The Gangster Era
The Gangster Era

Pretty Boy Floyd

Bank Robber


Posted October 2023

FBI Charles Pretty Boy Floyd
Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd
Public Enemy #1

Floyd was a bank robber who had killed several law enforcement officers. On June 17, 1933, trying to free prisoner Frank Nash, Floyd and associates killed four officers and Nash in what became known as the Kansas City Massacre. This was the impetus for agents to carry firearms; before relying on police partners to make arrests. Floyd was named Public Enemy #1 July 23, 1934, and was shot to death by a group of police officers and FBI agents led by Melvin Purvis on October 22, 1934, in East Liverpool, OH.

FBI Pretty Boy Floyd Shotgun
Pretty Boy Floyd Shotgun

Pretty Boy Floyd used this Fabrique Nationale Browning shotgun with shortened stock and barrel and added foregrip.

Pretty Boy Floyd

WIKIPEDIA Charles Arthur Floyd
(February 3, 1904 – October 22, 1934)
Nicknamed Pretty Boy Floyd, was an American bank robber. He operated in the West and Central states, and his criminal exploits gained widespread press coverage in the 1930s. He was seen positively by the public because it was believed that during robberies he burned mortgage documents, freeing many people from their debts. He was pursued and killed by a group of Bureau of Investigation Agents (BOI, later renamed to FBI)

The BOI named Floyd "Public Enemy No. 1" on July 23, 1934, following the death of John Dillinger. Local police and BOI agents led by Melvin Purvis shot Floyd on October 22, 1934 in a corn field in East Liverpool, Ohio. Accounts differ on who shot him and the manner in which he was killed.

Floyd and Richetti had left Buffalo, New York on October 18, and their vehicle slid into a telephone pole in heavy fog. No one was injured, but the car was disabled, so they sent two female companions to get a tow truck. They planned to have the women accompany the tow truck driver into town and have the vehicle repaired while they waited by the roadside.

After dawn on October 19, motorist Joe Fryman and his son-in-law David O'Hanlon passed by, observing two men dressed in suits lying by the roadside. They thought it suspicious and informed Wellsville, Ohio police chief John H. Fultz. Fultz investigated with officers Grover Potts and William Erwin. Richetti saw the lawmen and fled into the woods, pursued by two officers, while Fultz went towards Floyd. Floyd immediately drew his gun and fired. During the ensuing gunfight, Fultz was wounded in the foot and Potts was wounded in the right shoulder. Floyd fled into the forest. After enlisting the help of another local police officer, Chester C. Smith (February 14, 1895 – October 23, 1984), who had served as a sniper during World War I, the group of lawmen resumed the pursuit and successfully apprehended Richetti, but Floyd remained on the run. News of the search quickly spread. Local police in the surrounding areas were mobilized, and a team of BOI agents was quickly dispatched.

On October 22, Floyd was able to hitch a ride to East Liverpool, Ohio where he obtained food at a pool hall owned by his friend Charles Joy. Differing accounts of the events that followed were given by responding BOI agents, local law enforcement officers, and nearby civilians. All agree that Floyd was confronted by a group of lawmen soon after leaving the pool hall, and attempted to flee on foot. Soon after he was shot and wounded by pursuing officers, who then arrested Floyd and formally placed him in federal custody. Accounts differ about which officers fired at Floyd, how many times they fired, and in what sequence.

According to the BOI, their agents alone participated in the final confrontation with Floyd, and local law enforcement arrived later. BOI accounts state that four of their agents, Samuel K. McKee, Jr., David E. Hall, and Winfred E. Hopton led by Purvis, and four members of the East Liverpool Police Department, Herman H. Roth, Jr., Chester C. Smith, and Glenn G. Montgomery, led by Chief Hugh J. McDermott, were searching the area south of Clarkson, Ohio in two cars. They saw a car move from behind a corn crib and then move back. Floyd then emerged from the car and drew a .45 caliber pistol, and the BOI agents opened fire. Floyd reportedly said, "I'm done for. You've hit me twice."

However, a news report from the time states that Floyd crawled out of the corncrib toward the Dyke automobile, then changed direction toward a wooded ridge. Purvis yelled "Halt!" but Floyd ran. Purvis called out "Fire!" and Floyd was mortally wounded by four bullets. Handcuffs were placed on his wrists. Floyd asked, "Who the hell tipped you?" Floyd refused to answer Purvis's questions about the Kansas City Massacre, but did say, "I am Floyd…where is Eddie?" referring to Adam Richetti. Thinking he had been shot twice, he remarked, "You got me twice." Purvis did not disclose Floyd's last words. Allegedly four days before, Floyd and two accomplices had robbed a bank of $500. Floyd's share of his last bank robbery was $120. Among Floyd's effects found on him was a watch and a fob. Each had ten notches, allegedly for ten persons Floyd had killed.

Retired East Liverpool police captain Chester Smith described events differently in a 1979 issue of Time magazine. He was credited with shooting Floyd first, and he stated that he had deliberately wounded Floyd but not killed him. "I knew Purvis couldn't hit him, so I dropped him with two shots from my .32 Winchester rifle." According to Smith's account, Floyd fell and did not regain his footing, and Smith then disarmed him. At that point, Purvis ran up and ordered, "Back away from that man. I want to talk to him." Purvis questioned Floyd briefly and received curses in reply, so he ordered agent Herman Hollis to "fire into him." Hollis then shot Floyd at point-blank range with a sub-machine gun, killing him. The interviewer asked if there was a cover-up by the FBI, and Smith responded: "Sure was, because they didn't want it to get out that he'd been killed that way."

FBI agent Winfred E. Hopton disputed Smith's claim in a letter to the editors of Time, published in the November 19, 1979 issue. He stated that he was one of four BOI agents present when Floyd was killed on a farm several miles from East Liverpool. According to Hopton, members of the East Liverpool police department arrived only after Floyd was already mortally wounded. He also claimed that, when the four agents confronted Floyd, he turned to fire on them, and two of the four killed him almost instantly. Smith's account said that Herman Hollis shot the wounded Floyd on Purvis's order, but Hopton claimed that Hollis was not even present. At least one other source discredits Smith's version, stating that although Smith's story received wide currency, Hollis was not at the orchard that afternoon. Hollis' FBI profile does not mention his participation in this incident. Hopton also stated that Floyd's body was transported back to East Liverpool in Hopton's own car.

Pretty Boy FloydFuneral
Floyd's body was embalmed and briefly viewed at the Sturgis Funeral Home in East Liverpool, Ohio before being sent on to Oklahoma. His body was placed on public display in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. His funeral was attended by between 20,000 and 40,000 people and remains the largest funeral in Oklahoma history. He was buried in Akins, Oklahoma.

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