the front gate, carrying a copy of Shakespeare under his arm.  No one even thought to stop him.
Frank was so often employed as a bank robber after his escape, and so well paid that,  in the summer of 1933,  he could afford to take his wife and daughter on a vacation, to the resort town of Hot Springs (above), southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas.  And it was there, on 16 July, that two FBI agents,  Joe Lackey and Frank Smith, along with an Oklahoma police chief, Otto Reid,  captured "Jellybean"  in a Hot Springs cigar store.
Dick Galatas ran gambling in Hot Springs, and he took the arrest of an underworld tourist in his territory, personally.  The local cops,  who were paid more by Galatas than by the taxpayers,  threw up roadblocks on the highway back to Little Rock  calling Frank a kidnap victim.  But anticipating this,  the FBI took their prisoner northwest,  on the long drive to Fort Smith.  There they planned on catching  the 8:30 P.M. overnight train to Kansas City. They even wired ahead to Special Agent in Charge of the F.B.I..’s Kansas City office, Reed E. Vetterli,  to meet them at Union Station in the morning. 
But the  train was late in arriving at the Fort Smith station (above),  and a stringer for the Associated Press spotted the three men and their shackled prisoner in the waiting room. Before midnight the story broke over the wires, in time to be printed in the early addition of the Kansas City morning newspapers : “Frank Nash…was recaptured today at Hot Springs, by three Department of Justice agents…They revealed the identity of the prisoner for the first time here...”
Galatas,  in Hot Springs, had already asked for the help of Johnny Lazia (above, coat less), who ran gambling and vice for the Pendegrast machine, which controlled Kansas City.  A newspaper editor at the time described the level of mob activity in that town, “If you want to see some sin, forget about Paris. Go to Kansas City.”
And the man Lazia assigned to this problem was an old buddy of Frank Nash’s, an ex-South Dakota Sheriff turned bank robber named Vernon Miller (above).
Miller called in at least two more gunmen to assist him,  their identities disputed to this day. The FBI claims it was Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd and Adam Richetti,  who just happened to be passing through Kansas City that morning. But there were numerous other gangsters who would have willingly stepped up to help "Jellybean" escape.  And now might be a good time to address the question of why crime in America in 1933 was so well organized but law enforcement was not.
When J. Edgar Hoover (above) took over the Bureau of Investigation in 1924 he commanded just 400 agents.  He spent the next forty years battling small “r” republicans, who were suspicious of a big federal police agency. Hoover eventually overcame their resistance, growing the F.B.I in both numbers and budgets. And yet, until 1963, Hoover still denied the existence of any centralized crime organization in America. But it was there. During the 1920's it was a called the syndicate or the mob,  but after the Great Depression it became the mafia, and was dominated by Italian Americans thanks to their overseas contacts.  Even after the Appalachian Conference of November 1957,  where more than 60 criminal bosses from the U.S., Canada and Italy were detained by local cops in upstate New York,  Hoover still insisted, “The F.B.I has much more important functions to accomplish than arresting gamblers all over the country.”  Whatever his reasoning,  too many people paid with their lives for his denial.
That morning of 17 June the two agents,  Frank Smith and  Joe Lackey and Oklahoma police Chief Otto Reid, left the train heavily armed. According to research done by Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Unger – “The Union Station Massacre: The Original Sin of the FBI” - agent Lackey inadvertently grabbed a pump action Winchester Model 1897 shot gun, which belonged to Chief Reid, who grabbed Lackey’s twelve gauge, also by mistake.
On the platform they were met by Agent in Charge Reed Vetterli (above)...
and agent Ray Caffrey (above),  ...
along with two K.C. police detectives, William "Red" Grooms (above)...
 and Frank Hermanson (above).
 As the seven men moved through the cavernous station they formed a "V", with their handcuffed prisoner, "Jellybean" Nash,  protected in the center.   A four door Chevrolet was parked in front of the station, head in, and K.C. policemen Grooms and Hermanson screened the car from the front. Nash was first placed in the front bench seat, behind the steering wheel. Agents Lackey and Smith and Chief Reed sat in the back. 

As Agent Caffey was about to enter in the driver’s side door, Joe Lackey noticed three men appear from behind a green Plymouth parked in the space in front of them  At least two carried machine guns. One of the gunmen called out, "Hands up! Up, up, up!"  Instead, the F.B.I. says, the gunmen opened fire. In that first burst of machine gun fire, KC police detectives Bill Grooms and Frank Hermansom were killed, and Agent-in-Charge R.E. Vetterli was wounded in the shoulder, crawling toward cover.
But according to Bob Unger's research,  it was right at the beginning that Joe Lackey (above) found himself holding the wild card.
The Winchester 1897 was a WWI army surplus shotgun and lacked a safety feature most shotguns have – a trigger disconnect, or a safety.  In the slam mode this “trench sweeper” would automatically fire if the trigger was compressed at the same time the action was pumped, forcing a round into the chamber. Unfamiliar with this feature, and without even waiting to get his weapon up,  Lackey pumped a first round into the chamber. As he did so the weapon went off and blasted a load of ball bearings into the back of Frank Nash’s head (below), just 12 inches away.  A stray pellet also went “…right into the side of the head of agent Caffrey” who just getting into the car.
As proof Unger offers an image of the Chevrolet's windshield,  taken shortly after the shooting stopped and the wounded had been removed (above) .  Shattered glass is scattered over the car's hood, indicating the shot gun pellets came from inside the car, where the FBI agents sat,  and not from outside,  where the attacking mobsters were. Also, witness Harry Orr, just feet away in his cab, testified, "I saw one man with a shotgun, and he was trying to fire it." And this was just before the shooting started. 
Panicked at the unexpected explosion, Lackey pumped the action on the shotgun a second time, and again the weapon immediately discharged.  Bill Unger described what he thinks happened next. “Hermanson is in a direct line between Lackey and the machine gun wielders. Joe Lackey gets off a second shot, which takes of the left side of Frank Hermansons’ head…. 
"So here we are in the first two seconds of shooting, and already Frank Nash – the top of his head is gone and he is dead, and Ray Caffrey is dying of a fatal wound….And Hermanson is dead. So far no one has fired a shot except Joe Lackey…
"At this point everyone begins to shoot, and there’s massive firings by machine guns...and by the time all of this is over, Bill Grooms, the other Kansas City policeman, is also dead. (above, lying between the cars). And Reed in back seat….when they finally get to him, he has a fatal wound…”.    When one of the gunmen finally got close to the Chevy,  he glanced inside and shouted, “They’re all dead. Let’s get out of here.”
They weren’t all dead. Agent Lackey was wounded three times and barely survived. Agent Smith, having ducked behind an adjacent car when the shooting started, was uninjured. Agent-in-Charge Reed Vetterli had made it inside the train station, bleeding from a wound in his shoulder.   The entire shootout took less than 60 seconds. And that quickly the Kansas City Massacre was over.
Of the men who could be proven to have been responsible for the shootout, Vern Miller (above) was found mutilated and murdered outside of Detroit, Michigan,  5 months and two weeks later. And one week short of the first anniversary of the massacre, John Lazia was gunned down out side of his hotel in Kansas City. Rumor at the time said the syndicate running organized crime in America had issued orders that Nash was not to be helped because of the publicity surrounding him. And ballistics tests run decades later indicated the gun that fired the bullets which cut down Lazia, had also been used in the massacre. As he lay dying in a hospital, John Lazia asked his doctor, “Doc, what I can't understand is why anybody would do this to me? Why to me, to Johnny Lazia,  who has been the friend of everybody?”
It was a question that Frank "Jellybean" Nash would probably have asked,  if it hadn't been for that wild card.

- 30 -

Blog Archive