Syracuse American, June 18, 1933
KANSAS CITY (Universal) — “Our men didn’t have a chance — not a chance! Those gunmen were firing from three sides of us. They just yelled, ‘Up! Up!’ a few times and blazed away.”
This was the dramatic description given by Federal Agent Frank Smith of yesterday’s massacre on Union Station Plaza in which four officers and Frank Nash, an escaped convict, were slain.
Three of the officers were killed instantly, as was Nash, and the fourth officer died shortly afterward.
City Detectives Frank Hermanson and W. J. Grooms were shot down as they stood by the car which the officers were entering. Otto Reed, chief of police at McAlester, Oklahoma, was killed as he fired from the rear seat of the car. Nash was killed as he sat, handcuffed, in the front seat.
Raymond J. Caffrey, agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was picked up, mortally wounded, from beside the automobile. F. F. Lackey, Department of Justice agent, was taken to a hospital in a critical condition, and R. E. Vetterli, special agent of the Department of Justice, barely escaped serious injury when a bullet grazed his arm.
Startling in its suddenness, the battle was quickly over, and the gunmen escaped before officers inside the United Station lobby could reach the scene.
Following is the story of Smith, one of the officers bringing Nash back from Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he was captured.
“My great regret is that Otto Reed, one of the finest peace officer who ever walked, is dead. I got him into this and I got him killed. That’s what he gets for being a good officer. I knew he was dependable and I needed dependable help in Hot Springs yesterday.
“We pegged Nash’s car in front of the White Front Pool Hall in Hot Springs, Reed, Agent Lackey and myself. We watched until Nash came out the door and we took him quietly as possible and speeded out of town. At 8:30 last night we took a Missouri Pacific train out of Fort Smith for Kansas City.
“Nash was a bald-headed man, you know, and we had some difficulty in identifying him. He was wearing a $100 toupee and had grown a quite respectable mustache. His conversation was that of a sophisticated city man of standing in the community. One of the first things I did was yank the toupee off his head and then I knew we had Frank Nash.
“When we arrived here, Vetterli, Caffrey and two city detectives met us at the train and we walked Nash, who was handcuffed, through the station and out to Agent Caffrey’s car, across the street.
“ ‘Get in there, Frank,’ I said to Nash. He got in. While Nash was pulling down the right front seat, Caffrey went around the car to take the driver’s seat. Just then . . .
“ ‘Up - up - up - up - up - up!’ was yelled several times in staccato accents from two or more points to the south and west of our car. Just as I looked up I saw a man to the southwest of me with what appeared to be a machine gun. I saw a spurt of fire from it. I drew my revolver, but immediately I ducked for the bottom of the car.
“I’ve been a government agent for 18 years. I know when resistance is possible and I knew they ‘had us’ at the station this morning.
“I felt hot bullets pass my cheek. I believe Detectives Hermanson and Grooms were the first to fall, but I believe Nash actually was hit by one or more of the first few shots. The gunners, apparently were shooting directly at Caffrey when Nash was killed.
“I saw Otto Reed crumple and I saw Lackey slump in his seat. The only glimpse I got of our assailants was that one awful eyeful of that man with the machine gun leveled at me.
“I heard shooting from more than one point. It is my believe that at least two, if not three guns were trained on our car. I only saw one, of course.
“I know there was shooting from our rear and sightly to our right. I know the man who shot at me was in front and slightly to the right and I am under the impression that a third man was firing from a point somewhere in between those two.
“It was not my time to die. I’ve been shot at before, but never with more chance of the bullets finding their mark. How Vetterli escaped is even more of a mystery. He was directly in the line of fire.
“Poor Hermanson and Grooms might have been artificial rabbits in a shooting gallery. Caffrey was killed before he knew we were in a fight. Reed, I’m satisfied, heard nothing after that staccato command of ‘Up - up - up!’
“Lackey was saved from instant death, in my opinion, because the bullet which struck him ricocheted from his pistol butt into his abdomen. He was the only man not shot in the head.”
Nash, a “gentleman bandit,” was known to have wide connections in the underworld, from Chicago to the Gulf, and every known gangster throughout the section is a possible suspect.
Apparently well educated, Nash was the suspected “brains” of numerous crimes. He is suspected of participating in the “outside” work that made possible the federal prison break at Leavenworth two years ago, during which Thomas White, then warden, was kidnapped and wounded.
He was implicated in that break by Harold Fontaine, who was convicted of smuggling arms into the prison and sentenced to a long term.
Nash is known to have been a close friend of Harvey Bailey, a “golfing bandit,” who was one of the leaders in the Memorial Day break from the state penitentiary at Lansing, Kansas.
Caffrey, who long has been a nemesis of gangsters, arrested Bailey on a golf course here 18 months ago. He barely missed capturing Nash at the same time, as the two bandits had played a few holes of golf together shortly before Caffrey appeared.
Once a member of the notorious Al Spencer gang that 10 years ago specialized in bank and mail train robberies throughout the Southwest, Nash had a long career in crime. He was serving a 25-year sentence for mail robbery, committed while a member of the gang, when he made good his dash from Leavenworth prison two years ago.