OFFICER GENE W. PERRY – EOW: 9-21-1930
By: Officer Mike Severance – North Precinct
On September 12, 1930, Officer Gene W. Perry, 43, was assigned to escort duty. He escorted Mr. J.W. McGinnis from the Dexter Horton Branch of Seattle First National Bank to the Central Terminal Station at 8th Ave. and Stewart St. Today we know it as the Greyhound Bus Station. McGinnis was carrying a money bag with $7,000 to cash the pay checks of employees working at the concessions inside the Station. Perry and McGinnis had arrived on the Stewart St. side of the Station around 10:45 a.m., and had started walking to the main entrance. A man stepped out of a Studebaker parked near that entrance. He was wearing a suit, a felt hat, and kid skin gloves. He also wore glasses and had a rifle. He told McGinnis to drop the money. Officer Perry reached for his revolver. The suspect fired two shots. One shot hit Perry in the abdomen. The other pierced a lung. Officer Perry fell to the ground. The suspect again told McGinnis to drop the money. McGinnis dropped the money bag and ran. The suspect fired one shot at McGinnis, and missed. The suspect got into the Studebaker and fled, leaving the money bag on the pavement. Some witnesses thought an accomplice was driving the getaway car.
Detective Joseph P. Smith was nearby, and heard the shots. He ran to the scene and commandeered a citizen’s car. He pursued the suspect to Mercer St. where the suspect suddenly stopped. The suspect got out of the Studebaker, and leveled his rifle at Smith. He told Smith to leave or get shot. Smith turned the vehicle around and left. Smith was able to see the suspect was the only person in the Studebaker, and he got the license number. The license plates had been stolen.
Back at the scene of the shooting, many citizens were doing what they could for Officer Perry. Mr. Tex Prince and Mr. P. S. Swanzey lifted Officer Perry into a private automobile driven by a woman. They drove Officer Perry to City Hospital. The entire Seattle Police Department was mobilized to track down the suspect who was dubbed the “kid-gloved bandit”. Detectives collected three expended rifle shell casings at the scene.
Officer Perry was not expected to survive. His condition deteriorated over the next two days. Then he started to show signs of improvement. But he developed an infection and pneumonia. He died on September 21, 1930. His wife, Lillian and his ten year old son, Ted, were at his bedside.
Officer Gene Perry’s funeral was held at the Butterworth Chapel on September 23, 1930. He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery.
There were numerous witnesses to the shooting. Several possible suspects were arrested. But they were all released for lack of a positive identification. On September 27, 1930, four days after Officer Perry’s funeral, Officer Walter G. Cottle was shot at 12 Ave. and E. Alder. He died from his wounds. The suspect who shot him was a well-dressed male wearing glasses who matched the description of Officer Perry’s assailant.
On November 7, 1930, the suspect vehicle in Officer Perry’s shooting was found in a garage on Harrison St. near Yale Ave. N. The owner of the garage said she had rented the parking space to a man who said his name was Arthur Jones. Jones matched the description of Perry’s killer. That was pretty much the last significant development in the case for a very long time.
On May 1, 1932, Chief of Detectives Charles Tennant announced that Officer Perry’s murderer had been identified. Frank Ellis Smith was the killer. Smith was part of a gang of robbers, and he had been shot and killed by officers in Oakland, CA on 11-30-1930. Smith was the leader of a gang which robbed a Southern Pacific train in Nobel, CA earlier that month. The $56,000 they took was being shipped via the U.S. Mail. Smith’s wife was the getaway driver in that robbery. Smith’s weapon of choice was a rifle. When it was later learned that Smith had been seen in Seattle around the time of Officer Perry’s murder, Tennant contacted the Postal Inspector in San Francisco, CA who had Smith’s rifle. Several test rounds were fired through the rifle. The expended shell casings, along with the three casings collected at the scene of Perry’s murder, were sent to Robert H. Crandall, a ballistics expert in Portland, OR. All the shell casings had been fired and ejected from Smith’s rifle.
Gene W. Perry was born around 1887 in Massachusetts. He registered for the WW I Draft in the City of Boston. There is a notation on Perry’s draft card stating he was uncertain of his age or place of birth. Gene moved to Seattle in 1916, and worked as a mechanic, eventually for the Boeing Company. On 7-17-1918, he married Lillian I. Magrath. He was commissioned as a Seattle police officer on 1-10-1922. At the time of his death, the family lived at 9243 Fauntleroy Ave.
Lillian Perry never re-married. She died in Seattle in 1956 at the age of 71. She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery with her husband. Ted Perry married. He and his wife had two sons. Ted died in 1994 at the age of 74. One of Ted’s sons lives in Arizona. The other lives in Seattle.
In May 1998, Officer Gene W. Perry was one of forty Seattle police officers, killed between 1881 and 1976, who were posthumously awarded the Washington Law Enforcement Medal of Honor. Officer Perry’s medal has been in the custody of the Seattle Police Department since 1998. Officer Perry’s grandsons would like to receive his Medal of Honor. The Department has their contact information, but, as of 5-1-13, the Department has not contacted them.