Monday, December 17, 2012


12/16/1932 - The state of Minnesota endures another bloody day in it's history thanks again to the exceeding itchy trigger fingers of the Barker-Karpis Gang.  Seeking a big payday and a jolt of outlaw adrenaline, the gang picks as it's target the Third Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis ... an establishment most robbers would ignore due to its location on a busy downtown street, the fact that the building is a triangle with entrances on two different streets,  the structure has huge windows through which activities inside can be observed, the intersection in front is a regular stop for a streetcar, and the bank is alarm connected to a nearby police station.  Negatives all to a raid, none of the constraints to thievery will dissuade the bandits in the least.

                              The bank shortly after it's robbery

A band constantly in flux due to deaths, arrests, woundings, and the nature of each job, for the Third Northwestern National the raiding group of outlaws consists of master thief Alvin Karpis, recent parolee Doc Barker, Doc's murderous brother Freddy, another recent parolee and Doc prison buddy, Volney Davis, killer Larry "The Chopper" DeVol, lawman turned crook Verne Miller, Oklahoma State Penitentiary graduate William "Lapland Willie" Weaver, and bandit Jess Doyle.  All come to the heist armed with an array of machine guns and .45 automatic pistols modified to accept large-capacity ammo clips.

                               Young punks - DeVol (l) and Karpis (r)

Responsibilities divided, part of the gang enters the bank from Central Avenue, another group goes inside by way of the Hennepin Avenue doors, the driver of the gang's getaway Lincoln waits in the car with it's engine running, and Larry Devol stands outside as a guard with his machine gun.  With the standard refrain "This is a stick-up!" the robbery begins and both bookkeeper Earl Patch and bank teller Paul Hesselroth quickly react by triggering silent alarms.  Hesselroth also tries to delay the robbery until the police arrive by claiming he can't open the door to the bank's vault ... a story he soon changes when Miller begins beating him about the head with his pistol.


Teller cages and vault looted, the gang grabs $22,000 in cash and $100,000 in securities, but the handful of minutes it takes to collect the booty is just long enough for the police to arrive.  On their way back to the station for their roll call and quitting time of 2:40 in the afternoon, officers Ira Evans and Leo Gorski rush to the bank down Central Avenue ... and from a distance of only fifteen feet are greeted by DeVol unleashing his full fifty slug machine gun drum into the men and their car (blowing out plate glass windows, the bandits inside the bank also open up on the policemen).  Neither officer gets out of the car or gets a shot off ... thirty-nine-year-old Evans, an eight year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department is hit by ten rounds and killed instantly, while thirty-eight-year-old Gorski, also an eight year veteran of the force, despite the best medical help the city can offer, dies forty-eight hours later at a local hospital.

                           Patrolman Ira Leon Evans | Minneapolis Police Department, Minnesota  Patrolman Leo R. Gorski | Minneapolis Police Department, Minnesota
                                               Evans                   Gorski
                                             Some of the damaged windows

For Devol, the murders are the fifth and sixth times he has killed since beginning his criminal car

Leaving the bank, the gang limps away in their getaway car (a tire and rim of the Lincoln are destroyed), a vehicle that they themselves have shot up accidentally firing wildly at the policemen that DeVol has killed, but damage to the Lincoln is a contingency they have planned for and they head for St. Paul's Como Park where they have alternate transportation awaiting in the form of a stolen green Chevrolet.  Arriving at the park around 3:00 in the afternoon they begin transferring into the other car, including changing its license plates, activities that unfortunately draw the attention of Oscar Erickson and his friend Arthur Zachman, two young men searching for customers for the Christmas wreaths they are selling from their car.  For Erickson, his first day at the new job will also be his last.

                                                       Como Park

Slowing as they come upon the bandits, Erickson's eyes linger on the group too long, and Freddy Barker, believing Erickson is trying to take down the license plate number of the gang's new ride to give to the police, shouts, "Get going or else!"  It is a warning Erickson never has a chance to respond to for only a second after it is given, Barker fires his machine gun into the Chevrolet coupe of the salesmen.  Struck in the head by a .45 slug, though the uninjured Zachman is able to drive his friend to a nearby police station for medical attention, Erickson dies of an acute cerebral hemorrhage the next morning.  One robbery, three deaths ... the Barker-Karpis gang in action, circa 1932 ... public enemies indeed!

                                  Fred Barker

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