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

Advertisements

this day in crime history: august 14, 1936

Bethea

On this date in 1936, convicted rapist Rainey Bethea was executed by hanging in Owensboro, KY. In addition to the rape, Bethea also confessed to robbing and murdering his victim, 70 year old Lischia Edwards, but was never tried on those charges. A crowd of 20,000 people were on hand to witness the hanging. His hanging was the last public execution in the United States.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Rainey Bethea

Murderpedia – Rainey Bethea

this day in crime history: july 21, 1873

RIandP

On this date in 1873, a group of western bank robbers known as the James-Younger gang tried their hand at train robbery.  The gang sabotaged the track just outside Adair, IA and waited for the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific train’s approach.  Around 7:00 PM, the locomotive derailed, killing the engineer.

Some of the robbers hit the express car while the rest guarded the train’s passengers and crew.  The gang believed that the train would be carrying tens of thousands of dollars in gold.  As it turns out, they were mistaken.  They left the scene about ten minutes later with a few thousand in cash.

Some have referred to the 1873 Rock Island &Pacific robbery as the first peace-time train robbery in US history, but this is incorrect.  The Reno gang beat the James-Youngers to it, robbing an Ohio and Mississippi train in Seymour, IN in 1866.

Further reading:

NY Times – “Daring Railway Robbery”

Old West Legends: The James-Younger Gang – Terror in the Heartland

Wikipedia – James-Younger Gang

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: 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 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