Francis “Two Gun” Crowley brought a reign of terror onto the streets of New York in the 1930’s with the climax of a two hour shoot-out with police that was witnessed by up to 15,000 bystanders gathered to watch the drama unfold.
Francis Crowley was from the wrong side of the tracks, a bad boy who would regularly get into fights, being small and skinny he had much to prove, he would usually pick fights with people who were bigger than him. Crowley would never be more than 5 foot 6 in height, with a case of small man syndrome and a fierce temper.
Crowley also had a deep hatred of the police, some rumors said that Crowley’s absent father was a policeman and it didnt help matter that his brother had been shot and killed by police.
Throughout his teenage years Crowley had been in trouble frequently usually for petty crimes, he would also begin to carry several guns with him at all times and soon he would have a reason to use them.
On 21st February 1931 Crowley began his crime spree that would make him famous. On that night Crowley and two of his friends gate crashed an event held by the American Legion in the Bronx, they were rowdy and causing trouble, some of the Legionnaires had enough and tried to remove them from the party but Crowley drew his gun and shot two of them. After this Crowley went into hiding.
On 13th March Crowley was caught by the police, however Crowley shot Detective Ferdinand Schaedel and made an escape, the detective was seriously wounded but lived. But Crowley didnt stay in hiding for long, four days later on the 17th March Crowley and four others robbed a bank in New Rochelle in Westchester County, no one was injured in the robbery but the police were even more determined to catch their men. But again Crowley went into hiding.
A month later Crowley and Fats Duringer and another accomplice forced their way into the home of Rudolph Adler, Adler was a wealthy real estate, the gang roughed Adler up a bit but left empty handed as Adler’s dog held its ground against the gang.
On the 27th April, Fats Duringer and Two Gun Crowley commit their first murder. They were joyriding in a stolen car along with a nightclub hostess, Virginia Brannen. Apparently Fats Duringer shot Virginia in the head and her body was dumped outside St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Yonkers. This act would guarantee both men would find themselves sitting in the electric chair.
Two days later as Crowley and Duringer were driving through New York City again when they were spotted by police, who gave chase, a gunfight broke out. Crowley and Duringer escaped again. The next day Crowleys car was found. however bullets taken from the police car matched the bullets taken from Virginia Brannen’s body. They also found bloodsoaked clothes and also drops of blood indicating that one or both had been hit in the gunfight. This only made the police more determined to catch Crowley, now for capital murder as well as everything else.
Crowley again managed to stay in hiding until the 6th of May when Crowley along with his girlfriend, 16 year old Helen Walsh were siting in a parked car on Long Island when they were approached by two patrolmen. The patrolmen asked Crowley for identification, he replied by opening fire on them killing one patrolman and injuring the other. The NYPD were incensed at the string of shootings.
Crowley again went into hiding but didnt stay hidden for long, they hid in an apartment on West 91st street, however one of the residents of the building was an ex-girlfriend of Crowley, who reported to police that he was hiding in the building. The NYPD arrived onto West 91st Street in large numbers, a total of 300 officers armed with Tommy Guns, shotguns, pistols and tear gas guns and surrounded the building. The Battle of 91st Street began. The gun battle lasted for two hours, police fired 700 bullets into the building and many gas canisters, Crowley duly returned fired even throwing some of the canisters back onto the street. Helen Walsh and Fats Duringer spent the time reloading Crowleys guns. The drama caught the attention of New Yorkers around 15,000 spectators showed up to watch the battle unfold.
Eventually Crowley was captured, along with Helen Walsh and Fats Duringer. Crowley was found with two guns strapped to his legs when he was arrested. The 16 year old Helen Walsh testified against both Crowley and Duringer, she was released without charge. Both Crowley and Duringer were sentenced to death and transferred to Sing Sing. The State didnt waste anytime executing the prisoners, Fats Duringer was sent to the chair on the 31st December 1931.
A few weeks later on the 21st January 1932 Crowley made his way to the chair, much to the relief of the prison staff, Crowley was an absolute nightmare prisoner for the few months he was there, he attacked officers, he attacked other inmates, he was caught in possession of home-made weapons, he set fire to his bedding, then stuffed his clothes into the cell’s toilet and flooded the cell.
Francis “Two Gun” Crowley was 19 years of age when he died. Its said James Cagney based his character Rocky Sullivan on Crowley.
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