I do not romanticize criminals in any way. However, I believe I can learn from some of them. While reading one of Massad Ayoob's book on CCW, I stumbled across some information about John Dillinger and his gun-carrying habits, which peaked my interest and led to further reading. Following are some tidbits from that reading which I found interesting.
John Dillinger: Bank Robber or Robin Hood? - Crime Library on truTV.com
I believe this was the incident Mas Ayoob referenced on pages 134 and 135 of his book The Gun Digest Book of Concealed Carry (2008), when he saidOn April 20, Dillinger and his gang, along with wives and girlfriends showed up at the lodge. It was off season and rooms were available. After dinner, Wanatka sat down with his guests to play cards. It was then that he noticed the guns and the shoulder holsters. He and his wife Nan figured out who the guest really were and they were terrified.How was it that Dillinger's guns were noticed only when he sat down to play cards and not earlier when he was presumably standing? Did he take his jacket off before sitting? Or did his unbuttoned jacket open and fall outside his pant legs when he sat down? Did he get sloppy, or just too comfortable? Either way, the revealing of his guns was almost a fatal occurrence for him. This incident did soon lead to fatalities, but not John Dillinger himself.Originally Posted by Massad Ayoob
The next occurrence which could relate to some of us happened when federal agents tried to surprise the Dillinger gang after being tipped off by those who noticed Dillinger's guns.
The gang members ignored the barking dogs because the dogs had a habit of frequent barking. This reminds me of accounts where criminals trip an alarm and then retreat to hide and observe. After several such "false" alarms, sometimes a homeowner will turn the alarm off, believing the alarm is faulty. Then when the criminal breaks the alarm circuit and no alarms sounds, the coast is clear for whatever the criminal has in mind.As the agents quietly approached the brightly lit lodge, they got a real surprise. The two watchdogs barked furiously. The agents ran to their positions, believing that the element of surprise was gone. But as it turned out, the dogs had barked so frequently that the gang members were used to the noise.
The barking dogs did not alert the gang, but when federal agents mistakenly fired upon three innocent citizens who happened to be leaving at just the wrong time,These guys were ready at a moment's notice to respond to an attack.Return fire from the lodge was instantaneous
What occurred next is similar to what I've read on this board: planning ahead for a worst-case situation.The agents were rushing due to information the gang was departing soon. The agents had just arrived on the scene and were basing their plan on a map of the area which left out some crucial details. When the gang executed their escape plan out the back door, the agents' plan to flank them failed because of unforseen obstacles (a huge ditch on one side, a barbed-wire fence on the other, and a steep bank in the rear behind which the gang made their getaway).The gang had laid out a careful escape plan the day they arrived.
As "Baby Face" Nelson was making his getaway after departing the immediate area, he met two other agents and a local constable who were arriving by car after being summoned to help. One agent said he was looking for a Mr. Koerner, the local exchange operator who had summoned help. This was Nelson's response:If it ever comes to the point where I feel it prudent to be wearing body armor, I don't think I'll be telling very many people, if any at all.Nelson aimed his automatic at the men and ordered them out of the car. "I know you b****** are wearing bulletproof vests so I'll give it to you high and low."
With that he shot Newman in the forehead. Miraculously, the agent lived. Baum wasn't as fortunate. He was killed instantly and Christensen was wounded eight times, but would survive.
Another point I had reinforced from this episode is something I've heard before: if you shoot a man in the gut, he'll drop what he's holding in his hands. Now I don't know if the constable had anything in his hands to drop. Nor do I know if the constable was shot below his vest, although that is my guess (I don't know of anyone who has ever survived being shot 8 times in the head, so I'll assume he took some shots in other places). Judging from Nelson's comment just prior to the shooting, I believe it reasonable he may have shot the constable "low". I've read some recommendations to consider an attacker's pelvic region to be a good target since a shot to the groin will get one's attention, and a shot to the hip area may drop a man immediately due to purely structural damage.
Eventually, some of Dillinger's cohorts were arrested and put in prison. The following is from an account of a prison break which Dillinger assisted in by supplying weapons:Although I would hate to put my life in the hands of a criminal, I will admit sometimes the best decision may be to comply rather than attack immediately. A few moments later, another guard would make the same decision:There in the yard, they took a guard hostage, the huge mountain of a man they called "Big Bertha." Pierpont told him, "If you try anything, you're dead where you stand. Get it, you big, brave man?" "Bertha" got it.The following is another account where some of Dillinger's cohorts returned the favor by breaking him out of jail:Just as they were approaching the main gate, the convicts mugged the turnkey. Warden Kunkel heard the commotion from the business office. Someone yelled, "It's a break!" With Pierpont's gun aimed at his stomach, Kunkel decided just to be a spectator and not a dead hero that day.I've read of instances where one has outdrawn an already drawn gun, so I know it's possible. However, I think the odds of success are relatively low unless other factors are in one's favor. Hindsight allows me to suggest the sheriff might have been better off complying, but that opinion is certainly not verifiable in this instance.Toland tells how at 6:20 P.M., Pierpont, Makley and Clark armed with pistols approached the jail. Sheriff Sarber and his wife had just finished dinner and were sitting in the office with their deputy. Pierpont told them, "'We're officers from Michigan City and we want to see Dillinger.'
"'Let me see your credentials,' Sarber responded."
"Pierpont calmly pulled out a gun. 'Here's our credentials.'
"'Oh, you can't do that,' said Sarber, reaching for the gun in the desk drawer.
"Pierpont panicked and impulsively fired twice. One bullet went into Sarber's left side, through the abdomen and into his thigh. He fell to the floor.
"'Give us the keys to the cell,' said Pierpont, but Sarber's answer was to try to rise. Makley stepped forward and hit him over the head with the butt of his gun, accidentally discharging a wild shot. Sarber collapsed, moaning."
Mrs. Sarber grabbed the keys and gave them to Pierpont. He opened up the cell, gave Dillinger one of his guns, and they ran out to the car.
Sarber, in great pain, looked at his wife, "Mother, I believe I'm going to have to leave you." He died an hour and a half later.
I have rarely heard of armed action directed toward a police station, except a few misguided youths who mistakenly tried to rob a police station, until I read the following:I believe this falls under the category of "Keep my mouth shut about what guns, etc. I own."Once Dillinger had been freed, they all headed back to Chicago to put together the most organized and professional bank robbing scheme ever devised in the county. One thing they needed was the very best in guns,ammunition and bullet-proof vests.
What better place to get such equipment than from the police themselves. A week after Dillinger's escape from the Lima, Ohio, jail, he and Pierpont decided to hit the enormous police arsenal in Peru, Indiana. A month earlier, Dillinger and Homer Van Meter posed as tourists there and asked what the local policemen had in the way of fire power if the Dillinger Gang ever showed up in those parts. The officers proudly showed the two "tourists" the kinds of weapons they would use against the Terror Gang.
Late on the evening of October 20, 1933, Pierpont and Dillinger entered the arsenal, subdued three lawmen and made off with several loads of machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, ammunition and bullet-proof vests. When this loot was added to the guns and ammunition they had stolen earlier from an Auburn, Indiana, police station, they were ready for business.
One lawman tried to instill division in the gang by trying to play another member's and Dillinger's egos against each other. This was Dillinger's response:There is a lesson in there for me, especially when encountering some of these stupid St. Louis drivers--forget about my ego when in potentially life-altering situations.Dillinger, however, read and reread every story and even saved the clippings; but instead of becoming boastful, his manner and dress became more conservative.
I found the next few sentences in the article interesting:I am not glorifying these men at all, but the mandate to prepare their crimes in all sobriety tells me they knew full well the seriousness and danger of their upcoming actions. I need to realize the seriousness of what may be ahead every time I put on my gear to go out. I believe I do, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded.The gang lived quietly in expensive Chicago apartments, the men drinking only beer and little of that. According to Pierpont's code, a crime not only had to be committed without the benefit of drink or drugs but prepared in sobriety
During one bank robbery, I found an elderly woman's response to a gang-member's command to be particularly funny:The article does not mention anything else about her or the altercation, so I reckon she went to Penney's.Hamilton, standing by the door with a stopwatch so that they didn't overstay their five-minute time limit, looked up to see an elderly, foreign-born woman walk out of the bank. He told her to get back inside.
Completely disregarding the gun had in his hands, she walked calmly by him, saying "I go to Penney's and you go to hell!"
We've all heard the advice that if we don't think something is right, trust our instincts. The following immediately preceded a bank robbery, or rather was part of the robbery:With the robbery in full progress with the gang inside, patrons on the floor, Dillinger standing by while the bank president opened the safe, the following occurred:The gang moved to Milwaukee where they planned the robbery of the American Bank and Trust in Racine, Wisconsin. On November 20, 1933, the good-looking, well-dressed Henry Pierpont confidently walked into the bank with a roll of paper under his arm. Then he pasted up a big Red Cross poster in the picture window of the bank, which happened to block the tellers' cages from being seen from the street. Mrs. Henry Patzke, the bookkeeper noticed, but didn't think anything of it.I need to forgo complacency no matter how many times I set my home alarm, check the doors and windows, ready my weapon for the night, position a gun for ready access while leaving or entering my garage, and any other situation that at one time demanded my vigilance.Shortly afterwards, two policemen walked to the bank, expecting that this was just another false alarm, like many other ones before it. When they walked into the bank, Pierpont relieved one of them of his gun and told Makley to "get that punk with his machine gun!"
Makley fired at Sergeant Hansen and wounded him twice
I'm not a pro when it comes to approaching criminals who are expected to be armed, but the results of the following indicate this officer didn't get it right:Descriptions of another robbery include the use of cover, at least until the cover moved:After laying low in Chicago for one month, the gang headed to Daytona Beach, Florida, to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve. Shortly before they left, the police received a tip that one of the gang's cars was being repaired at a local garage. Staking it out, the tip paid off when Red Hamilton and his girlfriend showed up to retrieve the auto. Unfortunately, when a Chicago police sergeant confronted Hamilton, the bank robber drew first and fatally wounded the officer.During the same robbery, some local citizens took action, although their actions did not appreciably impact the bank robbers:Police officer Howard Wagner came on the run. Using a stalled car with occupants as a shield, the officer took several pot shots at Van Meter as the lookout was battling other defenders. When the automobile took off leaving Wagner exposed Van Meter cut the officer down, killing him.Apparently there was a reward for some of the gang members:A jewelry shop owner ran out of his store with a pistol and fired at Nelson. Saved by his bulletproof vest, Nelson spun around and fired wildly wounding two pedestrians. As he did so, a 16-year-old tried to stop him by jumping on his back. Nelson was wondering what the hell was going on with the citizens of South Bend. One had taken a shot at him and another jumped on his back and was trying to choke him. Nelson twisted violently and flung the young attacker through a plate glass window. Stepping back, he fired hitting the youth in the hand.
An immigrant acquaintance of Dillinger's girlfriend knew his identity, and she arranged for his capture because she was facing possible deportation and was hoping to receive special treatment. "The lady in red", called thus because her orange dress--which looked red in the theater lights--would be the signal that the man she was with was Dillinger.Dillinger and the others were now exiting the bank with hostages as police and citizens with weapons fired away trying to hit the bandits, but instead were wounding hostages — their greed for the reward money spurring them on. As the gun battle raged, Van Meter was hit in the head and was dragged into the getaway car by Dillinger. Lucky to get out of town alive, the gang headed for a hideout. The last ride of the Dillinger Gang had netted the robbers only $4,800 a piece.
The wound to Van Meter was caused by a .22-caliber revolver. The bullet entered his forehead near the hairline, burrowed under his scalp creasing his skull and coming out six inches away. Probasco, a one-time veterinarian treated him, before Dr. Cassidy arrived.
Here is an account of an agent staking out the theater who observed Dillinger buy tickets and go inside, which indicate some thoughts of the day concerning concealed carry:Chicago was in the middle of a 100-degree heat wave with extreme humidity (it was still 90+ degrees once the movie was finished that evening) so Dillinger had opted for no jacket.As Dillinger purchased the tickets, one of Purvis's first thoughts was that he was glad to see the man was not wearing a jacket, "because it meant that he could not have many weapons concealed on his person."
As Dillinger, his girlfriend, and the "lady in red" exited the theater, some of the 26 agents on hand approached Dillinger and began firing. According to Ayoob (page 135), Dillinger was carrying a pocket .380 that night with an extra mag in another pocket. Accounts indicate his hand went to his pocket but he was shot and killed before he could produce a weapon.
Here is an account of one agent who was 3 feet from Dillinger when it was all concluded. Note how his draw was slowed by his attire and/or nervousness:Dillinger was grazed twice in the face near his left eye, shot once from the front in the left clavicle, and fatally shot from the rear in the neck with the bullet exiting the face. His reign of violence was over.He states, "I was about three feet to the left and a little to the rear of him. I was very nervous; it must have been a squeaky voice that called out, 'Stick 'em up, Johnnie, we have you surrounded.'" Purvis recalls that he ripped every button off his jacket drawing his own weapon, which he didn't get a chance to fire.
The "lady in red" was eventually deported and died in 1947 in her native Romania, bitter to the end that she had not received help with her immigration issues as recompense for her role in Dillinger's death.
I realize all this is old news by more than 70 years, but if any of the yutes (or not so yutes) of today are like I was (didn't read much) maybe some of this is new to some of them.
I don't glorify the criminals in any way. If this happened today, I'd be the first to hope they were captured and brought to justice. But I do believe there are things I can learn from their actions. Even though their lifestyles were very different from mine, they were still using guns and their wits to try and stay alive.
I'll try to learn from anyone if it will help me or my family survive and thrive.