|Francis "Two Gun" Crowley|
Francis "Two-Gun" Crowley
October 31, 1912|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||January 21, 1932
Sing Sing Prison, Ossining, New York
|Executed by electric chair at Sing Sing Prison|
Francis "Two Gun" Crowley (October 31, 1912 – January 21, 1932) was an American murderer and career criminal. His crime spree lasted nearly three months, ending in a two-hour shootout with the New York City Police Department in May 1931. The 19-year-old's stand against the NYPD was witnessed by 15,000 bystanders and received national attention. Crowley would later influence the image of the archetypal Irish gangster.
Francis Crowley was born in New York City on October 31, 1912. He was the second son of an unwed German mother, who gave him up for adoption. Some speculate that his absent father was a police officer, which may have led to his hatred for police as an adult. In 1925, his brother John was killed following a confrontation with police officers after allegedly resisting arrest over a charge of disorderly conduct. (John Crowley had been involved in the killing of NYPD Officer Maurice Harlow on February 22, 1925.) By his late teens, Crowley had a reputation as a troubled youth with a criminal history.
On February 21, 1931, Crowley and two other young men crashed a dance hosted by the American Legion in the Bronx. When several Legionnaires tried to remove them from the venue, Crowley drew a gun and wounded two men before fleeing. Charged with attempted murder, Crowley went into hiding but was confronted by police on March 13. He escaped into an office building on Lexington Avenue after shooting Detective Ferdinand Schaedel. Two days later, Crowley and four others robbed a bank in New Rochelle, Westchester County, New York.
A month later, Crowley and two friends committed a home invasion, breaking into the West 90th Street apartment of real estate broker Rudolph Adler. When Adler attempted to resist the intruders, Crowley shot him five times, using the two pistols which earned him his nickname, "Two Gun". Adler's dog Trixie attacked the robbers and drove them from the house, saving her owner's life. On April 27, Crowley was out joyriding in a stolen vehicle with his partner Rudolph "Fats" Durringer and dance hall hostess Virginia Brannen. When Brannen resisted Durringer's advances, Durringer shot and killed her while still in the car. Crowley then helped Durringer dump her body outside St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers.
Soon after finding Brannen's body the New York City Police Department escalated their efforts to find Crowley. On April 29, he was spotted in the Bronx driving a green Chrysler sedan along 138th Street near the Morris Avenue Bridge. Police engaged Crowley in a high speed pursuit but he was able to escape after a running gun battle. Detectives later found that the bullets extracted from a police car matched those that killed Virginia Brannen, among other unsolved shootings. The following day, Crowley's car was found abandoned with bullet holes and bloodstains on the inside. On May 6, Crowley was sitting in a parked car with his 16-year-old girlfriend Helen Walsh on Morris Lane in North Merrick, Long Island when he was approached by two local police officers, Patrolmen Frederick Hirsch and Peter Yodice. When asked to show his ID, Crowley fired at the officers, killing Hirsch and wounding Yodice, and sped off.
The following day, Crowley, along with Helen Walsh and Fats Duringer, was tracked down to a fifth-floor apartment in a rooming house on West 91st Street. The residence belonged to a former lover who, upon seeing Crowley with a different woman, notified the police. The NYPD assembled a large force totaling 300 police officers armed with rifles, submachine guns, and tear gas outside the apartment building, attracting the attention of 15,000 bystanders. Crowley and the police exchanged gunfire for nearly two hours, with the police firing an estimated 700 rounds into the building. Walsh and Durringer reloaded Crowley's pistols as they overheated. Crowley also picked up and threw back several tear gas grenades thrown into the apartment through a hole cut into the roof. He finally surrendered after he had suffered four gunshot wounds and had begun bleeding heavily. Arresting officers found two pistols strapped to his legs when they patted him down.
Trial and execution
In less than three weeks, Crowley was tried and convicted for the murder of police officer Frederick Hirsch on May 29. His partner, Fats Durringer, was found guilty of the murder of Virginia Brannen and both men were sentenced to death on June 1. Spending his last year on death row at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, Crowley remained a disciplinary problem, stuffing his prison-issued uniform down the toilet, setting fire to his bed, and frequently making weapons out of homemade objects. His attitude became somewhat more serene as the date of his execution neared, and he reportedly adopted a starling which frequently flew into his cell. On January 21, 1932, after Durringer had been sent to the electric chair, Crowley's last words to Warden Lewis Lawes were to ask for a rag. He said "I want to wipe off the chair after this rat sat in it." It is not clear if the request was granted. He was 19 when he was executed.
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- Downey, Patrick (2008) Bad Seeds in the Big Apple: Bandits, Killers & Chaos in New York City 1920-1940, Cumberland House Publishing