On this day in 1965, the Farmers State Bank in Big Springs, NE (pictured above, the building currently serves as the public library) was robbed.
The robber, Duane Earl Pope, had recently graduated from college in Kansas. He got the idea to rob the bank while working near Big Springs while he was in college.
Pope prepared for the heist by renting a car in Salina, KS. He drove to Nebraska armed with a pistol. He watched the bank and waited for the morning rush of customers to leave. He then went inside, held all four of the bank’s employees at gunpoint and filled a briefcase with about $1600 in cash. Before leaving, he ordered the employees to get face down on the ground, then shot all four of them. Three died, the fourth survived, but was permanently paralyzed.
Pope drove back to Salina, where he returned the rental car. After that, he made a run for the border. Shortly after arriving in Tijuana, he crossed back into the US. He was hiding out in San Diego when he learned that he had been named as the prime suspect in the robbery/homicide back in Nebraska. He celebrated this event by traveling to Las Vegas for some gambling and partying.
Pope was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. The next day after hitting the fugitive’s version of the big leagues, Pope went to Kansas City, MO and turned himself in. He gave police a full written confession. He was extradited from Missouri to Nebraska and was tried in both federal and state courts. Both convicted him of robbery and murder and sentenced him to death. His death sentences were commuted due to the Supreme Court’s Furman v. Georgia decision. He is currently incarcerated in the federal prison in Leavenworth, KS. He has a tentative release date of July 1, 2016. If he is released, he still owes three life sentences to the state of Nebraska.
Wikipedia – Duane Earl Pope
The McPherson College Spectator – Let Out and Locked Up
FBI – Photo of Duane Earl Pope