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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Richard Case Nagell Shoots Up the State National Bank in El Paso...

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

I introduced Richard Case Nagell yesterday. He supposedly had foreknowledge of the JFK assassination, and conspiracy theorists believe he wanted to stop the plot. James DiEugenio writes in his book Destiny Betrayed: (page 97)

"Instead he went into a bank in El Paso ostensibly to purchase some American Express checks, since he was being paid through them by the CIA. There, he decided to fire shots in the bank that deliberately did not hit anyone. Thinking he would only be tried on a misdemeanor, he thought he would be able to produce evidence in court showing the machinations of the plot. But he was not allowed to mention American Express in court; he was charged with a felony, and some of the evidence he had in his car disappeared. Therefore, the plot proceeded."

Here is the El Paso Times from Saturday, September 21, 1963:

Nagell pleaded not guilty, and he even tried to commit suicide. Here is the El Paso Times from September 22, 1963:

James DiEugenio's source is Dick Russell's book, The Man Who Knew Too Much. Here is what Russell has to say about the robbery attempt: (page 291)

"His actions inside the bank were all by design, intended as a signal to whomever was waiting for him right across the Mexican border. When he asked teller Patsy Gordon for $100 in American Express traveler's checks, this was intentional. At our last meeting, Nagell suggested I reexamine his trial transcript and think about why the prosecution raised such an objection to his specific mention of American Express. In a letter to Greenstein, he indicated that it was through American Express that he was supposed to receive payment for his intelligence work in 1962 - 1963 -- money that Nagell had said "failed to materialize." Further, it is noteworthy that the letters "Am Ex" appear at least six times in the address book of Lee Harvey Oswald, which also contained the telephone number for the American Express office in Moscow."

Of course, that money failed to materialize! Nagell was not doing intelligence work in 1962 and 1963. And even if he was and even if he was being paid in American Express travelers checks, it still doesn't explain why he walked into a bank with a gun.

Some comments:

  1. Nagell tried to escape. He ran out the west side door and then down Oregon Street. He got into his car, drove down the alley, and tried to merge on to traffic on Overland.

  2. He was discharged from the army in 1959 and then went to work with the Liquor Board of the State of California.

  3. He was discharged from the Board.

  4. His was unable to pay support for his children for the last year and a half because he was unemployed, and because of his failure to pay support, the court ordered him not to see his children.

  5. Bizarrely, he said a set of license plates had been sent to him, and then a second set of plates were sent, and he decided to keep both.

  6. He declined to say anything about his motivations regarding what happened in the bank.

  7. They found a handcuff key in his underwear.

You can clearly see from the arrest reports that Nagell had some mental issues. And you can see further evidence of that in the FBI's 55-page report on Richard Case Nagell from February 4, 1964. Here is an excerpt (although you can read the salient points just below the report):

Some comments:

  • He said that "he was unhappy with the American judicial system, because he had attempted, through judicial procedures, to get to see his two children, a girl 3 1/2 and boy 2 1/2, in custody of his divorced wife, and the California court had not executed an order in keeping with his request." (p. 31)

  • He said he did not want an attorney. (p. 32)

  • He said he wanted to talk to the FBI, and then said he had cut his wrist and lost a pint of blood. (p. 33)

  • He did not think he was crazy, but he said he needed psychiatric attention. He was highly emotional and often could not remember what he was saying, or where he was. (p. 34)

  • He was hospitalized at the Veterans' Hospital from December. 20, 1963 until January 1963. "He stated that he had been confined in this hospital as a result of "spells" that he had been having and that he was in the hospital for observation." (p. 34)

  • He said that "he had not been able to get his feet on the ground since his discharge from the United States Army in 1959. (p. 34)

  • He "intimated" to the FBI that he gone into the bank "so that they would take him back in the hospital." He had been suffering from headaches for several days. (p. 35)

  • The report noted that "all the enlisted men of the 441st CIC Detachment thought that Nagell was slightly unbalanced and was not a normal officer. The reputation among the enlisted men was to stay away from Nagell." (p. 37)

  • Nagell told another prisoner that "after his release from the United States Army, he drifted from job to job and became more and more mentally confused as to his political, religious, and economic allegiances." He then supposedly joined the Communist party. He also said that during his trip from Los Angeles to El Paso, he "stopped by the side of the road on at least three occasions and attempted suicide with a pistol in his possession. He explained to STANGA [the other prisoner], however, that he did not have the guts to do it and just let things drift along." (p. 43)

  • Nagell's mother said that "her son had had a brilliant career in the military service up until the time of the plane crash near Washington, D.C. following which he was unconscious for three weeks in the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington. Upon his recuperation from these injuries, he underwent a complete personality change."

Richard Case Nagell was the sole survivor of a plane crash in 1954:

Dallas Morning News, November 30, 1954

Nagell was convicted of bank robbery. But he won a new trial on appeal because of some startling new information. Here is an excerpt from Nagell v. United States 354 F. 2d 441:

Thee startling new information was that Nagell sustained a physical brain injury from the plane crash in 1954. He was a damaged man and it showed.

How is this treated by conspiracy theorist James DiEugenio?

Nagell's plane crash and his subsequent brain injury is not mentioned at all in his book Destiny Betrayed. Nor will you find any excerpts from this legal decision, or from any of the many psychiatric examinations of Nagell over the years. He dismisses any concerns about Nagell's mental instability in Probe Magazine (Volume 3, No. 1):

"In the wake of Russell's book and the revelation of a plane accident, commentators like Mark Zaid and Paul Hoch have questioned Nagell's utility on the basis of possible mental instability. Probe has decided not to engage in telepathic psychiatry."

DiEugenio then published a letter that Nagell wrote and tells readers that that should be enough to "decide if Nagell is in control of his faculties." Here is a small excerpt:

DiEugenio believes this is all very clever because of the use of 'code' For instance, 'Young Regent of Yanquis Land' is JFK, etc. Aren't you now convinced of Nagell's sanity?

DiEugenio then closes with a figure of speech: "the poor devil rode the whirlwind."

Richard Case Nagell needed help. Jim Garrison and Dick Russell only made Nagell's situation worse by encouraging his delusions.

So why did Nagell shoot up the bank? Well, in June 1966 Nagell gave a specific reason for his actions. Stay tuned for tomorrow's blog post.

Previous Richard Case Nagell Blog Posts

The Importance of Richard Case Nagell to Some Conspiracy Theorists

Jim Garrison and a few conspiracy theorists think Nagell is a very important witness. But is he really?

Genesis of the Richard Case Nagell story

David Kroman met Richard Case Nagell at the Springfield Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. Stephen Jaffe, a Garrison volunteer, wrote a memo, relating Nagell's story through the eyes and ears of David Kroman.

Nagell was convicted of armed robbery and was sentenced to ten years, but his conviction was overturned because of startling new evidence.

Richard Case Nagell and the JFK Assassination

There is no credible evidence that Nagell had any foreknowledge of either Lee Harvey Oswald or the JFK assassination.

Nagell claims he met Oswald in Japan, Texas, Mexico City, and New Orleans. There is no credible evidence that he ever met Oswald.

Nagell went to Cuba and met with Fidel Castro and even played ping-pong with the man.

Insane Conspiracy Theories about Richard Case Nagell

Richard Case Nagell said that he knew the two Oswalds - Lee Harvey and Leon. Some conspiracy theorists believe this madness.

Combine one part crazy and one part ridiculous and what do you come up with? An early attempt at a unified conspiracy theory of the JFK assassination.

Two Smoking Guns of the Richard Case Nagell Story

Nagell sent conspiracy theorist Dick Russell one page of a military intelligence file which seemed to indicate that he was monitoring Oswald and his wife on behalf of the CIA. But does the whole document really show that?

Did Richard Case Nagell had an Oswald Military ID in his possession when he was arrested in September 1963?

Richard Case Nagell and Jim Garrison

Richard Case Nagell believes that he wasn't called to testify at Clay Shaw's trial because his testimony would have blown up Jim Garrison's case.

At a conference in September 1968, Garrison and his investigators discuss his face-to-face meeting with Nagell in New York City.

William Martin, an Assistant District Attorney working for Jim Garrison, tried to retrieve a tape that Nagell said contained the voices of three JFK assassination conspirators.

Richard Popkin, author of "The Second Oswald," writes Jim Garrison about Richard Case Nagell. Garrison staffer Tom Bethell thought the Nagell lead was useless.

Richard Case Nagell's Mental Health

Nagell won a full disability pension in 1982 and the 60+ page court case provides complete details on his mental problems.

Richard Case Nagell told a psychiatrist why he shot up the bank in El Paso in 1963.

The FBI spoke to Nagell's ex-wife, his mother, his sister, and one of his friends. They all agreed that Nagell had significant mental health problems.

Nagell visited the American consulates in Zurich and Barcelona in 1969. He was a deeply disturbed man.

Richard Case Nagell's Evidence

None of the so-called evidence that Nagell promised would materialize on his death has shown up. Did this evidence ever exist?


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