REPUBLIC, Mo. – It was an event that shook the Ozarks and changed how law enforcement was done across America. Sunday marks 90 years since the Young Brothers Massacre, a shootout in which six officers were gunned down by accused criminals held up in a farmhouse. While the tragedy happened long ago, the lessons learned that day affect how officers protect and serve us to this day.
It’s easy to overlook the limestone memorial just outside Greene County Justice Center. The marker recalls the events of January 2, 1932, and includes the names of the six law enforcement officers (three from the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and three from Springfield Police Department) who gave their lives that day.
An event leading to the Young Brothers Massacre happened in June 1929 when Republic’s town marshal, Mark Noe, was shot and killed while he made a traffic stop on Main Street. Investigators named local resident Harry Young as the suspect. He and his brother Jennings, known criminals in the area, fled town.
Finally, in January 1932, law enforcement got a tip that the brothers were visiting their family for the holidays at a farmhouse off Farm Road 148- in an area that is now within Republic city limits. Records indicate a group of nearly a dozen officers went to arrest them. However, the brothers refused to come out and began firing shots from the windows. A gun battle between the Youngs and officers then ensued. When it was all over, Sheriff Marcell Hendrix, Deputy Ollie Crosswhite, Deputy Wiley Mashburn, Officer Charles Houser, Detective Sid Meadows, and Detective Tony Oliver were dead.
Investigators say, during the shootout at the farmhouse on January 2, the officers were caught off-guard. 1932 was a different time and place, and police weren’t used to encountering ambush situations. They had responded with handguns and didn’t have enough ammunition.
The event was a shocking wake-up call and unfortunate lesson for law enforcement nationwide. Going forward, police training and preparation were increased to deal with a new breed of criminal.
Following the deadly shootout, Harry and Jennings Young fled to Texas where they later died by suicide during a standoff with police.
The Young Brothers Massacre remained the deadliest single event for law enforcement in the U.S. until the events of September 11, 2001.