this day in crime history: april 22, 1934

On this date in 1934, the FBI went toe to toe with John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and their gang in a shootout that left an FBI agent and a bystander dead.

The gang decided to hide out at the Little Bohemia Lodge in northern Wisconsin. The owner of the lodge managed to get word to the authorities. FBI agents were dispatched to the scene.

As the agents approached the lodge, the owner’s dogs began to bark. Since the dogs barked incessantly, their warning was ignored by the gang. A few minutes later, a car approached the agents. Thinking that the gangsters were inside, they opened fire in an attempt to shoot out the tires. Shooting high, which often happens when firing on full auto, they hit all of the occupants of the car, and killed one of them. To make matters worse, they had the wrong guys. Dillinger and his crew were still inside the lodge.

Barking dogs you can ignore, but submachinegun fire will get your attention every time. Dillinger and the boys heard the shots and knew that the heat was on. They opened fire on the agents from the lodge. After throwing some hot lead at the G-men, the gang bolted for the door. Dillinger and two of his guys turned one way and made a clean getaway. Nelson turned the other way, and wound up at a nearby house in a car with the owner of the lodge and a neighbor.

A car containing two of the FBI agents and a local constable approached Nelson. Nelson pointed his gun at them, and ordered them out of the car. When they complied, Nelson shot all three of them. Agent W. Carter Baum was killed; Agent J. C. Newman and local constable Carl Christensen were injured.

The final tally: two dead (one lawman and one innocent bystander), four injured (two lawmen and two bystanders), no gangsters in custody.

Further reading:

Crime Museum — John Dillinger

FBI History–Famous Cases: John Dillinger

FBI History–Famous Cases: “Baby Face” Nelson

FBI History–Hall of Honor: W. Carter Baum

Website for the Little Bohemia Lodge

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4 thoughts on “this day in crime history: april 22, 1934

  1. John D.:
    THIS is one of those stories that I never get tired reading about…the locales, the getaway, the G-men tactics (or lack thereof), and Nelson’s escape from the shootout.
    Every bit of it is riveting.
    (Even the 1973 movie DILLINGER didn’t capture ALL the aspects of this shootout)
    Still waiting to see a great re-enactment of this event.

    Good call.

    Roll safe out there.

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    • That was a great movie, but it changed a number of things for the sake of the narrative. For instance, it portrayed Nelson as having been killed fleeing Little Bohemia. In fact, he was killed months later in Illinois. Public Enemies adjusted events in the same fashion.

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  2. Presumably this was the incident that inspired Will Rogers’ quip that the only way the FBI could kill Dillinger would be if he was standing next to an innocent bystander and they shot him by accident. I doubt that Mr. Hoover was amused.

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    • Hoover was definitely angry. In spite of that, he refused to take Purvis off the case. For all his faults — and he had many — I have to respect Hoover for not throwing his men under the bus after Little Bohemia.

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