restricted access 33 The Kansas City Massacre
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The newspapers of June 17, 1933, were filled with the news of the killing of four officers in front of the Union Depot in Kansas City, Missouri, in a gangland effort to free Frankie Nash, their prisoner. Nash also was killed in the gunplay. The papers described the massacre as a “Heinous crime,” showing gangland’s utter disregard for the majesty of the law. Editorially the papers insisted that the slayers be run to earth at any cost. The news stories vouchsafed the opinion of authorities that Harvey Bailey was one of the men who wielded a machine gun. On the surface this appeared to be the truth, for Nash was one of Bailey’s gangsters who had escaped with him from Leavenworth Prison where he had been serving a twenty-five year sentence for attacking a mail custodian. Naturally, Gus and I were interested in the case since we knew Bailey, and also were acquainted with Frankie Nash, a bald gangster of middle age known affectionately among his friends as “Jelly.” We read everything the papers had to say. It seems that Nash had fled from Leavenworth to Hot Springs, Arkansas , where he contacted his wife, set up a respectable home, donned a wig and raised a moustache to conceal his identity. Butsomebodyhadsquealed,andNashwasarrestedinaHotSprings speakeasy without a struggle. OfficersimmediatelystartedtomovehimtoLeavenworth,realizing that in hastening they might avoid an effort by his pals to release him. 33 The K ansas City Massacre 187 188 al capone and his american boys But gangland was informed. As the officers left the Union Depot with their prisoner and started across the Grand Concourse in front of the station to enter their waiting auto a fusillade of shots rang out and the officers fell. Raymond J. Caffery, Department of Justice operative, Otto Reed, McAlister, Oklahoma sheriff, and Frank Hermanson and W. J. Grooms, KansasCitydetectives,fellmortallywounded.F.J.Bailey,agovernment agent, was less seriously wounded. Nash was shot down right in the door of the car. Amid a hail of bullets from the guns of the wounded officers, a nearby car hurtled away from the curb, and the assassins escaped. Nobody but the swashbuckling Harvey Bailey would ever have undertaken such a desperate enterprise, the papers maintained. “What a smear,” Gus commented as we finished reading. “I’m glad I’m not mixed up in it.” The telephone rang, and Gus answered it. He talked for several minutes and after hanging up he turned to me with a mystified look on his face. “That was Joe Bergl calling me from the garage,” he said. “He says some woman has been calling him all morning asking how to get in touchwithme.Ofcoursehewouldn’ttellher,thensheaskedhimtohave me meet her at a dress-making shop. He said the woman told him it was very important, so I guess I’d better go.” “Think it over,” I begged. “It might be a setup.” “Oh, I don’t think so, but it’s worth thinking about,” Gus said. “Why don’t you go and find out who it is and what she wants. If it’s really on the level and pretty important, I’ll see her.” The Kansas City Massacre 189 That was satisfactory to me and I left at once. ArrivingatthedressshopIwassurprisedtofindVerneMiller’swife, Vivian,accompanied by hersmalldaughter.Mrs.Millerwasintearsand almost hysterical. She said she had to see Gus, but I told her he was very busy and I would take her message to him. Shewasfilledwithfear,andwordsflowedovereachotherasshetold me that her husband had engineered the Kansas City massacre, and was fleeing for his life. “Good gracious woman,” I said, moved to pity in spite of the horribleness of the crime, “has Verne gone crazy?” Then she told me what had happened. SomeonehadtelephonedChicagoassoonasNashwascaught.They talked to Louis “Doc” Stacci, a personal friend of Nash’s, who operated a tavern in Melrose Park, which I have said before was a hideout for criminals. The first Miller knew of the Nash capture was when Stacci telephoned from Chicago to his house in Kansas City and told him that the officers were bringing Nash through Kansas City. As far as I could learn from Vivian Miller, the gangland telegraph had been kept hot as the underworld pulled all its strings to learn the route to be taken by the Nash convoy, and the arrival times. Mrs. Miller said Stacci told her husband there was no time to lose if he wanted to catch the guards at the station. Miller had no time to get help. He seized...


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Subject Headings

  • Crime -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
  • Murder -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
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