this day in crime history: june 4, 1965

bigsprings

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 was incarcerated at the federal prison in Leavenworth, KS. until July 1, 2016. On that date he was released into the custody of Nebraska authorities who returned him to the Cornhusker State, where, he still owes three life sentences.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Duane Earl Pope

The McPherson College SpectatorLet Out and Locked Up

FBI – Photo of Duane Earl Pope

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this day in crime history: may 9, 1980


On this date in 1980, the Security Pacific Bank branch in Norco, CA was robbed by five heavily armed men. The robbers were confronted outside the bank by Riverside County Sheriff Deputies. In the ensuing shootout, one of the robbers was killed. The remaining four stole a car from the bank’s parking lot and fled the scene.

The pursuit went on for 25 miles and extended into neighboring San Bernadino County. Units from the CHP and San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department, including a helicopter, joined in the pursuit. The robbers fired at officers and civilian vehicles during the pursuit. At one point, they stopped and set up an ambush for police. RCSD Deputy Jim Evans was killed. Officers in the helicopter had tried to warn him of the ambush, but an incompatibility between the RCSD and SBCSD radios prevented him from receiving the warning.

The robbers fled into a wooded area near Lytle Creek, CA with police in pursuit. One of the robbers was killed in a shootout with police. The remaining three surrendered.

The three survivors were tried and convicted of multiple felonies. They’re all serving life sentences without possibility of parole.

Further reading:

RCDSA – Norco Bank Robbery (This site includes a link to a video documentary about the robbery)

RCDSA – A list of the suspects and their weapons

Wikipedia – Norco shootout

this day in crime history: april 24, 1953

On this date in 1953, a crew of robbers held up the Southwest Bank in St. Louis. The robbers didn’t get far with their loot; police officers confronted them as they exited the bank. In the ensuing shootout, a police officer and one of the robbers were injured, and two of the robbers wound up dead (one by his own hand). The story attracted national attention and was made into a movie in 1959 starring Steve McQueen. Officer Mel Stein, who shot and killed one of the robbers, played himself in the movie.

Check out this video about the robbery. It includes an interview with Officer Stein.

Further reading:

stltoday.com: A Look Back: Fast action foils bank robbery in 1953

The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959)at IMDb

this day in crime history: february 28, 1997


On this date in 1997, LAPD officers patrolling North Hollywood saw two heavily armed masked men enter the Bank of America Branch on Laurel Canyon Blvd. Several minutes later the men left the bank with over $300,000 in cash. By that time, several other police units had arrived on the scene to provide backup. The robbers, Larry Phillips (above left) and Emil Matasareanu (above right) were ready for a confrontation with police; they were each carrying multiple weapons, had thousands of rounds of ammunition, and had taken phenobarbital prior to the robbery to calm their nerves. To make matters worse, they were both wearing body armor.

The robbers opened fire on the officers. In the ensuing gun battle, which lasted over 40 minutes, officers fired over 600 rounds, the robbers over 1000. Over-matched by the robbers’ superior firepower, officers went to a local gun store to procure better weapons.

The shootout ended with the death of both suspects. Ten officers and seven civilians were injured.

You can see pictures from my 2008 trip to the scene here.

Here’s a video about the robbery:

Further reading:

Wikipedia – North Hollywood shootout

this day in crime history: september 7, 1876

On this date in 1876, the infamous James-Younger outlaw gang attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, MN. When some of the local citizens saw what was going on, they armed themselves and confronted the gang. A gun battle ensued, leaving two townsfolk and a couple gang members dead. The remainder of the gang fled, and several were captured a few days after the attempted robbery. Frank and Jesse James managed to escape, but the Northfield raid was the last hurrah for the James-Younger gang.

Every year, the city of Northfield holds a celebration called The Defeat of Jesse James Days.

Further reading:

The Defeat of Jesse James Days website

Minnesota Historical Society: Northfield Raid & the James-Younger Gang

Wikipedia: James-Younger Gang

this day in crime history: june 4, 1965

bigsprings

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 was incarcerated at the federal prison in Leavenworth, KS. until July 1, 2016. On that date he was released into the custody of Nebraska authorities who returned him to the Cornhusker State, where, he still owes three life sentences.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Duane Earl Pope

The McPherson College SpectatorLet Out and Locked Up

FBI – Photo of Duane Earl Pope

this day in crime history: may 9, 1980


On this date in 1980, the Security Pacific Bank branch in Norco, CA was robbed by five heavily armed men. The robbers were confronted outside the bank by Riverside County Sheriff Deputies. In the ensuing shootout, one of the robbers was killed. The remaining four stole a car from the bank’s parking lot and fled the scene.

The pursuit went on for 25 miles and extended into neighboring San Bernadino County. Units from the CHP and San Bernadino County Sheriff’s Department, including a helicopter, joined in the pursuit. The robbers fired at officers and civilian vehicles during the pursuit. At one point, they stopped and set up an ambush for police. RCSD Deputy Jim Evans was killed. Officers in the helicopter had tried to warn him of the ambush, but an incompatibility between the RCSD and SBCSD radios prevented him from receiving the warning.

The robbers fled into a wooded area near Lytle Creek, CA with police in pursuit. One of the robbers was killed in a shootout with police. The remaining three surrendered.

The three survivors were tried and convicted of multiple felonies. They’re all serving life sentences without possibility of parole.

Further reading:

RCDSA – Norco Bank Robbery (This site includes a link to a video documentary about the robbery)

RCDSA – A list of the suspects and their weapons

Wikipedia – Norco shootout