They called him “Half-Pint Moron” and “The Puny Killer.” But for a brief period of three months, Francis “Two Gun” Crowley was the most dangerous man in New York City.
Crowley was born in New York City on October 13, 1912. His German mother was unmarried, and as soon as little Francis saw the first light of day, she gave him up for adoption. His father was rumored to be a policeman, which explained his hatred of anyone in a blue uniform. He was raised by a woman named Anna Crowley, and took her name, calling her his only mother.
By the time Crowley turned 18, even though he was only five feet three inches tall and weighed 130 pounds, he was already a full-fledged criminal and murderer. He teamed up with the portly Rudolph “Fats” Whener, who was said to be the greatest man to ever sit in the electric chair of Sing Sing, and the Mutt and Jeff crime team soon began terrorizing the city of New York. York.
On February 21, 1931, Crowley, Fats, and another unidentified man broke into an America Legion Dance Hall in the Bronx. They were not invited, and when a large number of legionnaires grew tired of kicking them out, Crowley began shooting with two pistols, giving him his nickname “Two Guns” Crowley. No one was killed, but two men were injured, and Crowley was now wanted by police for attempted murder. He was cornered in an office building on Lexington Avenue, but bolted from arrest, covering up Detective Ferdinand Schaedel.
Crowley continued his crazed crime spree in rapid fashion. First, Crowley and his team robbed a bank in New Rochelle. They then staged a home invasion of the West 90th Street apartment of wealthy real estate investor Rudolph Adler. Crowley shot the wrestler Adler five times, and just as he was ready to fire the last bullet into Adler’s skull, Adler’s dog Trixie went into attack mode and chased Crowley and his team out of the apartment.
In Crowley’s first involvement in a murder, he wasn’t even the shooter. On April 27, 1931, Crowley was driving a stolen car with his friend Fats in the back seat. Fats was busy trying to make moves with ballroom girl Virginia Brannen, who had just arrived for the ride. Brannen told Fats to keep his hands to himself. This did not please the portly gangster too much, so he shot her dead. Crowley and Fats discarded a bloodied Brannen outside St. Joseph Cemetery in Yonkers.
After Brannen’s body was found, the police published an all-points bulletin for psychopaths big and small. On April 29, Crowley was driving a green Chrysler on 138th Street in the Bronx when he was spotted by a passing police car. The cops chased after Crowley, firing shot after shot at the speeding Chrysler. Crowley bolted back and somehow managed to escape. The next day, police found Crowley’s abandoned car, riddled with bullets and smeared with blood. Crowley’s pursuit continued.
On May 6, Crowley was making out in a car with his girlfriend Helen Walsh, 16, in a secluded spot on Morris Lane in North Merrick, Long Island. Troopers Frederick Hirsch and Peter Yodice approached the car and asked for Crowley’s identification. Instead of taking out his wallet, Crowley pulled out a pistol and fired. He shot Hirsch to death and wounded Yodice, before fleeing the scene.
Now branded a cop killer, the newspapers gave Crowley instant fame. The New York Daily News wrote: “Francis Crowley, who takes pride in the nickname Two Gun Frank, and is described by police as the most dangerous criminal, was chased across the city last night.”
On May 7, police tracked Crowley down to a top-floor apartment on West 90th Street. Crowley hid there with Fats duringer and Helen Walsh, and what happened next will forever be known as “The Siege on West 90th Street”; the fiercest shooting in the history of New York City. Two detectives first attempted to enter the apartment and take Crowley and his team away peacefully, but Crowley would not do any of that. He yelled through the door, shooting lead, “Come and get me copper.”
The detectives retreated to the street, where they were joined by approximately one hundred policemen, who had come from all over the city. Crowley yelled at the assembled policemen, “I’m here. Come get me.”
Over the course of the next few hours, and as an estimated 15,000 onlookers gawked from the streets and opened the windows of homes, more than 700 bullets were fired into Crowley’s bedroom. Crowley had an arsenal himself and brazenly returned fire. Helen Walsh and Fats Whener reloaded the Crowley pistols for him while they hid safely under the bed. At one point, police punched a hole in the ceiling and threw gas canisters into Crowley’s room. Crowley calmly picked up the canisters and threw them out the window, beating several police officers below. Eventually, a dozen police officers broke down Crowley’s door, and with four bullets in his body, the police were finally able to subdue Crowley. Fats Duringer and Helen Walsh gave up without a groan.
Newspapers had a field day with this one. Crowley was described as “a crazy Irish gunslinger” (although he was actually German), with “the face of an altar boy”. Crowley and Fats were convicted of the murder of Virginia Brannen and Crowley of the murder of patrolman Frederick Hirsch. Both were sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing.
In prison, Crowley maintained his tough-guy demeanor. He made a club out of wrapped newspaper and wire under his bed. He then tried to fight his way out of the prison, hitting a guard over the head with his handmade club. His escape attempt having failed, Crowley set his cell on fire, then stripped off all his clothes and stuffed them into the toilet, flooding his cell. To do this, Warden Lewis E. Lawes forced Crowley to sit naked in his cell for several days, until the young maniac calmed down.
In his last days on earth, Crowley mellowed a bit. A bird flew into his cell and raised him. He also started drawing, for which he had more than a little talent.
On December 10, 1931, Fats duringer got the juice first. After Fats and Crowley hugged goodbye, and Fats began his last solo trip down the aisle to the chair, Crowley told a guard, “There goes a great guy, a good shot, and my friend.”
Crowley was less than charitable towards Walsh, whom he refused to see, even though she visited the prison almost every day. “She’s out!” he told the newspapers, “She’s hanging out with a cop! I won’t look at her!”
On January 21, 1932, Crowley followed the same path to the electric chair that his old friend Fats had traveled. After the black leather mask was covered over his face, Crowley’s last words were, “Send my love to my mother.” The lever was thrown and Francis “Two Gun” Crowley was executed at the tender age of nineteen.