Killed in Suffield in the Line of Duty

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Richard Purcell Horan is the first and only FBI Agent killed in Connecticut. It happened in Suffield on Good Friday, April 18, 1957.

Intelligent, fun-loving and witty, Richard Horan liked to dance and drove a red Ford convertible. He planned to build a house on Terry Road in Hartford for his wife, Helen, and Richard, their 2-year-old son. The day after he was killed would have been his 35th birthday.

Richard entered the FBI in 1948. At the time of his death, he was working in the New Haven office which dealt with spies, Atomic Energy Act cases, alien registration violations, Communist Party investigations and extortion cases. But the bread-and-butter investigations were bank robberies and fugitive searches. Special Agent Horan was assigned the Francis Kolakowski case.

Francis Kolakowski was an ex-convict, known since boyhood as Machine Gun Kos because he constructed home-made machine guns. On April 3, he was to appear in court on a morals charge involving his daughter, Carolyn, aged 13. However, four days before, arguing about divorce, Kolakowski killed his wife, an act which was witnessed by their daughter. Kolakowski was arrested, but escaped. Thinking he crossed the state line, the FBI was called in. The manhunt intensified a week later, on April 11, when a man identified as Kolakowski robbed an armored car guard of $66,573 in payroll money at the Hartford Machine Screw Company in Windsor.

On April 18, Wanda Slater, Kolakowski’s sister, was hanging out the wash at her East Street home in Suffield, when a voice called to her from the woods. Suspecting her brother, Wanda drove to the police station and told Julius Osowiecki, the policeman on duty, what she feared. Suffield police surrounded the home and waited for reinforcements from the FBI and other police who had been notified by Police Chief Frank Sutula. When Horan arrived 15 minutes later, police searched the grounds while Horan and others entered the house through the cellar bulkhead. Kolakowski surprised them at the top of the stairs as Horan was mounting them. Kolakowski fatally shot Horan at the same time as Horan’s shot missed Kolakowski. Retreating, the police did not realize until sometime later, after tear gas was fired into the house, that Kolakowski had killed himself with the same gun he had lifted at the armored car robbery.

Kolakowski had little money in his pocket. A few days earlier, a Suffield youth had found Kolakowski’s underground hideaway and a buried Mason jar with $1,621 in it. $500 was found in a box of tissues at Wanda’s house. Police suspected both were part of the payroll, but unverified, the money went to the Kolakowski estate. The rest of the payroll was not found until 24 years later.

In 1981, Curtis Stoldt and Andrea Golden found a pile of coins and decayed bills a foot deep in a tobacco field about five miles from the factory. Faded paycheck stubs with the names of the screw company employees were found, proving it was the missing loot. The money had remained hidden despite searches by more than 70 police in 1957 after a stolen car, reportedly used in the robbery, was found there.

Interestingly, Stoldt, one of the finders, became an East Hartford police officer who, among other things, arrested bank robbers. The salvaged money probably went to Aetna, who insured the armored truck.

It was estimated that Horan’s widow received around $35,000 in death benefits. She died in 2003 at the age of 79. Their son Richard lives near Boston.

Richard Horan would have been 99 in 2021. His name lives on. A firearms training facility used by police and FBI officers in Middletown was named after Middletown’s Sergeant George Dingwall and Richard Horan in 2009. Horan’s name is inscribed upon the Connecticut Law Enforcement Memorial in Meriden. A write-up of his life and service can be found on the FBI Hall of Honor. A segment of I-91 from the Hartford/Windsor line to the Massachusetts border is also named for him. Richard’s photo hangs in the Suffield Police Department at the request of former Suffield policeman David Winter, who wants Horan to be remembered. Perhaps the Bridge Street Park could be named after him? David nominated Horan to receive the Blue Heart medal. Similar to the Purple Heart medal awarded to military personnel, the Blue Heart medal is a national award given to local, municipal, state and federal law enforcement personnel who were seriously wounded, killed or suffered severe PTSD in the line of duty. The medal, numbered 007, was given to Richard’s son. Rest in peace, Richard.

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