John Dillinger

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I will be the meanest bastard you ever saw when I get out of here.
~ Dillinger during his first tenure in prison.

John Herbert Dillinger (June 22nd, 1903 – July 22nd, 1934) was an American bank robber in the Depression-era United States. His gang robbed two dozen banks and four police stations. Dillinger escaped from jail twice. Dillinger 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 shoot-out, prompting him to return fire. It was Dillinger's only homicide charge.

In 1933–34, seen in retrospect as the heyday of the Depression-era outlaw, Dillinger was the most notorious of all, standing out even among more violent criminals such as Baby Face NelsonPretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. (Decades later, the first major book about in '30s gangsters was titled The Dillinger Days.) Media reports in his time were spiced with exaggerated accounts of Dillinger's bravado and daring and his colorful personality. The government demanded federal action, and J. Edgar Hoover developed a more sophisticated FBI 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 the owner of the brothel where Dillinger sought refuge at the time. On July 22nd, the police and Division of Investigation closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents moved to arrest Dillinger as he left the theater. He pulled a weapon and attempted to flee but was shot three or four times and killed.

Popular Culture

  • He was the main character in Public Enemies (2009). The character was portrayed by Johnny Depp.