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

this day in crime history: april 20, 1999


On this date in 1999, two teenage losers looking for infamy (which I will not contribute to by naming them here) went on a shooting spree at Columbine High School in Colorado. The attack was originally planned to be a bombing using IEDs made from propane tanks. The killers planned to wait outside and shoot people fleeing after the bombs detonated, but the bombs failed to detonate due to faulty construction. At that point, the killers approached the school and began shooting people. They entered the building and continued their shooting spree. They eventually committed suicide in the school library after police had surrounded the school. Twelve students and a teacher died in the attack. Twenty-four students were injured.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Columbine High School massacre

SlateThe Depressive and the Psychopath

this day in crime history: april 19, 1995


On this date in 1995, a terrorist bomb was detonated outside the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, including 19 children under the age of six. Almost 700 people were injured.

An hour and a half after the bombing, an Oklahoma State Trooper pulled over a car that did not have a license plate. The driver, Timothy McVeigh, was arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon. McVeigh was soon linked to the bombing by forensic evidence. The investigation led to accomplices Terry Nichols, Michael Fortier, and Fortier’s wife Lori. McVeigh, Nichols and Fortier met while they were in the Army. They were motivated by the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX by the FBI in 1993. The bombing took place on the anniversary of the raid.

McVeigh and Nichols were both convicted of murder and conspiracy. McVeigh was sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life without possibility of parole. He is currently housed at the Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility at the Florence Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, CO.

Michael Fortier agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for immunity for his wife and a lighter sentence for him. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and a $75,000 fine. He was released after 10 1/2 years and disappeared into the witness protection program.

Some people believe that there were more people involved with the bombing. Theories include involvement by members of militia groups and middle eastern terrorists. The FBI dismisses these theories and considers the case closed.

Further reading:

Oklahoma City Memorial & Museum

Wikipedia – Oklahoma City bombing

Were There More OKC Conspirators?: The Elohim City Connection (Presents evidence of militia group involvement in the bombing)

JaynaDavis.com – From Middle America To The Middle East (Presents evidence of a Middle Eastern connection to the bombing)

this day in crime history: april 15, 1920

On this date in 1920, an armed robbery in South Braintree, MA resulted in the deaths of a paymaster and a security guard. On May 5th, two men were arrested for the crime: Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. The two men, both Italian-born anarchists, were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were executed in the Massachusetts electric chair on August 23, 1927. Controversy still rages to this day as to the guilt of the men, but their conviction has yet to be overturned. Oh yeah, and they’re still dead. I guess it’s all academic at this point, isn’t it?

Further reading:

The Sacco-Vanzetti Case

Wikipedia – Sacco and Vanzetti

this day in crime history: april 14, 1943


On this date in 1943, four inmates tried to escape from the Alcatraz federal prison. The men, James Boarman, Harold Brest, Floyd Hamilton, and Fred Hunter, overpowered two guards in the industries area of the prison and tied them up. They climbed out the window and made their way to the water’s edge.

While the would-be escapees were entering the water, one of the guards they had tied up managed to alert others of the escape attempt. The alarm was sounded, alerting the tower guards, who opened fire on the men. Boarman was hit. His body sank and was never recovered. Hunter and Brest were rounded up by guards. Hamilton, who was assumed to have died in the escape attempt, hid in a cave on the island until the search was over. Cold and hungry, he was caught three days later hiding in a store room in the prison.

Further reading:

Alcatraz History – Escape Attempts

BoP – Alcatraz

Wikipedia – Alcatraz escape attempts

this day in crime history: april 13, 1934

johndillinger

On this day in 1934, outlaws John Dillinger and Homer Van Meter went shopping for guns in Warsaw, Indiana. Their shopping expedition began in the early morning hours of April 13th, when they assaulted Warsaw Police Officer Judd Pittenger while he walked his nightly beat. The two outlaws forced Pittenger to accompany them to the police station, where they stole two pistols and some bullet-proof vests. No background check was performed when the two bank robbers acquired their guns. This was due to the fact that in 1934, there was no law requiring criminals to pass a background check before stealing guns. To this day, no such law exists.

Further reading:

FBI – John Dillinger

Dillinger – Robbed Warsaw Police Station

this day in crime history: april 10, 1936

1936bomb

On this date in 1936 in Pennsylvania,  former union head Thomas Maloney unwittingly detonated a mail bomb that had been sent to him. The bomb was hidden inside a cigar box, and Maloney, a former union official, opened it on his kitchen table. His sixteen year old daughter and four year old son were with him when the bomb exploded. Maloney and his son eventually died from their wounds. The daughter was seriously injured and required lengthy hospitalization.

Maloney was not the only target of the bomber. Local school director Michael Gallagher was killed when he opened a similar package he had received in the mail. Former Sheriff Luther Kniffen, another intended victim of the bomber was spared when the bomb sent to him failed to detonate when he opened it. Three more bombs were intercepted before being opened. The press began referring to the incident as the Good Friday bombings.

By July 1st, the police had arrested coal miner Michael Fugmann for the bombings. His motive was believed to be revenge for the actions of his victims during recent labor conflicts.  Fugmann was tried the following September. He denied guilt, but was convicted after a two week trial and sentenced to death. He was executed in the electric chair at Rockview State prison on July 17, 1938.

Further reading:

Citensvoice.com – Mail bomb spree by disgruntled coal miner marks 75th anniversary

timesleader.com – Good Friday bombings of 1936 terrorized area