Francis "Two Gun" Crowley
The detectives raced over the West 90th Street address with their sirens wailing. They knew time was against them since the information provided by Billie Dunn was already 24 hours old. When they pulled up in front of her building, located near the corner of West End Avenue, everything seemed normal. Detectives Dominick Caso and William Mara cautiously entered the lobby and hurried up the tenement steps. Just as they reached the landing on the fifth floor, they bumped into reporters from The New York Journal, including a staff photographer. They had just knocked on the door to apartment #303 when Caso and Mara arrived.
"Who's there?" asked a high voice from behind the door.
"I'm a newspaper photographer, Crowley!" said one of the men. "I want to get some pictures and talk to you!"
"Beat it!" the voice answered. On instinct alone, Caso suddenly pulled the reporters away from the front of the door. At that very moment, the door crashed open and Crowley emerged with two guns blazing. The detectives pulled out their weapons and returned fire, forcing the gunman back inside. Crowley slammed the door and screamed back at the cops.
"Come and get me, coppers!" he shouted. "I'm ready for you!"
In the meantime, down in the street, more police were arriving by the minute. The gunshots were audible even from the sidewalk and cops were already scrambling for cover. Police brass from all over the borough converged on the scene when it was learned that Crowley had barricaded himself inside an apartment. Police Commissioner Mulrooney arrived within minutes to take charge. As police tried desperately to clear the streets of pedestrians and curiosity seekers, Crowley began shooting out the windows.
"I'm up here! I'm waiting for you!" he screamed. Inside the tiny three-room apartment, Duringer and Crowley prepared for battle. Helen Walsh, terrified out of her skin, jumped under the bed in the corner of the room and remained there for the duration of the fight. Down in the street, cops took cover under their police cars and returned fire at the apartment. Machine guns were brought to the scene and marksmen fired a barrage of bullets at the windows facing 90th Street. A command center was hastily set up around the corner on West End Avenue while more people assembled in the area. Everyone wanted to see what was happening. Every few minutes, Two Gun or Duringer would appear at a different window and let off a dozen rounds at the cops. In return, police fired double-barreled shotguns at the fifth floor, knocking bits of concrete and glass off the building. The debris crashed into the street below, sending people diving for cover under cars and into storefronts. The New York Times called it a "No Man's Land" and a "battlefront."
Emergency units from all over the city descended upon 90th Street and hastily set up their gear. Hundreds of cops surrounded the block and fired continuously at the windows of the apartment. An hour later the crowd had grown to more than 15,000 spectators, some who had to jump behind parked cars to escape being hit by flying bullets. On the roof of 303 W. 90th, a few courageous officers made their way to the roof. They chopped a hole through the ceiling and dropped several canisters of tear gas through the opening. Crowley fired his guns through the roof, sending the police running. Then he picked up the smoking canisters and tossed them into the street. The staccato sound of machine guns echoed through the neighborhood, and small fires broke out along the block where the battle was most intense. A furious rain of bullets crashed onto the police cars below as Crowley cursed and laughed at the destruction.
"You ain't gonna take me alive, coppers!" Crowley yelled.