8/23/1934 - Another member of the Dillinger Gang, Homer Van Meter, bites the dust, or in Homer's case, lots of dirty street alley grime, and again, betrayal by "friends" plays a crucial role in the killing.
Michigan City Con
Hiding out in wilds of Minnesota in the aftermath of John Dillinger's death the month before (he is wanted on bank robbing and murder charges), in anticipation of leaping over the Canadian border, Homer Van Meter visits St. Paul to retrieve some of his bank robbing loot that is being held by that city's underworld, by some accounts estimated to be in excess of $10,000, but crooks being crooks, a number of parties decide to keep Van Meter's money and split it among themselves necessitating the need for the outlaw's demise.
Unaware that he has been put on the spot, at 5:12 in the late afternoon, Van Meter, wearing a blue serge suit and a straw hat, steps out of an auto dealership where he has been looking at new cars, fully expecting to meet Jack Peifer of the local gaming house the Hollyhocks Club, a pal and one of the men holding his money. Instead, tipped off, four crooked cops that include the town's former Chief of Police, Detective Tom Brown, and the current Chief of Police, Frank Cullen, are on hand with their guns at the ready, two sawed-off shotguns and two Thompson sub-machine guns, all fully loaded. At the words, "STICK THEN UP," Van Meter instead starts running, while drawing a .38 Colt automatic and firing two shots over his shoulder at his pursuing antagonists. A bad decision, it is a pursuit that lasts only a handful of seconds and steps because the bandit turns into a blind alley and is instantly trapped. Turning to fire or to flee in another direction, Brown's shotgun blows Van Meter into the air, and when the bandit comes down and tries to continue the fight despite having a mangled hand and almost severed arm, the cops show they are fully aware of the meaning of the word overkill by emptying their weapons at, and into the desperado ... a tornado of lead, the outlaw's gun will be found ten feet away from his body by the time the firing ends!
Awaiting transfer to the morgue
At the morgue, Van Meter will be found to have $923 hidden in the pocket of his pants, another $450 hidden in a money belt, a gold Bulova watch on his wrist (how the police missed scooping up this booty remains a mystery to this day), and fifty bullets in his body ... so many hits that when his body is turned over to his family for burial, they will declare that his corpse looked like the St. Paul Police Department had used it for target practice!
Additionally, signs of Van Meter's unsuccessfully attempts to disguise himself are noted ... the outlaw had dyed his brown hair black, grown a mustache, had his fingertips burnt by acid to remove his fingerprints, a tattoo reading "HOPE" had been whittled on, and injected to alter his appearance, there is wax under his facial skin. What isn't found is the money bag eyewitnesses say Van Meter was carrying and that his girlfriend, Marie Conforti, claims contained at least $6,000 in cash.
A messy end for John Dillinger's best friend since their days at the Pendleton Reformatory in Indiana, Van Meter had ironically told friends and family he didn't intend to someday end up dying in a dirty alley ... exactly the way he actually does die though!!!!!!!!!!!