Throwback Thursday: when Dayton cops nabbed Public Enemy No. 1


“Public Enemy No. 1” was sitting in a Dayton jail cell 83 years ago today.

Guarded by officers armed with rifles and shotguns, John Dillinger, 30, suspected as “the leader of bandits,” was captured in a boarding house on West First Street.

Found in the boarding house were “four pistols, $2,600 in cash, quantities of rifle and shotgun shells, detailed notes explaining the speediest ways to escape from various cities and sacks full of carpet tacks, according to a story published in the Sept. 22, 1933 edition of the Dayton Daily News.

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Police said the tacks were to be scattered over highways to "puncture tires of autos in pursuit. This was done in six holdups.”

Paroled from an Indiana prison the previous May, Dillinger, along with a handful of triggermen, zig zagged across Indiana and Ohio holding up six banks, including one in New Carlisle.

It was estimated the group got away with more than $50,000.

Love lured Dillinger to Dayton, according to a 2009 Dayton Daily News story.

Mary Longnecker, 23, the sister of one of Dillinger’s fellow Indiana inmates, was living in the Gem City.

Enticed by the stories his prison pal told, Dillinger traveled to Dayton eager to meet Longnecker. Driving down West First Street in a Model A Ford, he yelled out the window at pedestrians asking the whereabouts of the young woman.

A romance developed and Dillinger visited Longnecker at her boarding house over the summer months.

The gumshoes with Pinkerton National Detective Agency learned about the robber's romance.

“Dillinger calls upon this woman regularly and, no doubt, can be apprehended at Dayton, Ohio,” wrote a manager for the agency to S.E. Yendes, Dayton chief of detectives.

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The landlady at the boarding house was in cahoots with the police and let them know the next time Dillinger blew into town. At 1 a.m., the Dayton police, led by Yendes, burst into the room.

“Dillinger was found in bed. He made no resistance,” the 1933 story reported.

Days later, the newspaper reported authorities in three states were “fighting for possession of John Dillinger.” 

Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Robert C. Patterson turned Dillinger over to armed guards, who escorted the gangster to Allen County to await trial for robbing the Citizens National Bank in Bluffton.

Dillinger’s gang escaped from their Indiana prison and made their way to Allen County. They passed themselves off as prison officials and broke Dillinger out of jail, killing Sheriff Jesse Sarber during the escape.

Dillinger became "Public Enemy No. 1" on the FBI’s most wanted list. He was killed by federal agents in Chicago July 22, 1934.

Newspaper coverage of John Dillinger arrest in Dayton

Newspaper coverage of John Dillinger arrest in Dayton


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