Francis "Two Gun" Crowley
The Good Student
Francis Crowley was born on Halloween 1911 in New York City. His mother, a young German immigrant who worked as a domestic helper, placed him in a foster home when Francis was still an infant. At that time, she was single and unable to care for a baby. "Why should I wreck my happy home for that boy?" she later told reporters, "I am married to a man who has been very good to me but who is the type who might...kill me if he knew my past." Anne Crowley, the woman in charge of the foster home, or "baby farm" as it was called then, gave the infant her last name. She had very little money but tried to give the child whatever she could and managed to send him to school for a time. But Frank was underdeveloped; he was always the smallest student in class, which caused him to be introverted and lonely. He learned very little and his frustration got the better of him. He never made it past the third grade.
By the time he was 12, Frank was sent out to work a regular job. He got a job in a Manhattan factory and was a good employee. He gave his entire paycheck to his foster mother during those years. "He would bring his pay envelope home and give it to me," she testified later in court, "I did not suspect anything wrong with him." Unlike many of his contemporaries, Frank did not do drugs, smoke or drink to excess.
He began to hang around with outlaw gangs in the Bronx who taught him petty crime and how to steal. Because his foster brother, John, was an accomplished car thief, Frank wanted to be just like him. John taught him how to drive, and the little brother became fascinated with automobiles and the thrill of driving fast. While still a juvenile, Frank was arrested for car theft on several occasions, though he never did any prison time. Neighbors of the Crowleys told reporters that during one of his arrests, Frank was beaten badly by the police. Since that day, they said, he harbored a deep resentment of cops; a resentment that exploded into hatred when John was killed on the streets of Manhattan in 1925. But Frank continued his criminal career by stealing cars for the gangs and made more money doing stickups in Manhattan. In February 1931, Crowley was involved in a wild shootout in front of an American Legion club in the Bronx where three men were seriously wounded. A short time later, Crowley shot and wounded a detective who tried to arrest him in a running gun battle in Manhattan. While anxious police searched everywhere for him, Crowley turned up in nearby New Rochelle where he held up a bank at high noon. He managed to escape into the Bronx despite a dozen cops in hot pursuit. It was about that time when Crowley developed the street name "Two-Gun" because he always carried two guns and was quick to use them whenever the situation arose.