End of Watch: 03/12/1954
Agency: Seattle Police Department
County: King County
On Friday, March 12, 1954, around 10:40 a.m., three men entered the lobby of the Seattle First National Bank at 404 N. 85th St. They wore fake noses and glasses as a disguise. Many bank employees and customers thought it was all a joke until they saw the guns. Suspect #1 took the bank manager to the vault. Suspect #2 stood in the lobby and watched the entrances. Suspect #3 went to the teller cages and started putting money into bags. A bank employee managed to activate the silent alarm. An SPD dispatcher broadcast the bank alarm at 10:51 a.m.
The first three officers to arrive were Sgt. Howard Slessman, Car 252, Officer Vernon Chase, Car 223 and Officer Frank Hardy, Car 213. The main entrance to the bank was on 85th St. There was another entrance at the east end of the bank by the parking lot. The glass in the bank’s windows was a type of one-way glass which made it almost impossible for the officers to see inside. But the suspects inside could easily see what was happening outside.
Sgt. Slessman arrived on the south side of N. 85th and started walking towards the main entrance of the bank with a shotgun. Officer Chase was walking east from N. 85th and Greenwood with a shotgun. Slessman told Chase to cover the east door. Inside the bank, Suspect #1 saw the officers, and yelled to #3 that someone had tripped the alarm. Slessman went to the main entrance and looked inside through the two sets of double glass doors. He saw many people in the lobby, and it appeared to be business as usual. He went through the outer doors. He saw a man in the lobby coming towards him. He thought it was a bank employee coming to explain the false alarm. The man, Suspect #3, stopped about 8 feet from the inner door where he was joined by #2 who raised his .45 semi-automatic pistol, and fired through the glass of the inner door. The bullet hit Slessman in the shoulder and entered his upper torso. Slessman went down. Suspect #2 came through the door, put his gun to Slessman’s head, and told Slessman to stay where he was. He then calmly walked back into the bank.
Suspects #1 and #2 started walking through the lobby towards the east door. Slessman could see Officer Hardy, armed with a shotgun, moving from the sidewalk east of the bank and towards the east entrance. Suspect #2 saw Hardy approaching. He fired a shot through a window hitting Officer Hardy in the head. As Officer Chase moved towards Officer Hardy, Suspects #1 and #2 walked out the east door into the parking lot. Suspect #2 shot Chase in the abdomen, and Chase went to the ground. No shots had been fired by the officers. Suspect #3 used his pistol to break out a window on the west side of the bank. He jumped out the window with a bag containing $6,900. Another bag had been dropped inside the bank. It contained $90,800.
Suspects #1 and #2 got into the getaway car at the northeast corner of the bank parking lot. It was a green late model Oldsmobile with Washington license 224344A. They left the lot and went north on Phinney as other officers were arriving at the bank. Officer G. D. Boyer drove into the bank parking lot. A woman was yelling that a man had run behind a yellow house on Phinney. Officer Boyer then saw Suspect #3 getting into the getaway car. He chased the suspects north on Phinney until he lost sight of the car at N. 102 St.
Back at the scene, officers and citizens, including doctors and nurses from a nearby clinic, were doing all they could to help the wounded officers until ambulances arrived. Officer Hardy died enroute to Harborview County Hospital. Sgt. Slessman was taken to Providence Hospital. Officer Chase was taken to Harborview.
About ninety minutes after the robbery, the getaway car was found abandoned in a parking lot at 24 Ave. NW and W 56 St. It had been stolen from the Broadway area several days earlier. The license plates on the car had been stolen from a Studebaker in an auto wrecking yard. It was eventually believed the suspects made their final escape from Seattle by boat.
Officer Frank Hardy was survived by his pregnant widow, Rolene, and his daughter, Antoinette. More than 1,000 people attended Frank’s funeral at St. James Cathedral. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery. Frank and Rolene’s son, Frank W. Hardy, Jr., was born On April 26, 1954 at Providence Hospital.