Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of Kansas City’s Union Station Massacre, which the Kansas City Star says gave rise to the modern FBI. At 7:20 a.m. on a Saturday, Three gunmen confronted a party of seven law officers in broad daylight in an attempt to free a criminal in custody. Within seconds, four officers and the prisoner lay dead, and two officers were wounded. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, whose agency was humiliated by the massacre, described the killings as “a challenge to law and order and civilization itself.”
At that time, FBI agents could not make arrests or carry guns. Hoover helped persuade President Franklin Roosevelt to decry, in his 1934 state of the union address, “organized banditry, cold-blooded shooting, lynching and kidnapping.” Congress responded by passing laws that made it federal crimes to rob a national bank, commit racketeering in interstate commerce, and transport stolen property and transmit threats across state lines. Felons no longer could cross state lines to avoid prosecution with immunity from federal action. “It changed those bureau agents from investigators to law enforcement officers, said James Fox, the FBI's official historian.