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Crime Throughout History: John Dillinger

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Crime Throughout History: John Dillinger

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The Life and Crimes of John Dillinger

One of the most infamous criminals of the modern era, John Dillinger has become a legend in American history. His name conjures up images of the gangster era, when organized crime gripped major cities and criminal gangs made headlines as they committed heinous acts. Many of these outlaws, including Dillinger, become national sensations. In fact, some of these gangsters became folk heroes and their deeds were glamorized in the press. Like the old story of Robin Hood, these career criminals were often portrayed as daring bandits who stole from the rich and made a name for themselves.

However, the truth is that John Dillinger was a ruthless criminal. When the legends and fanfare are set aside, it’s plain to see that Dillinger would do anything to achieve his criminal aspirations, no matter who was standing in his way.

Dillinger’s Crimes

John Dillinger was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 22, 1903. His mother passed away when he was very young and his father did his best to raise John right. However, the young Dillinger wasn’t fond of this discipline and often got into trouble. He dropped out of school and kept a steady job for a brief time but he soon was led astray by dreams of riches and adventure. After he was charged with car theft, he joined to the Navy to avoid prosecution. Only a short time later, he deserted when the ship he served on was stationed in Boston.

He had trouble finding work and joined up with a local loan shark. After the two were caught in a botched robbery attempt, John plead guilty, hoping to avoid a tough sentence. That wasn’t the case and he received a lengthy prison term. After eight and a half years, he was paroled and robbed a bank in Ohio shortly thereafter.

While in jail for the robbery charges, Dillinger and several other prisoners escaped, shooting two guards in the process. The gang hit the road, committing a spree of crime across several states. Their crimes included:

  • Multiple bank robberies
  • A robbery of the police arsenals in Auburn, Indiana and Peru, Indiana
  • The murder of a police detective in Chicago
  • The murder of a police officer during a Chicago bank robbery
  • An escape from an Indiana jail by Dillinger
  • The theft of a sheriff’s car

Eventually, the rest of the Dillinger gang was captured and John fled to St. Paul, where he formed a new gang. Several of his new gang members were killed or captured by the police and John fled again. Dillinger and his new partner, Baby Face Nelson, hit the road to avoid the heat. Along the way, they robbed a police station and Nelson show two police officers.

Finally, on July 22, 1934, FBI agents received several tips that led them to a movie theater in Chicago where Dillinger was seeing a movie with two female friends. When they exited the theater, a police officer lit a cigar to signal other officers to move in. Dillinger drew his gun but was shot five times by three officers. He died in the hospital later that night.

The Dillinger Legacy

The crimes of John Dillinger are still infamous to this day. He was best known for his uncanny ability to evade capture and escape jails. In one instance, he used a fake gun that he had whittled out of wood to force officers to let him out of his cell. In another instance, he and a partner narrowly avoided the police as they crawled out of a back window before the officers broke in.

It’s likely that John Dillinger will be remembered for many more years. However, people should remember that, no matter how glamorous or charming this criminal might seem, his gang was responsible for multiple murders and robberies as they stormed through Illinois and Indiana in the midst of the Great Depression. As with so many other notorious criminals, John Dillinger met his end in the same way that he had lived his life: with the barrel of a gun.

This infamous crime in history is brought to you by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros. If you are in need of experienced legal representation, contact his office today at (832) 752-5972.

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