Bandits kill Seattle Police Officer Frank Hardy during a Greenwood bank robbery on March 12, 1954.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 5/16/2002
  • Essay 3776
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On March 12, 1954, three bandits robbing the Greenwood Branch of Seattle First National Bank shoot and kill Seattle Police Officer Frank Hardy (1923-1954). Two other officers, Vernon Chase and Sgt. Howard Slessman, are seriously wounded. The killers are traced to British Columbia, but no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Brazen Crime

According to a 2010 account in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the killers opened fire ruthlessly and made a quick getaway, but left most their loot behind: 

"At 10:40 a.m. on March 12, 1954, three middle-age men walked into what was then the Seattle-First National Bank at 404 N. 85th St. wearing glasses as part of a disguise. 'I saw one of the men talking to the bank manager quietly and thought he was making some kind of joke because he was wearing a big false rubber nose,' a teller told the P-I at the time. One of the men pulled a pistol on bank manager Kenneth McElhaney and ordered him to open the vaults. A second man watched the front doors. The third robber went to the tellers' cages and grabbed cash.

"The roughly 20 people in the bank froze as the robber by the vault yelled to take only the large bills. One employee triggered a silent alarm at 10:43 a.m. Three officers – Hardy, Sgt. Howard Michael Slessman and Vernon R. Chase – arrived in separate patrol cars. 'I got my shotgun out and activated it,' Slessman told a P-I reporter that Friday. 'Then I ran in through the first of two sets of swinging doors ... I saw a man I thought was one of the bank employees. He was deliberate and cool as he swung up that automatic and fired at me right through the plate glass of the inside swinging doors.' The shot knocked him down and paralyzed his right arm. Slessman, who tried to reach for his shotgun but couldn't, had been hit in the lungs.

"Hardy was hit by a .45 caliber pistol shot when one of the robbers fired through a quarter-inch plate glass window. One of the bandits smashed a west window and leaped through. As he did, one of the two others shot Chase near an east door. The two robbers jumped into a stolen green Oldsmobile sedan, slowed about a block from the bank to pick up the other robber, then sped away northbound on Phinney Avenue North. During the race to escape, one of the robbers dropped a bag containing about $90,000. They escaped with only $6,900" ("P-I Archive: Story of 1954 Greenwood Bank Robbery").

A patrolman followed the killers in his police cruiser but lost track of their car about 18 blocks from the bank. The getaway car was later found in Ballard, but the perpetrators had vanished. Police eventually followed leads to Port Townsend and into British Columbia with no success, and the case went dark until 1963, when ex-convict John Wasylenchuk was arrested in Vancouver, B.C., as the suspect in Hardy's death. "Seattle police had theorized for years that the robbers were somewhere in Canada, and it was believed they were behind bars for other crimes. One longtime Seattle police official familiar with the case said investigators believe members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were involved with the 1954 crime. As late as 1958, investigators believed one of the robbers was a woman disguised as a man" ("P-I Archive: Story of 1954 Greenwood Bank Robbery").

Wasylenchuk was tried and acquitted, and no other suspects were tried for their participation in the crimes. Hardy, a graduate of Franklin High School in Seattle, left behind his wife Rolene, daughter Antoinette, 5, and newborn son Frank Jr., 12 weeks old. Slessman and Chase recovered from their wounds and returned to work in July 1954. 


Rae Anna Victor, Century of Honor: Excellence and Valor in Washington State Law Enforcement (Bloomington, Indiana: 1st Books, 2000), 139-140; Neil Maloney, Cops, Crooks, and Politicians (Seattle: Peanut Butter Publishing, 1993); Michael D. Brasfield, "An Examination of the Historical and Biographical Material Pertaining to the Violent Deaths Involving Seattle Police Officers (1881-1980)," Undergraduate thesis, University of Washington, 1980, p. 96; "P-I Archive: Story of 1954 Greenwood Bank Robbery," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 20, 2010 ( Note: This item was expanded on January 2, 2023.

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