Wednesday, December 5, 2012


12/14/1933 - Bad timing and the quick draw skills of thirty-four-year-old Canadian-born outlaw and recent Michigan City escapee John Hamilton (aka "Red" or "Three Finger Jack" because the index and middle finger of his right hand are missing due to a childhood sledding accident) cost the city of Chicago one of its finest.  


Tipped off that members of the Dillinger Gang are using a green convertible for their escapades about town, the Chicago Police Department tracks the suspect vehicle to the auto shop of Carl A. Blomberg, where it has been in recently for repairs on a faulty muffler.  Told to notify the police if the car should return for more work, the shop owner does exactly that when Hamilton brings the Auburn cabriolet in for straightening of one of the vehicle's fenders, a five dollar job.  Telling the outlaw he doesn't have the right tool for the work, Bloomberg sends Hamilton to Tower Auto Rebuilders at 5320 Broadway ... and then is on the phone with authorities as soon as the bank robber leaves his building.

                                        Nice wheels for cruising Chicago

Cruising in the vicinity of the repair shop, Sergeant William T. Shanley, Patrolman Martin Mullen, and Patrolman Frank Hopkins receive a radio call from Chief of Detectives William Schoemaker to find and stakeout the vehicle, and arrest whoever comes calling for it.  Parking about a block and a half away so as not to give the game away, Mullen stays with the squad car while Shanley and Hopkins wait inside the shop ... and wait, and wait, and wait.  At around 4:00 in the afternoon, the hour the night shift comes on duty, so they can end their day and go home, Shanley sends Hopkins to tell Mullen at the car to call headquarters to bring on another team to continue the surveillance.  And sure enough, moments after he is alone, accompanied by his current girlfriend, Elaine Dekant (unaware that she is dating a notorious criminal, Dekant believes her boyfriend is the son of wealthy family that has just come into his inheritance), Hamilton walks into the shop to reclaim his ride.  A twenty-year veteran of the police force, whether worried that his prey will escape if he waits for backup, or eager to receive his second hero award from the Chicago Tribune (earlier in his career he had been honored for entering a dark store and single-handedly arresting a pair of safecrackers), Shanley accosts the pair as soon as they walk up to the convertible.  Telling Hamilton to keep his hands out of his pockets, the sergeant begins patting down the outlaw for a weapon ... a weapon that is drawn in a rattlesnake quick blur of motion from a hidden shoulder holster and fired twice into Shanley's chest.  

                                                          Sergeant William T. Shanley | Chicago Police Department, Illinois

Leaving his victim in a rapidly spreading pool of blood, Hamilton narrowly misses Hopkins as the patrolman returns from the call to headquarters, abandoning his girlfriend and escaping through a nearby vacant lot.  Taken to nearby Edgewater Hospital, forty-three-year-old Shanley will die from his wounds fifteen minutes later ... the thirteenth Chicago police officer to perish in the line of duty in 1933, the sergeant will leave behind a widow, two sons, and two daughters.  As a result of the killing, two days later Captain John Stege is given authorization to create and command what becomes known as the Dillinger Squad ... a group of 40 hand-picked police marksman divided in to two working shifts for 24-hour coverage of their only mission (the other shift is run by Sergeant Frank Reynolds, an Irish cop already successful in twelve deadly gunfights with local criminals) ... shoot to kill any member of the Dillinger Gang they locate.

                Stege and helpmate

Reading about local developments in the newspaper, the central members of the gang decide disguises might be in order and dye their hair ... Hamilton, Russell Clark, and Harry Pierpont all becoming dark brunettes, while Dillinger goes red up top and also begins growing a mustache.  And just to be on the safe side until the town cools off a bit, they all decide to take a holiday vacation far away from Chicago and head off for some beachside rest and relaxation in Florida.

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