John Dillinger

Updated: Jan 29

Born: June 22, 1903 - Died: July 22, 1934

John Dillinger was "an American gangster of the Great Depression." He was known to lead the "Dillinger Gang" ,which was accused of robbing 24 banks and 4 police stations.

"Dillinger escaped from jail twice. He was charged but not convicted of the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana, police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet-proof vest during a shootout. It was the only time Dillinger was charged with homicide.Dillinger courted publicity. The media ran exaggerated accounts of his bravado colorful personality and cast him as a Robin Hood. In response, J. Edgar Hoover, then director of the Bureau of Investigation (BOI), used Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform to evolve the BOI into the Federal Bureau of Investigation, developing more sophisticated investigative techniques as weapons against organized crime.


After evading police in four states for almost a year, Dillinger was wounded and went to his father's home to mend. He returned to Chicago in July 1934 and sought refuge in a brothel owned by Ana Cumpănaș. She informed authorities of his whereabouts. On July 22, 1934, the police and G-men closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis and Samuel P. Cowley, moved to arrest Dillinger as he exited the theater. He drew a gun while attempting to flee, but was killed. This was ruled as justifiable homicide.


Prison time


 

Within Indiana Reformatory and Indiana State Prison, from 1924 to 1933, Dillinger began to become embroiled in a criminal lifestyle. Upon being admitted to the prison, he is quoted as saying, "I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here."


His physical examination upon being admitted to the prison showed that he had gonorrhea. The treatment for his condition was extremely painful. He became embittered against society because of his long prison sentence and befriended other criminals, such as seasoned bank robbers like Harry "Pete" Pierpont, Charles Makley, Russell Clark, and Homer Van Meter, who taught Dillinger how to be a successful criminal. The men planned heists that they would commit soon after they were released. Dillinger studied Herman Lamm's meticulous bank-robbing system and used it extensively throughout his criminal career.


His father launched a campaign to have him released and was able to obtain 188 signatures on a petition. Dillinger was paroled on May 10, 1933, after serving nine and a half years. Dillinger's stepmother became sick just before he was released from the prison, and died before he arrived at her home. Released at the height of the Great Depression, Dillinger had little prospect of finding gainful employment. He immediately returned to crime.


On June 21, 1933, he robbed his first bank, taking $10,000 from the New Carlisle National Bank, which occupied the building at the southeast corner of Main Street and Jefferson (State Routes 235 and 571) in New Carlisle, Ohio.


On August 14, Dillinger robbed a bank in Bluffton, Ohio. Tracked by police from Dayton, Ohio, he was captured and later transferred to the Allen County Jail in Lima to be indicted in connection to the Bluffton robbery. After searching him before letting him into the prison, the police discovered a document which appeared to be a prison escape plan. They demanded Dillinger tell them what the document meant, but he refused.


Dillinger had helped conceive a plan for the escape of Pierpont, Clark, and six others he had met while in prison, most of whom worked in the prison laundry. Dillinger had friends smuggle guns into their cells, with which they escaped, four days after Dillinger's capture.


Credit: The Chicago Daily News

The group, known as "the First Dillinger Gang", consisted of Pete Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, Ed Shouse, Harry Copeland, and John "Red" Hamilton, a member of the Herman LammGang. Pierpont, Clark, and Makley arrived in Lima on October 12, where they impersonated Indiana State Police officers, claiming they had come to extradite Dillinger to Indiana.


When the sheriff, Jess Sarber, asked for their credentials, Pierpont shot Sarber dead, then released Dillinger from his cell. The four men escaped back to Indiana, where they joined the rest of the gang.


Dillingers Death

 
Credit: New York Daily News
John Dillinger's Dead body after shootout.
Credit: Legends of America

At approximately 8:30 p.m., Sage, Hamilton, and Dillinger were observed entering the Biograph Theater, which was showing the crime drama Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, and William Powell. During the stakeout, the Biograph's manager thought the agents were criminals setting up a robbery. He called the Chicago police, who dutifully responded and had to be waved off by the federal agents, who told them that they were on a stakeout for an important target.


When the film ended, Purvis stood by the front door and signaled Dillinger's exit by lighting a cigar. Both he and the other agents reported that Dillinger turned his head and looked directly at the agent as he walked by, glanced across the street, then moved ahead of his female companions, reached into his pocket but failed to extract his gun, and ran into a nearby alley.


Other accounts stated Dillinger ignored a command to surrender, whipped out his gun, then headed for the alley. Agents already had the alley closed off.


Three men pursued Dillinger into the alley and fired. Clarence Hurt shot twice, Charles Winstead three times, and Herman Hollis once. Dillinger was hit from behind and fell face first to the ground.


Dillinger was struck four times, with two bullets grazing him and one causing a superficial wound to the right side. The fatal bullet entered through the back of his neck, severed the spinal cord, passed into his brain and exited just under the right eye, severing two sets of veins and arteries.


An ambulance was summoned, although it was soon apparent Dillinger had died from the gunshot wounds; he was officially pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Hospital. According to investigators, Dillinger died without saying a word. Winstead was later thought to have fired the fatal shot, and as a consequence received a personal letter of commendation from J. Edgar Hoover.


Two female bystanders, Theresa Paulas and Etta Natalsky, were wounded. Dillinger bumped into Natalsky just as the shooting started. Natalsky was shot and was subsequently taken to Columbus Hospital.


Dillinger was shot and killed by the special agents on July 22, 1934, at approximately 10:40 p.m, according to a New York Times report the next day. Dillinger's death came only two months after the deaths of fellow notorious criminals Bonnie and Clyde.


There were reports of people dipping their handkerchiefs and skirts into the pool of blood that had formed, as Dillinger lay in the alley, as keepsakes. "Souvenir hunters madly dipped newspapers in the blood that stained the pavement. Handkerchiefs were whipped out and used to mop up the blood." #Wikipedia #information

The crowd at Chicago's Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934, shortly after Dillinger was killed there by FBI agents.




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