The Kansas City Massacre

By Chris Bunton

Frank Nash was being escorted through Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri. He had escaped from Leavenworth Prison on October 19th, 1930. He had been serving a 25 year sentence for assaulting a mail employee.

It took 3 years to capture him after his escape. The FBI tracked him to Hot Springs, Arkansas where they apprehended him in a store. He was being escorted back to the prison. (The FBI was called the BOI at this time, but for consistency we will call it the FBI.)

The officers leading him were, Agent F. Joseph Lackey, Agent Frank Smith and Police Chief Otto Reed from McAlester, Oklahoma.

The group was later joined by, Special Agent in Charge Vetterli, Agent R. J. Caffrey, and Kansas City Police Officers, W. J. Grooms and Frank Hermanson. 

7 Officers in all.

It was June 17, 1933.

The local officers and FBI agents led Nash in handcuffs out the east door.

As the officers went outside, and started to load into a car, one of them noticed a couple of guys heading toward them with guns.

One of the approaching men is alleged to have shouted “letem have it!”.

At which point, the approaching gunmen opened up with a machine gun killing Kansas City officers, W. J. Grooms and Frank Hermanson instantly.

A limited shootout occurred, that ended with Agent Caffrey and Chief Reed being killed.  Frank Nash the prisoner was also killed.

A Kansas City police officer appeared from inside Union Station and started shooting at the gunmen, who fled.

Agents Smith, Lackey and Vetterli survived. Vetterli was wounded in the arm, and Lackey was hit by 3 bullets.

This is what has come to be known as the Kansas City Massacre. It lasted about 30 seconds.

It is believed that the team of gunmen consisted of Vernon Miller, “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and his sidekick Adam Richetti.  

They were allegedly backed by conspirators, Herbert Farmer, Richard Galatas ,”Doc” Louis Stacci, and Frank Mulloy.

There are two theories on what happened. Either it was a botched attempt to help Nash escape. Or it was a mob hit on Nash. I personally believe it was the latter.  

The fact that the gunmen did not seem to care if Nash died, they made no attempts at communication, and the later odd murder of Vernon Miller who had led the attack.

Vernon Miller was found 5 months later in November, naked in a ditch having been murdered by mobsters, it is assumed. Perhaps someone wanted him silenced.

Pretty Boy Floyd, was killed in a shoot out with the Melvin Purvis team on October 22, 1934. Even while dying, he denied involvement with the Kansas City Massacre, and claimed that Hoover was just trying to pin it on him.

Floyd’s side kick, Adam Richetti was arrested in Ohio. He was tried and sentenced to death for the massacre. He was executed on October 7, 1938, and was possibly innocent of this particular  crime.

The 4 conspirators who allegedly set up the hit or escape plan were indicted for trying to help a prisoner escape, and were sentenced to two years in prison, and fines.

I went to the Union Station in Kansas City to see the site of the massacre. I’m sure a lot has changed since the day Nash was led through.

But, there has been a definite effort to archive the various historical events in the train station including the massacre.

A system was set up where a person could use their phone to find different locations in the building and read about them. However, at the time of my visit, the system was not working.

I walked around taking pictures and trying to piece together what happened.

I located what I assumed was the east doors, and went outside where I found a plaque to the officers who were killed.

Sources and Further Reading:

Bio: Chris Bunton is a Writer, Poet and Blogger from Southern Illinois.

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Publishing Editor for The Yard: Crime Blog.

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