Thursday, January 24, 2013


1/25/1934 - After having enjoyed ringing in the new year in Florida by shooting machine guns at the moon, the Dillinger Gang decides to continue to avoid the winter cold of the Midwest, and the ongoing hunt for them by the police, by spending some quality down time in Tucson, Arizona (a small town of 30,000 at the time).  It is a serious mistake which will destroy the gang, as away from the places they know best, the men let their guards down and act stupid.

                                                           1930s - Tucson

The first idiocy takes place when Harry Pierpont, sightseeing instead of paying attention to his driving, runs through a stop sign.  Seeing a nearby police car, he decides to brazen out his error by pulling over and chatting with the officers ... claiming he is being followed by a strange car, talking about the weather, discussing his recent stay in Florida, showing off his new Buick ... and also giving them the actual location he will be staying at, a tourist cabin on South Sixth Street.


The second is Russell Clark having too much to drink at a local watering hole, and when a salesman boasts about how dangerous he is because he is in possession of some sticks of dynamite, the outlaw has to top the bragger by discussing in detail the machine guns he owns.  Additionally, Clark and Charles Makley let their drinking companions see they are each armed with weapons they are carrying in shoulder holsters.

                            Clark                                                        Makley

The final goof occurs after the faulty oil furnace in the basement of the Congress Hotel, where Makley and Clark are staying, catches fire.  Taking a break from beating down the flames that has caused the evacuation of the hotel, firefighter William Benedict finds the two bandits trying to hoist a ladder up to the window of their third floor room, attempting to retrieve their "luggage."  Stating he'll get the men's possessions, Benedict and other firefighters kick in the door of Room 329 and rescue a number of suitcases and a large, heavy fabric box ... a box containing two disassembled machine guns.  Fire salvage not unusual, what follows is, Benedict and his crew are rewarded $50 for their efforts, a very large tip for the times ... enough so the moment remains in mind.  

                                                   Fire at the Congress Hotel

The incidents all come together in a disaster for the gang.  Sobered up, the salesman has reported his drinking encounter with Makley and Clark to the police.  And the authorities have also been told about Makley and Clark by Benedict ... back at the station relaxing while on break, the firefighter has turned a page in True Detective Magazine and been confronted by mug shots of the same men that gave him $50 for rescuing their luggage.  Responding quickly to the possibility that major criminal figures are in town, Police Chief C. A. Wollard immediately has search parties out scouring the city for the suspects.  It does not take long for the men to be found.

                                                       True Detective Magazine

Using information provided by the Congress Hotel  and the mover employed to take the men's luggage to their new place of residence, police put their attention on a rental home near the University of Arizona at 927 East Second Avenue.  Watching the home are Detectives Dallas Ford, Chet Sherman, and Mark Robbins, and Officers Jay Smith and Frank Eyman.  When Makley and his latest girlfriend, local nightclub singer Madge Ritzer, go downtown to pick up a shortwave radio the outlaw is having fixed at Grabbe Electric and Radio, four of the lawmen follow.  At the store, an unarmed Makley is arrested by Sherman without incident.  Brought to the jail, he at first insists he is a vacationing businessman named J. C. Davies ... a charade that fools no one.  Unaware that his friend has been arrested as he sips a beer back at the rental, Clark will not go into custody as easily.

                                      927 East Second Avenue

Returning to the outlaw hideaway, the police put together a simple plan to gain access to the house and anyone that might be inside ... Sherman will pose as a Western Union messenger with a special letter requiring personal delivery.  When Clark comes forward, Sherman draws his gun and attempts to arrest the outlaw, but instead of complying, Clark grabs the pistol pointed his way and begins a wrestling match for possession of the weapon.  Tussling through the front room, the pair end up in the bedroom with Clark about to obtain the gun (he also reaches under a pillow on the bed for the pistol he has left there, but comes up empty ... his girlfriend Opal Long has moved the gun under the mattress where she thinks it will be "safer") ... but help arrives in the form of his colleagues (one, Ford, has a broken hand compliments of Long slamming the door shut as the detective is attempting to enter the house) and Clark is eventually put in handcuffs after being clobbered over the head several times by the pistols of the lawmen.  Suspect in custody, the officers also confiscate from the mattress weapon, a .38 revolver, two other pistols, three machine guns, an automatic rifle, two bulletproof vest, handcuffs, brass knuckles, ammunition and $4,526.68 in cash ... and with the booty in hand, relieve Clark of any pretense that he is a law abiding citizen.  A mistake is made though when everyone escorts the bandit to jail ... no one is there to capture the leader of the gang when Pierpont walks up to the front door a short time later.

                                                 Another view of the hideaway
                                        Top - left to right - Dallas Ford, Chief Wollard,
                                        Harry Foley, Frank Eyman, Captain Smith, and
                                          Chet Sherman ... Bottom - left to right - Milo
                                           Walker, Kenneth Mullaney, and Earl Nolan

Seeing the front door wide open, furniture overturned and blood stains on the floor, Pierpont instantly puts two and two together, runs to his car, and drives back to where he and his girlfriend, Mary Kinder, are staying ... the Arizona Tourist Court on South Sixth Street.  Packing quickly, the outlaw pauses just long enough to make a call to local attorney O. E. Glover, hiring the lawyer to represent his friends.  The delay in leaving is just enough time for the police to arrive, remembering the strange tourist and deducing from a description of Pierpont that the two men might be the same person.  Following as Pierpont pulls on to the road, the police decide to see if they can play along with the con the outlaw has been running.  Flagging Pierpont over to the side of the road, Eyman claims the car needs an Arizona tourist inspection sticker ... which can be obtained at the local police station.  Thinking himself cool and able to con any cop, Pierpont, holding a .45 between his legs, allows Eyman into the back seat of his Buick so the officer can direct him accordingly over the streets of Tucson.  Arriving at the police station, Pierpont realizes he has been duped when he sees the confiscated luggage of Clark and Makley ... for a moment, he debates over whether to go for the gun hidden in his pocket, or the second weapon he is carrying in a shoulder holster, but Eyman, Chief Wollard, and Officer Smith are on him before he can fire either weapon and a third member of the gang is handcuffed and put behind bars (patting down Pierpont, they will find two more weapons on Pierpont for a total of four ... none of which the bandit was able to use).  Only John Dillinger still roams the streets of Tucson.

                                           More of the officers involved in the capture
                                                             Bandit Booty

Learning from their earlier mistake, a detail of police stakes out the house that yielded Makley and Clark earlier in the day ... and sure enough, not knowing his friends are in jail, Dillinger pulls up at the property with his girlfriend Billie Frechette later that evening.  Walking up to the front door, Dillinger is confronted by Officers James Herron, Kenneth Mullaney, and Milo Walker.  "Reach for the moon or I'll cut you in two," Herron yells ... and after a moment's hesitation, Dillinger does as he is told and is placed under arrest (in the Hudson the outlaw is driving and the home he has rented, police will find two machine guns, five hundred rounds of ammo, two shortwave radios, thousands of dollars in cash, two modified .351 Winchester rifles with Maxim silencers.  In a single day, without firing a shout, the Tucson police have captured the entire Dillinger Gang (except for John Hamilton who remained in Chicago nursing recent received bank robbery wounds).
                                                         Dillinger under arrest

For three of the gang, their capture is the beginning of the end.  Hauled back to Ohio to go on trial for the murder of Sheriff Sarber (the sheriff's revolver is found in the possession of Pierpont), Clark, Makley, and Pierpont will all be found guilty of the crime ... Russell will receive a life sentence, Makley will be killed while trying to escape of Death Row, and Pierpont will be electrocuted later in 1934.

                    Arraignment - L to R - Clark, Makley, Pierpont, Dillinger, Frechette, Kinder

Out of jail for only a few months, it now seems Dillinger will either soon be executed for the killing of Sergeant William O'Malley earlier in January, or face life behind bars, but soon he will shock the world by escaping from the "escape-proof" jail in Crown Point, Indiana ... and there will be many more robberies, gunfights and deaths before 1934 comes to an end.

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