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John Herbert Dillinger (June 22, 1903 – July 22, 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 Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. (Decades later, the first major book about '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 Federal Bureau of Investigation 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 Ana Cumpanas (the owner of the brothel where Dillinger sought refuge at the time). On July 22, the police and Division of Investigation closed in on the Biograph Theater. Federal agents, led by Melvin Purvis and Samuel P. Cowley, moved to arrest Dillinger as he left the theater. He pulled a weapon and attempted to flee but was shot three times (four, according to some historians) and killed.
Three men fired the fatal shots: Clarence Hurt fired twice, Charles Winstead fired three times, and Herman Hollis fired once. Dillinger was hit from behind and he fell face first to the ground. Two female bystanders took slight flesh wounds in the legs and buttocks from flying bullet and brick fragments.Dillinger was struck three (or four, according to some historians) times, with two bullets entering the chest; one of them nicked his heart, and the fatal shot - which entered Dillinger through the back of his neck, severed his spinal cord and tore through his brain before exiting out the front of his head just under his right eye. Although three agents shot Dillinger, Winstead was believed to have fired the fatal shot, and he received a personal letter of commendation from Director Hoover.An ambulance was summoned, though it was clear Dillinger had quickly died from his gunshot wounds. At 10:50 p.m. on July 22, 1934, Dillinger was pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Hospital.According to the investigators, Dillinger died without saying a word.There were also reports of people dipping their handkerchiefs and skirts into the blood pool that had formed as Dillinger lay in the alley in order to secure keepsakes of the entire affair.[dead link] Dillinger's body was displayed to the public at the Cook County morgue after his death.
Dillinger was buried at Crown Hill Cemetery (Section: 44, Lot: 94) in Indianapolis.His gravestone has had to be replaced several times because of vandalism by people chipping off pieces as souvenirs.