John Dillinger was a notorious bank robber whose Depression-era crime spree led to the formation of the FBI. He met his end outside a Chicago movie theatre.
The sensational career of John Dillinger, America’s greatest criminal of recent history, came to a sudden end to-night, as the Federal agents and the police shot and killed him as he emerged from a motion picture theatre.
According to reports, Dillinger had been hiding in Chicago since his last bank robbery,
but his Inordinate fondness for the movies caused him to visit picture theatres occasion-
Early this evening, agents traced him to the “Biograph Theatre,” a popular playhouse, and
waited patiently until he started to leave through the foyer, and then, apparently with-
out taking the risk of attempting to arrest him, unleased multiple fire with high-power
rifles, and he fell mortally wounded.
In the wild shooting, two women bystanders were wounded. Dozens of theatre patrons were thrown into a panic, and rushed for cover.
Sixteen Federal agents and police surrounded the theatre. The chief Federal agent said
that his men moved forward to arrest the outlaw, but when Dillinger made a motion to draw his pistol from inside a belt they started shooting.
Dillinger, according to the chief Federal agent, was not instantly killed, but mortally wounded. He died in an ambulance en route to hospital. Officers, who examined his body found that he had made desperate efforts to disguise his Identity. He had had his face “lifted” by a surgical operation, and he had put acid on his fingers to obliterate their prints.
Nevertheless, the police made positive identification.
Dillinger had forsaken his hiding place to see a gangland picture, entitled “Manhattan
Melodrama,” featuring Clark Gable and William Powell.
The death of John Dillinger has ended one of the most widespread man-hunts in American history.
Described as “Public Enemy No. 1,” Dillinger gained a notoriety equalling that of Jesse James, traditionally America’s boldest outlaw, who defied the authorities from 1866 to 1882, and finally was killed by two members of his own gang.
Dillinger’s reign was a brief one, but the almost incredible exploits of this elusive young
desperado stirred the nation to its depths.
He was arrested last September, identified as the leader of a gang which had committed a number of bank robberies, and lodged in the gaol at Lima, Ohio. A few days later three of his confederates broke into the gaol and released him, the sheriff being fatally injured in the fight that ensued.
During the next four months Dillinger carried out many more daring bank robberies, and shot his way out of several police traps, but was re-arrested on January 25, and placed in the Crown Point Gaol, said to be the strongest county prison in the United States.
Dillinger made good his boast that there was no gaol in the country strong enough to hold him, when, two days later, he bluffed his way out of prison by brandishing a piece of wood shaped and blackened to resemble a revolver.
The man hunt then began in earnest, and within a few days a veritable army of 5000 policemen, sheriffs, and Federal agents were engaged in the search for the 32-year-old bandit, who continued to raid banks and to elude his pursuers, although sometimes pitched battles were fought before he could shake them off.
He left a bloody trail across the continent, at least 14 persons, including six of his followers, having been killed before the leader himself met his doom.