5/7/1931 - Hoodlum punk, Francis "Two Gun" Crowley's brief criminal career comes to a violent end in New York City, compliments of 300 of the city's finest, armed with sub-machine guns, rifles, shot guns, pistols, and tear gas grenades ... an event witnessed by over 15,000 residents.
Fueled by his mother (a single German immigrant working as a maid, there are rumors the father is a cop) abandoning him into New York's foster care system as an infant, feelings of inadequacy as a result of his diminutive stature (the killer is barely five feet tall and barely weighs over 100 pounds) and never getting beyond the 3rd Grade in school, and the raging hatred he harbors for all police officers after the shooting death of his psychotic 25-year-old step-brother, John Crowley (who kills 27-year-old Police Officer Maurice Harlow in a gun battle feud over a month old traffic ticket), Two Gun swiftly moves from a juvenile delinquent car thief to an unrepentant murderer (picking up his nickname for his instant inclination to go to his pistols at the slightest of provocations ... and the fact that he keeps an extra two guns strapped to his legs).
Crowley's three month crime spree begins in February of 1931 with a bout of teenage wild in the form of simply crashing a dance (with two other men) in the Bronx sponsored by the American Legion. Asked to leave by several Legionaires, Crowley instead goes to his guns and wounds two people before fleeing into the night. Identified and charged with murder, Two Gun is found by police on March 13, but not for long ... firing his weapons freely once more, Crowley eludes capture by escaping into an office building on Lexington Avenue, after first gravely wounding Detective Ferdinand Schaedel. Hot already and getting hotter, two days later, with four others, Crowley robs a bank in New Rochelle, New York.
Two Gun's Two Guns
A month later Two Gun is in action again (with two confederates) during a home invasion of the West 90th Street apartment of wealthy real estate investor Rudolph Adler. Not happy with the slim pickings he finds in the broker's abode, Crowley shoots the man five times, and is about to kill Adler with a bullet to the brain, but instead, flees the apartment when the real estate agent's dog Trixie goes berserk and attacks the gunman (both Adler and dog survive the encounter). Crowley's next criminal stupidity is going for a joyride in a stolen vehicle with one of his partners, an imbecile almost twice Crowley's age named Rudolph "Fats" Duringer, and his date, Virginia Brannen, a hostess at local dance hall called the Primrose Dance Palace. Out for a spin, the night turns evil when Brannen resists Duringer's advances, and angered, the outlaw rapes and then kills the woman (with Crowley driving and helping to dispose of the body).
Murder now on his resume, though he didn't do the shooting, Crowley soon earns his own gun notch. Spotted driving a green Chrysler sedan around the Bronx, Crowley engages in a running gun battle with police over the streets of the city and once more escapes, but doesn't go far. On 5/6, he is at a deserted spot that young lovers use called Black Shirt Lane in north Long Island, kissing his 16-year-old girlfriend, Helen Walsh. Unfortunately for all involved, the couple is then joined by a pair of policemen on routine patrol through the area, officers Frederick Hirsch and Peter Yodice. Checking the occupants of the car, Hirsch turns his flashlight on Crowley and asks to see the young man's license ... instead of driving authorization though, Crowley suddenly slams the car door into Hirsch, knocking the officer off his feet ... and then keeping him down permanently by firing three bullets into his body (Hirsch is 31-years-old). Then rubber burning, he vacates the scene in a hail of bullets sent his way by Yodice (both Crowley and Yodice are wounded in the exchange of lead).
Front page news, the next day an intrepid reporter with the New York Journal, seeking info on the young killer, tracks down a friend of Crowley's, a dance hall girl named Billie Dunn ... and she explodes when the killer's name is stated because Crowley, Duringer, and Walsh have kicked the woman out of her apartment on the fifth floor of West 91st Street and are using the place as a hideout. Off in a flash to reel in his scoop (after briefly pausing to inform the authorities and to pick up a staff photographer for the story), the reporter arrives before the cops and knocks on the door of the apartment. "Get out of here," Crowley responds with a growl. "We don't want any!" Seconds later as police arrive and yank the reporter and photographer out of the hall, the door flies open and Crowley steps out to do battle ... holding a pistol in each hand, another in a shoulder holster, and with his trousers rolled up, two more guns strapped to his legs. Emptying his pistols down the hall, Crowley begins a battle with the authorities that will last over two hours and be witnessed by thousands (and recreated to some degree in the James Cagney movie, Angels With Dirty Faces). Barricading the entry door, while Duringer and Walsh cower under beds, Crowley jumps from window to window, firing down at anything moving on the street, constantly reloading, picking up gas grenades and throwing them back into the street, and swearing at his housemates that both are "yellow" cowards. And he yells at the police too, giving crime movies to come one of their classic lines ... "COME UP AND GET ME COPPERS!" And eventually that is just what they do!
Cagney as Two Gun - Rocky Sullivan
in Angels With Dirty Faces
Wounded four times by police fire and choking from gas fumes, when the police finally break in to the apartment Crowley picks targets and pulls the triggers on his guns ... only to discover he has run out of ammunition. Not given a chance to reload, Crowley (Duringer and Walsh are arrested too ... Duringer will be sentenced to death and executed for the murder of Brannen, while Walsh is released with a warning to pick her friends better in the future) is handcuffed, strapped to a medical gurney, and escorted to a nearby hospital by a police officer who keeps a gun to the outlaw's head until they arrive at the emergency room.
Fast track to oblivion, in less than three weeks Crowley is patched up, put on trial, found guilty of murder, sentenced to death, and sent to Sing-Sing Prison to await execution. Relishing the headlines his outlaw antics have garnered, in prison Crowley continues to play "tough guy" ... processing into the prison, a metal spoon is found that can be sharpened into a knife is found in one of his socks, he curses and throws food at his guards, jams his clothes into the cell toilet, makes a bludgeon out of a piece of wire and heavy magazine that he uses to beat a guard unconscious, using sugar from meals he doesn't throw at the guards, he captures flies that he tortures and then kills, and despite matches being forbidden, manages to light his cage on fire. Eventually his cell is totally denuded and he is stripped naked ... at night a mattress is thrown in for Crowley to sleep on, and in the morning it is removed. Like the Birdman of Alcatraz, only when a wayward starling makes the barred window of Crowley's cell its home does the killer calm down ... moderately.
Time to pay the piper (over 2,000 people apply to witness the execution), on 1/21/1932, after a hearty meal and cigar, Crowley finishes walking his last mile in the prison's electric chair (25 reporters are on hand to document the event). But before he sits he has a favor to ask of the warden and requests a rag. "A rag! What for?" the warden asks ... to which Two Gun responds, "I want to wipe the chair off after that rat sat in it," referring to his former partner Duringer's demise only minutes before. Chair cleaned, strapped down, electrodes in place, Crowley calls the witnesses all "son-of-a-bitches" and then sarcastically growls, "Give my love to mother."
Francis "Two Gun" Crowley is 19-years-old when New York state sends him bye-bye!