3/16/1934 - The brief spotlight shining on black outlaw Herbert Youngblood comes to an abrupt and violent end in Port Huron, Michigan, thirteen days after he helped John Dillinger escape from the jail in Crown Point, Indiana.
Facing murder charges, on March 3rd the outlaw decided to assist Dillinger in the public enemy's "wooden gun" escape from the Crown Point jail, first controlling hostages with the thick handle of a toilet plunger, then after weapons are confiscated, with the menace of a fully loaded Thompson sub-machine gun. Escape successful, at a streetcar stop in Chicago on Western Avenue, Dillinger gives Youngblood $100, thanks him for his help, and the two men say goodbye and part ways ... for Dillinger, it will be back to bank robberies, shootouts with authorities, and lots of headline news. Youngblood however has only a couple of weeks left to live.
Dillinger with a real and a fake weapon
Making his way northeast from Chicago, Youngblood hides within the colored community that has established itself in Port Huron to work in the foundries on the south side of town. Called the "Gateway to Canada" and located at the south end of Lake Huron, the town is the perfect spot for an outlaw that might need to cross the border at a moment's notice. Sadly though for Younblood, he doesn't hide well at all and won't have even a second for fleeing when he is finally discovered. Finding a need to boast about helping Dillinger escape, during his few days and nights in Port Huron the outlaw drinks wildly, flashes a large bankroll about, and tells one and all in the colored saloons about town that without him the public enemy would still be behind bars. It is a formula made for disaster.
Port Huron Postcard
And disaster indeed does strike on the 16th when an intoxicated Youngblood makes a nuisance of himself in a small grocery store belonging to Mrs. Pearl Abraham. Knocking over products and displays as he stumbles about and declares himself a "badman," the outlaw's foolery in refusing to pay for a pack of cigarettes eventually results in the owner's son calling the police. Three officers, Sheriff William L. Van Antwerp, Deputy Sheriff Charles Cavanaugh, and Deputy Howard Lohr, soon arrive to find out about the disturbance and put an end to it. Removing a .38 automatic from the belligerent drunk he finds in the store (given to the outlaw by Dillinger during their escape from Crown Point), Cavanaugh corrals Youngblood and the lawmen relax slightly, thinking the arrest will be a routine one. Youngblood has other ideas though, and now fancying himself a bad-ass like his Crown Point buddy, instead of submitting to custody he pulls a concealed 10-shot .32 Savage automatic out of an unchecked pants pocket, and despite the odds against him, begins blasting away.
In the slugfest which follows as all four men unload their weapons, Cavanaugh receives mortal wounds from hits to both of his lungs, Van Antwerp and Lohr take damage to their chests (both men will recover), Eugene Fields, the son of the store's owner, gets a flesh wound in his shoulder, and Youngblood is struck ten times. Taken to the emergency room of the nearest hospital, Youngblood passes away four hours later, but lingers on long enough to do Dillinger one last favor by lying to authorities, telling questioning lawmen that he left the public enemy just the day before as the desperado was about to leave the United States and enter Canada (Dillinger however is in Mason City robbing its bank, and by nightfall will be back in his hiding place in St. Paul, Minnesota). Over and out, Youngblood is only twenty-nine-years-old when he makes his bullet holed exit.
Forty-seven-year-old Cavanaugh, a twenty-two-year veteran of the police force, leaves behind a wife and a child.