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

this day in crime history: march 18, 1990

On this date in 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, MA was robbed. It was just after midnight when two men dressed as police officers appeared at the museum’s door, claiming they had received a report about a disturbance at the museum. One of the two guards on duty that night let them in. Minutes later the guards were overpowered, bound with duct tape, and stashed in separate parts of the museum’s basement. The two bogus cops went to work stealing various items, including works by Rembrandt, Degas, and Manet. The estimated value of their haul: over $300 million. It was the largest art heist in US history. To date, the case remains unsolved, and none of the stolen works of art have been recovered.

Further reading:

FBI – Art Theft program

Boston.com – Secrets behind the largest art theft in history

this day in crime history: february 20, 1892

On this date in 1892, upstate NY outlaw Oliver Curtis Perry robbed a train single-handedly. A daunting task to be sure, but Perry had reason to believe he could pull it off, he had robbed the same train once before in the summer of 1891.

By February 1892, the $5,000 that Perry had made from his heist of a train while it traveled between Albany and Utica, NY had just about run out. Being a practical man, he decided to go with what worked before and rob the same train he had robbed five months earlier.

On the evening of February 20th, Perry stood on the platform at the Syracuse, NY train station as the American Express Special arrived. Conductor Emil Laas noticed Perry standing on the platform and found it odd that someone would be there, considering that the Express carried no passengers. As the train left the station, Perry jumped onto one of the cars and climbed up to the roof. Once Perry had positioned himself accordingly on top of the express car, he donned a mask and affixed a makeshift rope ladder to the roof rail.

Shortly after the train left Syracuse, messenger Daniel McInerney heard glass break in the messenger car. He looked up to see a masked man holding a large revolver crashing through the window. The man ordered him to put up his hands. McInerney drew his own pistol, and both men exchanged shots. McInerney’s missed, while the robber’s shot hit McInerney in the gun hand. McInerney reached up and pulled the emergency stop cord, but the robber shot him in the thigh, then shot him again, grazing McInerney’s head.

As Perry rummaged through the car looking for valuables, the train came to a halt and crew members descended on the messenger car. Perry pointed his pistol at them and ordered them to get the train moving again. The crew complied, and the train continued on to Port Byron, NY. When the train stopped at the Port Byron station, the crew members, who had armed themselves, returned to the messenger car only to find that the robber was gone. Assuming he had jumped off the train, they continued on to Lyons, NY.

Unbeknownst to the train’s crew, Perry had not jumped from the train, but had retreated to the roof. When the train arrived in Lyons, it was met by the local constable and a doctor to treat Daniel McInerney. As they took the wounded messenger from the train, Perry jumped down and made his way to another platform. Conductor Laas saw the bespectacled man in a derby hat, and recognized him as the man who was standing on the platform in Syracuse.

When Perry realized he had been spotted, he jumped onto a locomotive, fired it up, and took off. Two rail employees and a local deputy uncoupled another locomotive and gave chase on a parallel track. Now, unlike a car chase, a train chase doesn’t leave you with too many options. You can go forward, you can go in reverse, and you can stop. There are no alleyways or side streets to duck into, and there’s no room for Steve McQueen-style driving. Soon after Perry had exhausted all of his options for evading capture (including exchanging gunfire with his pursuers), his train exhausted its steam outside the village of Newark, NY, leaving the robber to flee on foot.

Perry stopped at a local farm, where he stole a horse. When the horse was exhausted, he went to another farm where he stole another horse. Soon that horse too was unable to go on. Perry continued on foot with a posse hot on his trail. He then made his way into a swamp. Exhausted from hours of running, Perry holed up at an old stone wall where he prepared to make his last stand.

The posse eventually located Perry and surrounded him. After a long standoff, Perry called out requesting to speak with one of the lawmen. Deputy Jerry Collins agreed to lay down his gun and speak with Perry. Collins attempted to convince Perry to surrender, but the outlaw was hesitant to give up and face life in prison. During the negotiations, Perry became momentarily distracted by a noise behind him. Collins saw his opportunity. He overpowered Perry, disarmed him, and wrestled him into a pair of handcuffs.

Messenger Daniel McInerney survived his wounds, so Perry was spared facing a murder charge. He was convicted and sentenced to 49 years in prison for the robbery. After multiple escape attempts, and several long stints in solitary confinement, Perry went mad and was transferred to the state hospital for the criminally insane in Matteawan, NY. He escaped from Matteawan in 1895, but was captured the next week in New Jersey. He was later transferred to the insane asylum in Dannemora, NY, where he gouged out both of his eyes with pieces of metal, permanently blinding himself. Oliver Curtis Perry died in the mental hospital in Dannemora in 1930. He was 64.

Further reading:

Wanted Man, by Tamsin Spargo

Wayne County, NY – Office of the County Historian: Jerry Collins

this day in crime history: january 17, 1950

On this date in 1950, the Brinks Armored Car depot in Boston, MA was robbed of over $2.5 million in cash, checks and money orders. It took years for cops to solve the crime, but all eleven of the robbers were eventually arrested and convicted. The robbery inspired a 1978 movie starring Peter Falk.

FBI History: The Brinks Robbery

Wikipedia: Great Brinks Robbery

The Brinks Job (1978)

Friday Movie Quote – July 8, 2011