Born in Belpre, Ohio on 11/17/1903, DeVol shows his psychopathic tendencies early, being designated an incorrigible youth and sent to the Oklahoma State Training School for White Boys at the age of 10! Released after serving a short sentence, DeVol is not fixed whatsoever by his stay at the institution, and soon becomes an integral part of a group of local Tulsa, Oklahoma toughs called the Central Park Gang that includes a group of future outlaws and killers that includes the Barker Brothers, Lloyd, Arthur (Dock), and Fred, Russell Gibson, and Harry Campbell. At 13, DeVol cops his first arrest for larceny, and at 19 robs his first bank (following the lead of the man known as "The Dean of American Bank Robbers," Harvey Bailey, the Vinton, Iowa job nets the Bailey crew $70,000!). Operating with the outlaw elite of the Midwest, his criminal resume by 1936 includes felonies in Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, robberies totaling more than $3 million in cash and securities, stints behind bars totaling 10 years (caught unarmed in his early days, DeVol starts going everywhere armed at a minimum with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol tucked in his waistband, and a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol worn in a shoulder holster under his left arm) and successful escapes from the Ottawa County Jail in Miami, Oklahoma, the Tulsa County Jail in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Muskogee County Jail in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the Hutchinson Reformatory in Hutchinson (where his best friend is future Public Enemy #1, Alvin Karpis), Kansas, and the St. Peter Hospital for the Criminally Insane in St. Peter, Minnesota.
And operating as a hit man, an enforcer for the mob running Omaha, Nebraska, and as the muscle on various robberies (his acuity with the use of a Thompson sub-machine gun earns him the nickname of "Chopper"), Devol is into double digits for killings cops, gangsters. and innocent bystanders.
Missouri Officer John Rose - DeVol Victim
The beginning of the end for DeVol starts with his bloody participation in the 1932 Barker-Karpis gang bank robbery of the Third Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis ... a job that nets the gang $114,000 in cash and bonds, and costs three men their lives (Devol guns down police officers Ira Evans and Leo Gorski from 15 feet away with his machine gun as the men approach the bank, and Fred Barker kills 29-year-old Oscar Erickson in Como Park as the gang is changing cars, believing the man who has slowed down to see if he can assist a group of strangers appearing to have car trouble, is actually trying to get the outlaw's license plate number to give to the police). Foolishly getting totally shitfaced and creating a scene at the Annabee Arms Apartments where he is staying in Minneapolis, after a fight in which DeVol is subdued by the butt of a police pistol being cracked over his head, the bandit is arrested, goes on trial for the dual killings of Evans and Gorski, pleads quilty to escape potential trials in other states that could result in the death penalty, and is sentenced to life at the Minnesota State Prison in Stillwater by Judge Winfield W. Bardwell.
That should have been the end of the DeVol story, just another young punk growing into a sad old man behind bars ... but DeVol has another plan in mind for his future. Slowly building to the point where the authorities must act, DeVol begins pretending (or not!) that he has lost his mind ... babbling nonsense, attacking prisoners and guards, refusing to eat for days because he thinks his food has been poisoned, and repeatedly tearing his cell apart. In December of 1935 he is transferred to the insane asylum at St. Peter, Minnesota, where assigned to a second floor room on a ward with other cop killers and bank robbers, DeVol begins secretly working on making a knife out of a piece of wood and tin foil from a milk chocolate candy bar. Weapon ready, confederates incorporated into his escape plan, on the Sunday night of 6/7/1936, when only five guards are covering the criminal wards, DeVol strikes.
St. Peter Hospital
With DeVol in the lead, knife and clubs made from table and chair legs result in the guards being overpowered and then locked in the hospital's pipe room, then like a scene in a Hollywood movie, a group of 15 maniacs breaks out a barred window, climb down to the ground using an unrolled fire hose, climb the outside wall (a 10-foot tall steel fence), and vanish into the night. Separating from most of his companions in flight, DeVol chooses to set up operations again in the familiar environs of Oklahoma (using the town of Enid as a base of operations), robbing several businesses and banks with fellow escapee, 22-year-old Donald J. Reeder, who'd been serving a life sentence for murder (by July of 1936, they are the only escapees not captured or killed).
At 2:45 in the afternoon, Wednesday, July 8, 1936, the pair hit a small bank in Turon, Kansas (there are only two employees working during the robbery) and leave with a paper bag containing $550 in cash. Returning to Enid, Reeder decides to celebrate the successful job by spending the evening playing hide the sausage with his girlfriend, Juanita Hunsaker. Not having any female companionship himself, DeVol goes hunting for action, gals or booze, at a nearby bar, the German Village Tavern ... and runs into big trouble.
Owned by a former police officer, Jim O'Neal, though dressed nicely and seemingly pleasant and polite, DeVol sticks out like a sore thumb among the tavern's regulars ... taking a booth next to the door, and continually sweeping the room and two entrances with his eyes for trouble though he has found two pretty girls to sit with him as he drinks cold beer ... his actions draw the kind of trouble he is hoping to avoid. Thinking that DeVol might be planning to rob his establishment, O'Neal calls his buddies at the police department who agree to send some officers to the bar to check out the situation ("There's a bad man in my place and I think there's going to be a holdup!"). On patrol, closest to the tavern, shortly after 11:00, Patrolmen Cal Palmer and Ralph Knarr arrive and confront DeVol. Cool as a cucumber, the killer agrees to step outside and discuss things with the officers, telling them he thinks he knows why they are there, but asking if it would be okay if he finished his beer first. Sensing no danger, Palmer and Knarr agree to let him finish his drink ... which DeVol proceeds to do. Done, he places his glass on the table, and rises as if to step outside, but comes up firing the automatic he has drawn from his shoulder holster. Closest to the table, Palmer takes three bullets to the chest and dies instantly (one round goes right through his heart), while Knarr is hit in the neck, right shoulder and stomach (in critical condition for several days, Knarr will survive the encounter); additionally, a stray round hits bar patron J. W. Edwards in the leg.
Cal Palmer - 38, leaves a wife and two sons
Targets down, DeVol rushes outside just as backup for Palmer and Knarr, in the form of five more Enid officers arrive at the tavern. Running down an alley and on to the street, DeVol sees an occupied car, climbs on its running board, and claiming to be a deputy sheriff, orders its occupants out of the vehicle ... an order Dr. L.D. Huff and Fred Caldwell are happy to comply with as the police arrive and a gun battle on the street breaks out. Over in seconds, Night Chief Lelan Coyle takes a round in his right hand that almost severs a finger, but DeVol gets the worst of the encounter, taking a killing slug to the head.
Over and out (the police will soon arrest DeVol's partner), DeVol is the last of the Barker-Karpis Gang to be brought to justice ... carrying $110 in his pockets, he is 32-years-old when he is blasted into his forever!