Retired Seattle Police Officers Association


By: Officer Mike Severance – North Precinct
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 1952 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 several days earlier from a garage on Bolyston Avenue. 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 was buried at Calvary Cemetery. Frank and Rolene’s son, Frank W. Hardy, Jr., was born on April 26, 1954 at Providence Hospital.
Between the Seattle Police Department and the F.B.I., 10,000 man-hours were spent on the investigation during the two weeks following the robbery and murder. All three officers had been shot with the same weapon. In July 1954, clues led to British Columbia and to one person in particular, Clifford Dawley. But it was not until October 1963 that a grand jury indicted two men for the murder of Officer Hardy and the bank robbery. Clifford Dawley and John Wasylenchuk were both convicted felons many times over. Dawley was in a Canadian prison when indicted. He had served one year of a nine year sentence. Under Canadian law, he could not be extradited until he had served his full sentence. But Wasylenchuk went on trial in federal court in Seattle in 1964. The prosecuting attorney, Brock Adams, was seeking the death penalty. Wasylenchuk was provided an alibi by a retired sergeant of the RCMP. The same retired Mountie had been a defense witness in a previous bank robbery case in which Wasylenchuk was convicted. Wasylenchuk was acquitted by a jury. With that acquittal, Dawley was never brought to trial.
Wasylenchuk had a heart attack and died in 1968. Dawley, who detectives believed was the triggerman during the robbery and murder, was tragically burned to death in a boat fire in 1974. The retired RCMP sergeant died of natural causes four months after the trial. The third suspect in the case was never officially identified.
Frank Wallace Hardy was born on January 2, 1923 in Hennepin County, MN. He lived most of his life in Seattle. He graduated from Franklin High School, and he served in the United States Marine Corps from 1943 to 1946. He married Rolene Boudreault who lived in Maine. Frank graduated from Seattle University in 1950. He was commissioned as a Seattle police officer on 2-26-1951. Before his death, Frank was re-modeling the family home in Edmonds into the family dream house. Following his death, fellow officers, including the Chief of Police, and tradesmen from throughout the area did a top to bottom remodel of the Hardy home. It was known as “Project Hardy”. Rolene and the children were able to move into the dream house Frank had always wanted for them.
Sgt. Howard Slessman recovered from his wounds and returned to duty. He eventually retired for service in 1967. Howard died in 1981. His son, Mike, joined the Seattle Police Department, and retired at the rank of Captain. Officer Vern Chase returned to duty, but never fully recovered from his wounds. After nineteen surgeries, he retired for disability in 1963. He died in 2002.
In May 1998, Officer Frank W. Hardy was among forty Seattle police officers, killed between 1881 and 1976, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. Rolene Hardy was still living in the family dream house in 1998. The Seattle Police Department never contacted her to tell her about the award or invite her to the awards ceremony. The Department never contacted her during the twelve years following the ceremony. Rolene Hardy died in 2010, never knowing her husband had received this state’s highest law enforcement honor. She is buried near her husband at Calvary Cemetery. Officer Frank Hardy’s Medal of Honor has been in the custody of the Seattle Police Department since 1998. Officer Hardy’s daughter lives in California. She would like to receive her father’s Medal of Honor. The Department has her contact information, but, as of 5-1-13, the Department has not contacted her.