Father's Day Bank Massacre

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Father's Day Bank Massacre
Wells Fargo Center building in Denver, site of the Father's Day Bank Massacre when the building was called the United Bank Tower.
Location Downtown, Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Date June 16, 1991
9:14 a.m. – 9:56 a.m. (MDT)
Attack type
Robbery, mass murder
Weapons .38-caliber Colt Trooper
Deaths 4
Perpetrator Unknown
Motive Robbery
Accused James King
Verdict Not guilty

The Father's Day Bank Massacre was a bank robbery and shooting that took place on Sunday, June 16, 1991 at the United Bank Tower (now known as the Wells Fargo Bank Building) in Denver, in the U.S. state of Colorado. The perpetrator killed four bank guards and held up six tellers in the bank's cash vault. An estimated $200,000 was stolen from the bank. Nearly three weeks later, on July 4, 1991, authorities arrested retired police officer James W. King, age 55 at the time, for the crime. The subsequent trial was broadcast nationally on Court TV. After a highly publicized trial and nine days of deliberation, the jury acquitted Mr. King. The crime remains unsolved and is considered a cold case.[1][2]

Timeline of bank heist[edit]

Bank entry and murder of guards[edit]

At 9:14 a.m. on Sunday, June 16, 1991, a man identifying himself as the bank's vice president asked for entry into the bank through a side freight elevator. He called the bank's guard room using a street-level security phone. Guard William McCullum Jr. responded by riding the elevator up from the guard room. When the elevator doors opened, the gunman forced McCullum to ride to the subbasement area of the bank. There, the gunman killed McCullum, hid his body in a storage room, and took his electric pass card. The killer made his way through the bank tunnels and up one floor to the bank's basement-level area which housed the vault and guard station.[3][page needed]

During the journey, the intruder set off an alarm at 9:20 a.m. when entering a stairwell. The intruder made his way into the vault area and first entered the guard room. There, the gunman forced two guards, Phillip Mankoff and Scott McCarthy, into a battery room. Both men were shot and killed. Investigators believed a third guard, Todd Wilson, returned to the area during or immediately after the shooting. Upon his return, Wilson was shot several feet away from the battery room where Mankoff and McCarthy lay.[3][page needed] Upon investigation, police determined the shooter fired 18 shots during the killing spree.[4]

Before leaving the guard room and entering the vault area, the intruder removed and tampered with evidence so as to eliminate any trace of his identity. The perpetrator seized ten videotapes, bank keys, a two-way radio, and pages of the guard logbook.[3][page needed]

Holdup of tellers and robbery[edit]

Electronic records indicated that the intruder opened the vault door at 9:48 a.m. At that time, six vault employees were on duty processing cash deliveries. The intruder demanded that the employees cover their eyes and lie on the floor. He ordered the senior vault manager, David Barranco, to fill a satchel with cash from the work stations. Before leaving the scene, the assailant forced the tellers to crawl into a small room near the vault—otherwise known as a man trap. Confusing investigators, the robber neither filled up the entire bag with money nor took bundles of cash from the vault. The robber made his escape at 9:56 a.m. according to electronic records, leaving the tellers locked in the man trap. Using a broken spoon found on the man trap's door sill, the tellers freed themselves approximately 20 minutes after the robbery.[3][page needed]

Arrest and trial of James King[edit]

From the beginning of the robbery investigation, authorities suspected that the killer was associated in some way with the bank. Investigators questioned current and former bank employees until narrowing their search to James King, a retired Denver police officer and a former guard at the bank building. Mr. King was arrested on the evening of July 4, 1991.[2]

A jury of seven men, five women and two alternatives was chosen on the morning of May 19, 1992. The trial began the same day in the afternoon.

The prosecution's case[edit]

Denver Deputy District Attorney Bill Buckley led the prosecution against King. The prosecution contended that several pieces of circumstantial and eyewitness evidence pointed to James King's role in the crime. The arguments presented by the prosecution included that King:

  • Once owned a .38 Colt Trooper, the same type of weapon used in the crime, but said he disposed of it because of a cracked cylinder.
  • Was a former employee of the bank and thus allegedly understood the security systems.
  • Shaved his mustache after the crime.
  • Purchased a larger safe-deposit box after the crime.

After the trial, King lived what was described as "a hermit's existence" at his home at 665 Juniper Street, in Golden, Colorado. He died of dementia at a nearby hospice on May 21, 2013. His wife, who had stayed with him, died before him in 2009.[5]

The defense's case[edit]

Attorneys Walter Gerash and Scott Robinson defended James King.


  • Phillip Mankoff, age 41
  • William McCullum, age 33
  • Scott McCarthy, age 21
  • Todd Wilson, age 21


  1. ^ "Denver’s Father’s Day Massacre, 20 years later", Denver Post: The Rap Sheet, Denver, June 29, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Romero, John. "19 years later, Denver bank massacre still a mystery", Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine. Fox 31: KDVR, Denver, May 24, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Murders in the Bank Vault, New Social Publications, 1997. ISBN 978-0962216961
  4. ^ Arias, Ron. "A Bloody Sunday", People, August 5, 1991.
  5. ^ The Denver Post, Tuesday, June 11, 2013, pp 1A and 5A

Coordinates: 39°44′37″N 104°59′7″W / 39.74361°N 104.98528°W / 39.74361; -104.98528