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January 2, 1932, Two Brothers Kill Six Police Officers Near Brookline, Missouri - Today In Crime History

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On this date, January 2, in the year 1932, two brothers, Harry and Jennings Young, killed six law enforcement officers who were trying to arrest them just outside Brookline, Missouri.  Known as the “Young Brothers Massacre,” it was the worst single gun battle killing of U.S. police officers in the 20th century.

The Young brothers were known to law enforcement officers of southwest Missouri as small-time thieves. Each had served prison terms in the Missouri state penitentiary for burglary and theft. The brothers had established an auto-theft ring and were wanted for charges related to the attempted sale of a stolen vehicle. One brother was also suspected of killing a law enforcement officer in Republic Missouri. On January 2, 1932, the Sheriff of Greene County, Missouri, received information indicating that the brothers were at their family’s farm near Brookline, Missouri. The Sheriff Hendrix assembled a posse of lawmen and set out for the farm. The ten police officers and one civilian who went to arrest the brothers were by today’s standards unprepared for the job. While the officers did have teargas, they carried no firearms other than handguns, and most had no spare ammunition in their possession.

Upon arriving at the farmhouse, the law enforcement officers assembled in the front yard and yelled for the brothers to come out. The officers received no response, but heard movement inside the house. The Sheriff ordered tear gas to be fired into the residence, but the brothers did not respond. At that point law enforcement officers decided to kick down the back door of the home and enter the residence. When they did so, the brothers, armed with a shotgun and a rifle, opened fire from inside the house. Both of the officers that had attempted to enter the house were mortally wounded. The law enforcement officers in the yard began shooting into the windows of the residence and the brothers inside started shooting at the exposed lawmen outside. Another three officers, were soon gunned down. The surviving officers, out of ammunition and pinned down were forced to abandon their dying comrades and flee for their lives. Unknown to the fleeing officers, one lawman remained and was still alive and uninjured, crouching behind a storm cellar at the rear of the residence. Once the brothers inside the house became aware of the remaining officer, one crept up behind him and murdered him with a shotgun blast to the back of the head. The brothers took both money and weapons from the fallen officers and fled.

A national manhunt commenced, and the Young brothers were soon tracked to Houston, Texas. On January 5, 1932, law enforcement officers entered a house the brothers had rented a room in and the brothers had retreated to a bathroom. Officers called on the men to surrender, but were met with gunfire. After the police officers returned fire, there was a period of silence, and then several shots were heard. The coroner concluded that the brothers had shot each other in a suicide pact to avoid capture.

Sources and more information:

The Young Brother's Massacre, by John Woodside, Springfield Publishing Co., 1932

The Young Brothers Massacre, The Bloodiest Chapter in the History of the Greene County (Missouri) Sheriff’s Department, by Jim Barber

Descendants remember officers slaughtered in '32, by Kathleen O'Dell, News-Leader.com

 

Watch The Young Brothers Massacre on PBS. See more from OzarksWatch Video Magazine.

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Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.