Monday, January 14, 2013


1/15/1934 - Seeking to fund his upcoming winter vacation to Arizona (gang members Harry Pierpont, Charles Makley, and Russell Clark are already partying there), on a chilly Monday afternoon, John Dillinger, John "Red" Hamilton, and an unidentified third man (the caper's driver) decide to rob the First National Bank of East Chicago ... with tragic results.

                              First National - East Chicago

At around 2:45 a new black Ford V-8 Tudor sedan wearing Ohio plates double parks in front of the bank and disgorges Dillinger and Hamilton, wearing large overcoats to disguise that they have on armor vests.  Entering the establishment through two sets of double doors, upon reaching the lobby, Dillinger removes a machine gun from a black carrying case normally used for musical instruments, inserts a fifty-round magazine in the weapon and declares, "This is a stickup!  Everybody put your hands up!"  Over twenty employees and patrons receive the message, and with the assistance of Hamilton's pointing pistol and Dillinger's machine gun, the group is quickly lined up facing a wall ... but not before the Vice President of the bank, Walter Spencer, sitting at his desk, trips a silent alarm button with his foot that notifies East Chicago police headquarters, less than two blocks away, that a robbery is in progress. 


While Dillinger watches the group of hostages (noticing a patron has left his money on a counter, the outlaw will advise the man to pick it up as he and Hamilton only want the bank's money), Hamilton raids the cages and vault of the bank, placing $20,736 in a large Federal Reserve sack.  Sadly, before he is done, members of the East Chicago police begin to arrive.


Patrolman Hobart Wilgus is the first to arrive.  Thinking the alarm is just another malfunction of the recently installed system, Wilgus walks into the bank without unbuttoning his coat to provide access to his weapon and is immediately taken captive by Dillinger.  Seeing their companion grabbed, Detective Sgt. William Patrick O'Malley and patrolmen Julius Schrenko and Pete Walen back away from the bank's entrance and take up positions from which they can fire upon the bandits when they leave.  While they wait, a squad car pulls up and adds Captain Tim O'Neill, Captain Ed Knight, and Officers Nick Ranch and Lloyd Mulvahill to the ambush crew ... none of them though think to do anything about the driver in the idling double parked car in front of the bank.

                                             Dillinger, later in '34

Done with their robbery and knowing they have enemies waiting outside, Hamilton and Dillinger grab Spencer and Wilgus as hostage shields and the group walks out the front door.  Not wanting an innocent to be hit, the authorities hold their fire ... but only briefly.  O'Malley, holding his .38 revolver at the ready as he stands at the entrance of the next door Newberry's Five and Ten Cent Store, yells "Wilgus," causing the officer to suddenly dart away.  Presented with a now clear shot, O'Malley puts four bullets into the center of Dillinger's chest, staggering the outlaw ... and enraging him.  Protecting by the steel he is wearing, Dillinger pushes Spencer aside, swings his weapon at O'Malley and fires a disabling burst of lead at the lawman's legs while screaming, "You asked for it."  And O'Malley gets it too ... falling forward he is hit by eight .45 slugs, one of which passes directly through his heart and kills the forty-three-year-old officer instantly.  He leaves behind a wife and three daughters.  

                                                     Patrolman William Patrick O'Malley | East Chicago Police Department, Indiana

Then all hell breaks loose on the street.  Thinking he will grab the fleeing Wilgus, Hamilton steps away from Spencer and is immediately targeted by the other police shooters outside the bank. Despite wearing a bullet-proof vest, the deluge of lead finds the bandit seven different times in unprotected areas and he goes down, gravely wounded.  But not abandoned, while sweeping the street with slugs from his machine gun, Dillinger grabs his friend under the shoulder with his left arm and drags him to the waiting getaway car.  Leaving rubber on the asphalt of Chicago Avenue once Hamilton and Dillinger are inside, the Ford screeches away in a hail of bullets, hitting a parked car and having its passenger door fly open as it vanishes down the street (not safe yet, a pair of passing Indiana game wardens gives chase and fires on the vehicle), heading into Chicago.

           Murder weapon

In the aftermath of the robbery, $5,000 is spent on the services of an underworld doctor who treats Hamilton's wounds (and the nursing services of the bandit's girlfriend, Pat Cherrington) ... months later he will again be well enough to be wounded some more.  Leaving his partner behind, Dillinger picks up his girlfriend Billie Frechette, and the pair leaves town and heads south for Tucson, Arizona ... a destination that will lead to the destruction of the first so-called "Dillinger Gang" ... and when he is brought back to Indiana under arrest, the outlaw will face murder charges and the death penalty for the killing of O'Malley.

                                      Under custody later in January

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