July 22nd, 1934 – Dillinger Gunned Down

Today-In-History

John Herbert Dillinger (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 1934) was an American gangster and bank robber in the Depression-era United States.

11738022_1028230347217652_1838530288336632682_nHe operated with a group of men, known by some as the so-called Dillinger gang or Terror Gang, who, as an organised body, amongst other activities, robbed twenty-four banks and four police stations. Dillinger escaped from jail twice; he was also charged with, but never convicted of, the murder of an East Chicago, Indiana police officer who shot Dillinger in his bullet-proof vest during a shootout, prompting him to return fire. It was Dillinger’s only homicide charge.

In the heyday of the Depression-era outlaw (1933–1934) Dillinger was the most notorious of all, standing out even among more violent criminals such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. (Decades later, the first major book about ’30s gangsters was titled The Dillinger Days.) He courted publicity, styling himself as a Robin Hood figure, and the media of his time ran exaggerated accounts of his bravado and colorful personality. The government demanded federal action, and J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated Federal Bureau of Investigation as a weapon against organized crime and used Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform to launch the FBI.

After evading police in four states for almost a year, Dillinger was wounded and returned to his father’s home to recover. He returned to Chicago in July 1934 and met his end at the hands of police and federal agents who were informed of his whereabouts by Ana Cumpănaş (the owner of the brothel where Dillinger sought refuge at the time). On July 22nd, 1934, the police and Division of Investigation closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis and Samuel P. Cowley, moved to arrest Dillinger as he exited the theater. He pulled a weapon and attempted to flee but was shot four times and killed.


 

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