John Dillinger — public enemy


The legend of John Dillinger still burns brightly throughout the Midwest. A stick-up man with a penchant for violence, Dillinger was shot to death outside the Biograph Movie Theater in Chicago by FBI agents hellbent on stopping an unparalleled crime wave.

Johnny Depp plays Dillinger in the movie Public Enemies, based on the 2003 book by Bryan Burrough.

For the better part of 10 months (between Sept 1933 and July 1934) Dillinger and his gang terrorized Midwest towns from Michigan to South Dakota — and all points in between.
Dillinger escaped prison twice, was likely responsible for 10 murders, and pulled off numerous bank robberies. FBI agents in Chicago ultimately caught up with Dillinger by using a Romanian prostitute to feed them information on his whereabouts. 
The FBI’s John Dillinger page describes what happened next:

On Sunday, July 22, Special Agent Samuel Cowley ordered all Agents of the Chicago office to stand by for urgent duty. Anna Sage called that evening to confirm the plans, but she still did not know which theater they would attend. Therefore, Agents and policemen were sent to both theaters. At 8:30 p.m., Anna Sage, John Dillinger, and Polly Hamilton strolled into the Biograph Theater to see Clark Gable in “Manhattan Melodrama.” Special Agent Melvin Purvis phoned Cowley, who shifted the other men from the Marbro to the Biograph.

Cowley also phoned Hoover for instructions. Hoover cautioned them to wait outside rather than risk a shooting match inside the crowded theater. Each man was instructed not to unnecessarily endanger himself and was told that if Dillinger offered any resistance, it would be each man for himself.

At 10:30 p.m., Dillinger, with his two female companions on either side, walked out of the theater and turned to his left. As they walked past the doorway in which Purvis was standing, Purvis lit a cigar as a signal for the other men to close in. Dillinger quickly realized what was happening and acted by instinct. He grabbed a pistol from his right trouser pocket as he ran toward the alley. Five shots were fired from the guns of three FBI Agents. Three of the shots hit Dillinger and he fell face down on the pavement. At 10:50 p.m. on July 22, 1934, John Dillinger was pronounced dead in a little room in the Alexian Brothers Hospital.

Some Dillinger links of note:

FBI famous cases — John Dillinger

FBI case file — John Dillinger

Wikipedia — John Dillinger

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“Creepy” Alvin Karpis — Public Enemy No. 1


When gangsters flourished in the Middle America during the Great Depression, none was more cold-blooded than Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. Public Enemy No. 1, Karpis is briefly profiled in the movie of the same name, starring Johnny Depp, as John Dillinger.*

Born in Montreal on Aug. 10, 1907, Karpis grew up in Topeka, Kansas — America’s Heartland.
After he joined up with Fred and Doc Barker of the Ma Barker gang, Karpis became a notorious killer and kidnapper — on top of being a bank robber.
In all, Karpis was believed responsible for 10 killings and a half dozen kidnappings between 1931 and 1936.
In 1936, Creepy was sentenced to life for kidnapping William Hamm, of Hamm’s Brewery.
The FBI’s own head, J. Edgar Hoover took credit for arresting Karpis, although in his biography, Karpis said he was surrounded by a team of agents who alerted Hoover when the scene was secure.
Karpis ended up in Alcatraz for 25 years. When the Rock finally was shut down, Karpis spent time in a state of Washington federal prison. There ol’ “Creepy” met someone even creepier — Charlie Manson. Karpis takes credit for teaching Manson how to play guitar.
There’s some interesting Web pages about Karpis and more photos.
Here’s some links:
FBI summary of the Barker-Karpis gang’s activities
True Crime Library — story of Alvin Karpis
Google timeline search — pretty interesting way to look at Karpis biography.
AP article on Karpis 1979 death from the Toledo Blade
Photos of Karpis in Spain in late 1970s
(FYI: between now and Friday I’ll run profiles of 1930s gangsters including Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, “Machine Gun” Kelly and others. I think there are some interesting parallels between that era and our own)
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