Hoosier Dusty Files - January 25, 1934 - John Dillinger Captured at Tucson, AZ, Extradited to Indiana
|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
Arizona authorities captured John Dillinger in a bloodless, anti-climactic afternoon arrest as Dillinger strode up a sidewalk to a home he thought occupied by other members of his gang. Unfortunately, for Dillinger, the police had quietly arrested these men previously and had them in custody.
It All Begins With a Hotel Fire
Dillinger had escaped prison in Ohio in October 1933. The gang had engaged on a nationwide crime spree, and then decided to winter in Florida. After a few weeks, they decided to relocate to Arizona. Three members of his gang arrived in Tucson first, Harry Pierpont, “Fat Charlie” Makley and Russell Clark. These men registered under fake names at the Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson. On January 21 a fire broke out at the hotel and the Tucson Fire Department showed up to evacuate the building and put out the fire. As the firemen evacuated the building, one of the guests was apprehensive about his luggage, on the top floor. He persuaded a fireman to retrieve his luggage, which the fireman did. He noted that the bags were expensive looking and the man was uncommonly happy to get the bags back and tipped the fireman well for his efforts.
The Fireman and the Detective Magazine
A day or so later, the fireman read a detective magazine and noted some photos of the Dillinger gang, currently on the loose. John Dillinger was "Public Enemy No. 1." The man that tipped him for the luggage looked quite like one of the men in the photos, Russell Clark. The fireman made his discovery known to the Tucson police.
Bragging About Robbing Banks
Two tourists contacted the Tucson police at the same time, voicing concerns about two men they had been talking to in a hotel lounge. One of the men bragged about how easy it was to rob banks.
Arrest of Pierpont, Clark and Makley
After a quick investigation, police arrested Pierpont at a radio repair shop and Mackley on a traffic stop. That left the most dangerous of the trio, Russell Clark. The police tracked him down to a house close to the University of Arizona. The police arrested him, but not until Russell resisted violently. After cutting his scalp bad, the managed to get him into custody. They found the house loaded with guns, ammunition and bullet proof vests. There was no sign of Dillinger. They figured he would show up eventually, so they staked the house out.
During the late afternoon hours of January 25, Dillinger did show up. As he approached the house, two policemen sidled up to him and cuffed him. Dillinger's only response to his surprise arrest was, “Well, I’ll be damned!”
Extradition to Indianapolis
Dillinger's reputation made Arizona authorities nervous. Violence always seemed to follow a Dillinger arrest, during which people died. They wanted to get him out as fast as possible, as he had not committed any crimes in Arizona. Many states wanted Dillinger for crimes committed in their states, but Arizona authorities sent him to Indiana, his home state and the state that had the most serious charges waiting for him. They extradited him on January 31 and sent him to Lake County jail in Crown Point, Indiana. Crown Point was considered escape proof. Dillinger had not met a prison he could not escape from, and Crown Point was no exception.
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning