El Paso

The Strange Story of Richard Nagell, John F. Kennedy and the State National Bank of El Paso

“Bank robber, ‘Manchurian Candidate’ linked to JFK assassination probe” read the headline. The Los Angeles Free Press article describes how “a rangy man with a vertical scar on his forehead strode into the State National Bank” in El Paso and requested $100 in traveler’s checks. Before the teller could comply, Richard Case Nagell, “whipped out a pistol and fired two shots into the ceiling”. Nagell than walked out of the bank and waited for the police to arrive. [1]

The incident at the El Paso bank is linked to the Dallas assassination of John F. Kennedy, according to Washington University philosophy professor, Richard Popkin. [1] What follows next is the tale of a man who officials believe was mentally ill while he insisted that he knew about the JFK assassination before it happened. Nagell died insisting that the U.S. government derailed him while covering up details of the JFK assassination.

This is the strange story of Richard Case Nagell.

The Los Angeles Free Press article described Nagell as “working as a CIA agent” who learned of a plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy “involving [Lee Harvey] Oswald and anti-Castro Cubans.” According to the article, Nagell reported the plot to the CIA. [1]

The CIA did nothing with the information, according to Nagell.

When Kennedy was assassinated, Richard Nagell was sitting in an El Paso jail.

Nagell was in the El Paso jail was because he wanted to be arrested at the bank “for the sole purpose” of being “arrested and detained by federal authorities.” [1]

The sensational article goes on to describe “zombie” killers. According to the 1975 article, a “zombie” is “a hypnoprogrammed [sic] robot.” [1]

In 1975, Project MKUltra was brought to light by the Church Commission. MKUltra was a series of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) experiments on humans looking into brainwashing and psychological torture. The experiments were conducted between 1953 and 1973.

Although the Free Press article says that Nagell had “dropped from sight” and was unreachable to collaborate in the article, Nagell says that is not true. In an August 12, 1975 letter to the Los Angeles Free Press, Nagell demanded that the publication “print a retraction of such lies and distortions,” or publish Nagell’s letter. [2]

In his letter to the publisher, Nagell wrote that the article’s author, William Turner, is a former FBI agent who has “proved himself adept at putting words” in Nagell’s mouth and of “knowingly and purposefully cited numerous lies” about Nagell. [2]

Nagell also wrote in the letter to the editor that he was a CIA agent. He added that he “had no fear of being implicated” in the assassination of Kennedy at the time of his arrest. [2]

Military Service

Nagell enlisted in the Army on August 5, 1948. [14]

According to Nagell, he served in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier from 1948 through about 1950 and then as an officer until 1959. In 1954, Nagell says “he was the sole survivor in a plane crash which resulted in a brain concussion, numerous physical injuries, and prolonged military hospitalization. [12]

Government officials have said that the accident caused Nagell to develop a mental illness.

The FBI report on the bank robbery confirms that Nagell entered the U.S. Army on August 5, 1948 and was honorably discharged as a captain on October 29, 1959. [14]

During the Korean War, Nagell received several commendations.

After the aircraft accident, Nagell was assigned to military intelligence. He worked in Japan and married a Japanese woman who later divorced him and took his two children with her.

After the Army, Nagell worked as an investigator.

When Things Get Strange

On June 8, 1962, Nagell was fired from his job at the State Beverage Department of Los Angeles after he was accused of taking a $20,000 bribe. According to Nagell, he was fired for “refusing to answer questions.” [14]

On July 16, 1962, Nagell was admitted to the hospital “for a small caliber gunshot wound to his right chest.” He was released on July 23, 1962. Nagell, according to the police records, “furnished only vague information regarding” the shooting to the investigators. [14]

Later, in 1963, Nagell told the FBI after his arrest in El Paso for the bank robbery, that in the evening of July 16, 1962, while driving near Malibu California two men “dressed in business suits” jumped into his car when he stopped. One of the men, according to Nagell, asked him where he kept his gun. Nagell told him it was in the glove compartment. When the man reached for the glove box, Nagell says he took out his gun from his waist and a struggle for the gun ensued. Nagell told the FBI that four shots went off during the struggle with one shot striking him in the chest. [14]

Nagell told the FBI agent interviewing him that the men drove him to the hospital and left him there. [14]

Before his El Paso arrest, on August 24, 1962, Nagell went to Mexico City via Cd. Juárez. [14] A few days later, on September 28, 1962, Nagell went to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and told embassy officials that “he felt he had been ‘let down’ by the United States government” because they refused to help him get his money that was due to him from State of California. [14]

On a subsequent visit to the Mexico City U.S. Embassy, Nagell asking who he should contact to “renounce his citizenship.” [14]

The Bank Robbery

On September 20, 1963 [3], Richard Case Nagell walked into the State National Bank, shot at the roof, walked out and waited to be arrested.

According to the FBI report, Nagell was arrested on September 20, 1963 on a charge of attempted robbery of the State National Bank. According to the FBI, Nagell slashed his wrists in El Paso on the night of his arrest. [14]

The wounds were superficial.

In El Paso, Nagell refused to disclose his reason for why he had attempted to rob the bank. He did, however, want to speak to the FBI. He also spoke to CIA agents.

Why did Nagell walk into the El Paso bank?

According to what he told the CIA, it was “because he wanted to be in custody when the assassination” took place in Dallas, according to a January 18, 1968 CIA memorandum marked “secret” that was released to the House Select Committee on Assassinations on August 23, 1978. [3]

The CIA memorandum says that Nagell “alleged” that he wanted to be in jail at the time of the assassination. [3]

However, Nagell says that “at the time of my arrest I was operating in an undercover role, having become involved in a domestic-inspired plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy and, leastwise ostensibly, other highly-placed government officials.” [4]

The FBI records show that Nagell told the FBI during an interview after the bank robbery that the motive for the robbery “was that he was unhappy with the American judicial system, because he had attempted, through judicial procedures, to get to see his children” who were in the custody of his former wife. [14]

George Norman Stanga, jailed at the El Paso County jail for “bad checks,” contacted the FBI on January 3, 1964 and asked to be interviewed by the FBI regarding Nagell, who was also incarcerated in El Paso. [14]

According to the FBI, Stanga told them that Nagell had told him that he had driven to El Paso from Los Angeles to meet a contact who would provide Nagell with “a visa and passport” so that Nagell “could leave the United States and eventually end up in Czechoslovakia.” [14]

The FBI report adds that Stanga told FBI agents that Nagell had attempted suicide with his gun several times on his way to El Paso but had not gone through with it. On the day of his arrest, according to Stanga, Nagell “left his hotel room, got in his car, and proceeded down the streets of El Paso looking for a policeman who looked like he would shoot it out with him.” [14]

Unable to find an El Paso policeman to have shoot out with, Nagell instead entered the State National Bank to “cause a big ruckus…fully expecting to be shot down by passing policeman.” [14]

However, Nagell provided a written statement to the FBI on January 6, 1964. In his statement, Nagell wrote:

“In September 1962, while I was in Mexico City a representative of a foreign government proposed to me that I participate in an act; such act being a criminal offense and inimical to the best interests of the United States. At that time I refused such proposal. In May, 1963, another representative of the same foreign government made the same proposal to me. At that time I agreed to such a proposal.” [14]

Nagell goes on to write that when he was informed in September 1963 that the preparations for his participation had been completed, he “refused the aforesaid proposal.” [14]

A week after his refusal to complete the mission, he was threatened with the release to the FBI of “derogatory information” about himself if he did not complete the mission. [14]

Nagell, concluded his written statement to the FBI with, “I did not actually attempt to rob any bank,” adding that he thought his “arrest would provide an immediate, though temporary solution to the problem” about the purported secret mission he did not want to participate in. [14]

On June 9, 1964, Richard Nagell was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the attempted bank robbery. [3]

On April 29, 1968, Nagell was acquitted, after a retrial and later released. [12]

Lee Harvey Oswald

Although Richard Nagell says he had contacts with Lee Harvey Oswald [2] no proof of this has surfaced. Oswald’s widow, Marina Oswald, “disclaimed any knowledge” of Nagell. [14] Nagell continued to insist over the years that he interacted with Oswald.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine assassinated John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The JFK assassination remains controversial to this day with several conspiracy theories about it being debated.

Richard Nagell was in the El Paso County jail when JFK was assassinated.

The CIA Connection

According to a 1978 CIA memorandum, Nagell came to the attention of the CIA “because of information furnished to the Agency [CIA] by the FBI” that Nagell “had in his possession the names of six CIA employees at the time of his arrest for bank robbery.” [3]

When the FBI informed the CIA of Nagell’s list of CIA names, the CIA opened an investigation. One of the names Nagell had was Richard Fecteau, an individual who was in a Chinese prison and “of six Agency employees.” [3]

Of the six names Nagell had, one of the names, John Richard Sloss had worked for the CIA since 1948, according to the CIA. An internal CIA document dated, March 3, 1965 looking into Sloss because of Nagell’s arrest, states that Sloss, then a Special Intelligence Duty Officer for the CIA was facing problems within the CIA because of “unfavorable” and “inconclusive” results in polygraph tests administered to him by the CIA. [13]

According to the CIA report, Sloss “has evidenced indications of deception in areas concerning divulging classified information to unauthorized individuals.” [13]

The CIA also recommended that “police and credit checks” of Sloss be made in several cities, including El Paso, Texas. [13]

According to the CIA’s research, although Nagell was not a CIA operative, “his story of being involved in espionage is not fully contradicted”. The CIA goes on to add that Nagell “could have been contacted by a Soviet agent” either in Washington or in Mexico City.

Nagell, for his part, argues that he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) starting in the “winter of 1955-56”. Nagell wrote that he was “assigned as a Case Review Officer” in Los Angeles. [4]

Nagell wrote that he “served as a non-paid, confidential informant off and on” until he resigned from the Army in October 1959. [4]

Nagell went on to write that he was employed by the CIA “in a capacity which can be accurately described as that of an agent, in every sense of the word.” According to Nagell, his CIA assignments included “travel to three Latin American nations and many states.” [4]

Nagell says that he was working for the CIA when he was arrested in El Paso for bank robbery. [4]

In May 1968, after his release from jail, Nagell says that he went back to work for the CIA. [4]

Threats To Expose U.S. Government Secrets

In 1969, after his acquittal and release from jail for bank robbery, Nagell appeared at several U.S. consulates in Europe threatening to expose U.S. secrets if the government refused to deliver on several demands he made. Among them was locating his wife and children.

State Department officials he met with described Nagell as “irrational” with the Berlin mission consular official urging him to call an Army psychiatrist. [9]

The Berlin mission considered “Nagell’s presence in Berlin undesirable.” [9]

According to a Zurich U.S. Embassy cable, Richard Nagell went to the Zurich U.S. Consulate on March 7, 1969 and “stated that if he received no satisfaction by five o’clock that afternoon he would carry out his threats and expose the US government on radio, television and in the press.” [5]

Nagell made a similar threat to the U.S. consulate in Barcelona on March 10. [5]

The FBI report into the bank robbery says that Nagell told the FBI agent interviewing him that Nagell was done “being a good citizen” and that he was “bitter, disgusted, disillusioned and disaffected” and that if he chose to go to another country “it would cost U.S. millions.” [14]

Jim Garrison Interviews Nagell

Carothers “Jim” Garrison was the district attorney for the City of New Orleans from 1961 to 1973. Garrison prosecuted Clay Shaw for conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Garrison believed that the CIA was behind the assassination of Kennedy. [7]

In less than an hour, a jury returned a not guilty verdict for Shaw after one of Garrison’s star witnesses died under “mysterious circumstances” and another revealed that he fingerprinted his daughter each day because feared his daughter was being replaced by spies. [7]

In 1989, Garrison told the Los Angeles Times that the Warren Commission looking into the assassination was “official fiction,” still maintaining that CIA ordered the assassination. [7]

In a CIA internal memorandum about Nagell dated November 28, 1968, Nagell is described as “one of the characters in the Garrison case.” [8]

According to the psychiatrist that interviewed Nagell in 1968, Nagell says that as the result of a Ramparts magazine article in January 1968, Garrison interviewed Nagell about the assassination in New York. Nagell told the psychiatrist that Garrison “planted” the suggestion that the CIA would “eliminate” him. [12]

On August 20, 1969, Nagell published an advertisement in the East Village Other, a New York underground paper. The advertisement said the following:

“Caught In The Act. Notice to the CIA and all SY shitheads who participated in Project Purple Shaft: After fiasco in the GDR you worms did your best to screw, blue and tattoo me. You even tried to have my ass dusted in Berlin … you F****ups. Not its my turn to do a little shafting.” The advertisement was signed, “Cordially, R. C. Nagell”. [10]

East Berlin

Nagell says that on June 11, 1968, “while his train was traversing the DDR [East Germany]” on his way to Berlin, “he was taken off the trains and illegally detained” by East German officials. [12]

According to a CIA memorandum of November 28, 1968, “the details of how and why Nagell is in Europe, in particular East Berlin, are missing.” [8]

Nagell visited the U.S. Embassy in Madrid at least twice in March 1969. According to an embassy cable to Washington, Nagell told consul officer Robert S. Driscoll that Nagell was arrested “on a train enroute [sic] to Berlin from Frankfurt” in the summer of 1968. Nagell, wrote the embassy official, said that he was held in East Germany “as a prisoner until October 1968.” [11]

The Madrid embassy official added that Nagell told him that the reason he had been arrested in El Paso “was that he [Nagell] had worked Lee Harvey Oswald in an assignment with a ‘U.S. intelligence agency’.” [11]

Nagell was expelled from East Germany [12] by East Berlin officials along with Leon Burris James, who, according to the CIA “is also mentally unstable and has caused embarrassment abroad for the State Department since 1964. [8]

Like Nagell, James drew the attention of the CIA because James had “the names of two Agency [CIA] employees who were in covert status” in his possession in 1965. [8]

Mental Illness

Government officials insist that Nagell was mentally ill.

After his release from East Germany, Richard Nagell was interviewed by a U.S. Army psychiatrist in Berlin. In the 1968 psychiatric report, the psychiatrist wrote that there was “no overt evidence of psychosis.” [12]

The psychiatrist added that Nagell “has had a personality disorder for a number of years, manifested by emotional instability, impulsive behaviour [sic], a tendency to be litigious, and a general suspicious or paranoid orientation.” [12]

On September 20, the day of his arrest at the bank, Nagell “slashed” his wrists that night at the El Paso jail. [3] [14]

Although many government records about the assassination have been leaked or officially released over the years, Nagell remains an enigma.

The JFK Records Act of 1992

In 1992, Congress unanimously enacted the JFK Records Act requiring the release to the public of all the government’s records on the JFK assassination “within 25 years.” The law required that all records be released by October 26, 2017.

According to the National Archives, as of April 26, 2018, “approximately five million pages” have been released to the public. However, there are more documents that have not been released.

On April 26, 2018, the Trump administration allowed the CIA, FBI and other agencies to continue to withhold documents until October 2021 because releasing them may cause harm because of “identifiable national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.” [15]

According to Jefferson Morley, there remain “thousands of JFK files” that are still secret. [15] Morley is a former Washington Post writer who has compiled the JFK documents released by the government.

JFK Assassination archivists estimate that there are almost 16,000 records that are yet to be released. [16]

Donald Trump has also alleged that Ted Cruz’ father was involved in JFK assassination but has provided no proof.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

On November 1, 1995, at the age of 65, Richard Case Nagell was found dead at his home in Los Angeles. Nagell died of heart disease, according to his obituary. [17] Nagell died the day after the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) sought to interview him about records of the assassination “he might have in his possession.” The ARRB was established by the 1992 law to consider the decisions of government officials to postpone the release of the JFK records. [18]

Author Dick Russell wrote the book; The Man Who Knew Too Much: Hired to Kill Oswald and Prevent the Assassination of JFK. It was first published in 1993. The book was revised and updated in 2003.

In his book, Russell lays out a case of why he believes Richard Case Nagell was working for the KGB, although Nagell believed he was working for the CIA. Nagell, according to Russell, was being setup to kill Oswald in Mexico City to derail the planned assassination.

The Warren Commission

The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known as the Warren Commission, was established on November 29, 1963 by Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Warren Commission concluded that JFK was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. The commission found no evidence of a conspiracy.

The Commission’s report has been criticized through the years and many remain skeptical about its conclusions.

According to Jefferson Morley, Robert Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy have argued that the assassination was driven by “enemies in his own [JFK] government.” Fidel Castro and Charles DeGaulle believed that the assassination “conspiracy emanated from within U.S. security forces.” [16]

With the documents released in 2017, as per the 1992 law, allegations of Cuban involvement in the assassination have increased. Yet, the part, if any Nagell, played in the assassination remains unknown.

Footnotes:

  1. William Turner, “Bank robber, ‘Manchurian Candidate’ linked to JFK assassination probe,” Los Angeles Free Press, July 25-31 1975.
  2. Richard Nagell letter to Penelope Grenoble, editor of the Los Angeles Free Press, August 12, 1975.
  3. CIA Memorandum dated January 18, 1968 titled, “Subject: NAGELL, Richard Case,” released to the released to the House Select Committee on Assassinations on August 23, 1978.
  4. Richard Nagell public letter referencing “Man In The Middle: The Inside Story,” published on June 29, 1969 in The Family, January 28, 1970.
  5. Declassified Embassy Cable dated March 17, 1969.
  6. Declassified Memorandum: “Garrison and the Kennedy Assassination: Richard Case Nagell,” December 10, 1968.
  7. Austin Wilson, “Media No Longer Laughing, Jim Garrison Says: Judge Revives View of JFK Assassination,” Los Angeles Times, March 12, 1989.
  8. Sarah K. Hall, Declassified CIA Office of Security Memorandum For The Record on Richard Case Nagell (#264170), November 28, 1968.
  9. Department of State Telegram from Berlin to Washington DC., April 16, 1969.
  10. U.S. Government Memorandum dated September 2, 1969 from L.G. Marcell released under the JFK Records Act of 1992.
  11. Department of State Telegram from American Embassy in Madrid to Secretary of State, March 25, 1969.
  12. George R. Babineau, Captain, U.S. Army Psychiatrist, Berlin, Reported dated October 23, 1968.
  13. Robert J. Leonard, CIA report on John Richard Sloss, March 3, 1965.
  14. FBI Special Agent David J. Reid, El Paso Field Office, report on bank robbery, February 4, 1964.
  15. Ian Shapira, “Trump delays full release of some JFK assassination files until 2021, bowing to national security concerns,” The Washington Post, April 26, 2018.
  16. Jefferson Morley, “JFK Records Suit Tests CIA Secrecy on Assassination,” Just Security, April 30, 2019.
  17. Richard Case Nagel Obituary, The Seattle Times Passages, November 12, 1995.
  18. The Records of the Assassination Records Review Board, Chapter 7, September 30, 1998.

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