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Posted on: May 23rd, 2015 by Lewis Mindenhall No Comments

On This Day In 1934, Outlaws Bonnie And Clyde Are Slaughtered In An Ambush.

By Lewis Mindenhall

On May 23 1934. Wanted outlaws Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker are viciously shot to death in an ambush by Texas and Louisiana State police officers, trying to evade apprehension in a stolen 1934 Ford Deluxe on a rural road near Bienville Parish in Louisiana. At approximately 9:15 am that day a posse of four Texas officers and two Louisiana officers led by Frank Hamer were concealed in nearby bushes after learning the previous night that the pair were going to the Parish with escaped convict and gang member Henry Methvin. After almost conceding defeat of the appearance of the gang, the officers suddenly heard Clyde Barrow’s stolen automobile approaching at high speed. The automobile then stopped to speak to Methvin’s father who was stationed next to his truck at the side of the road, and had been used as a decoy to tempt the gang to stop near the bushes where the posse were hiding in wait. The lawmen then opened fire on the pair with a combined total of approximately 130 rounds, killing Bonnie and Clyde on the spot while still inside the automobile. Barrow was reported to be killed almost instantly with a shot to the head, but Parker was heard screaming when she saw that Barrow was dead, before succumbing to a barrage of gun shots. Every shot fired at the pair would have been fatal, and some researchers have suggested that they had been shot more than fifty times. The Parish coroner listed 17 separate entrance wounds on Barrow’s body and 26 on Parker’s. Including several headshots each, and one shot that had managed to severe Barrow’s spinal column.

A crowd soon gathered at the scene of carnage with only two of the officers present after Hamer and two other officers had driven into town to report the massacre to their bosses. The pair of officers at the scene had difficulty keeping the crowd away from the crime scene with one woman who is reported to have cut bloody locks of hair off Bonnie’s head and pieces of her clothing, and another man was attempting to cut off Barrow’s trigger finger, as well as empty shell casings, broken pieces of glass from the car window for souvenirs.

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At the scene showing the stolen Ford Duluxe automobile.

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Close up of Bonnie still in the Ford car.

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The bodies of Bonnie and Clyde

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Autopsy Shots of the pair of outlaws, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

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Bonnie Parker in the morgue.

 

Following the deaths of Bonnie and Clyde, much controversy has surrounded the incident of the ambush on that fateful morning on may 23, 1934. Many differing accounts arose from the officers involved in the shooting, with Hamer and another officer being former Texas Rangers working for the Texas Department of Corrections, two were employees of the Dallas Sheriff’s office, and the other pair were sheriff and deputy of Bienville Parish. The three pairs were known to distrust and dislike one another, and each had different agendas involving the operation. The testimonies of the incident are all different from each pair, and are misleading to the point where its clear that the officers were hiding something about the facts. Motive became an issue, and they all had reason to fabricate what really happend. And now all six men are long deceased, the exact details will always be unknown.

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The Posse of Law Enforcement Officers involved in the killing of Bonnie and Clyde, with lead officer Frank Hamer kneeling down on the right hand side of the photograph.

Bonnie And Clyde: Myth Makers.

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Bonnie and Clyde in 1933, fooling around with a shotgun.

The notorious pair of criminals first met at the house of a mutual friend’s on January 5, 1930 in West Dallas. Clyde Barrow (aged 21) had supposedly gone round to the house while Bonnie Parker (aged 19) was in the kitchen making hot chocolate. The attraction between one another was meant to be instant with many historians believing that Bonnie was infatuated with Clyde and remained a loyal companion throughout there crime wave. Only two weeks after they had met, Clyde was arrested for past crimes and sentenced to two years in prison. He managed to escape from jail, using a gun smuggled to him by Bonnie. However, he was subsequently arrested again a week later and sentenced to 14 years at the brutal Eastham Prison Farm in Texas. Desperate to get out of Eastham Prison when life became unbearable for Clyde, he persuaded a fellow inmate to chop of a couple of his toes in the hope of being transferred. Although the injury didn’t get him transferred immediately, he was eventually granted an early parole in February 1932 after serving only 2 years.

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A very young Clyde Barrow in 1926, aged 16 years old.

Soon after Clyde Barrow was released from prison, he and fellow criminal Ralph Fults managed to assemble a gang together, after finding it hard to live on the “straight and narrow” and finding a job due to the Great Depression. So they had now begun there crime spree with a series of small robberies including stores and gas stations. They had a plan to buy enough firepower to launch a raid on Eastham prison to liberate the prisoners. Bonnie soon became a criminal too after she agreed to go with Clyde and the gang (now called The Barrow Gang) on one of the robberies of a local hardware store. During the robbery the gang had to make a quick getaway and Bonnie, who had stayed in the car throughout, was captured by the law and put into a Texas jail. She was soon released from jail due to lack of evidence, and returned into the arms of Clyde Barrow in the knowledge that neither would ever go back to prison again. She knew that to stay with Clyde would be certain death to both if they were ever caught again.

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These photo’s of Bonnie and Clyde were taking in March 1933, discovered by police at the gangs hideout in Joplin, Missouri.

On April 30, 1932 Clyde Barrow was involved in a robbery in Texas, during which the store owner had been shot and killed. Although Barrow wasnt directly involved in the shooting, having been in the getaway car during the incident, he was later identified by a witness as being involved and now for the first time was accused of murder. By August 5 while Bonnie Parker was on the run and visiting her mother in Dallas, Barrow and  two other members of the Barrow Gang, Raymond Hamilton and Ross Dyer were involved in the murder of a deputy and wounding of a sheriff at a country dance in Springtown, Oklahoma. Now for the first time the gang and Barrow were involved in the killing of a lawman. Shortly after this incident a 16 year old boy called W. D. Jones, who had been a friend of the Barrow family since childhood had persuaded Clyde to join the gang. The following day Jones and Barrow had killed a family man while stealing his car in Texas. Less than two weeks later Barrow was involved in another murder of a Deputy Sheriff. The amount of people murdered by the gang since April had now totalled five.

In the meanwhile, Clyde’s brother Marvin”Buck” Barrow had been released from prison on March 22, 1933, and within days, he and his wife had found a temporary hideout for Barrow and Jones in Joplin, Missouri, supposedly there just to visit Clyde and try try and talk him into giving himself up to the law. Bonnie and Clyde were starting to feel relaxed at this point and had begun to spend their time at the hideout having drunken nights of fun playing card games into the night. The men were extremely noisey throughout the stay and Clyde even managed to fire off a round of his Automatic rifle (according to  Marvin’s wife). Eventually suspicions were raised to the local police department  and a team of five police officers was assembled to confront what was believed to be a gang of bootleggers hiding out. After a standoff between the gang and police officers, a battle soon erupted. Clyde, Jones and Buck were cool under fire and soon killed and fatally wounded some of the lawmen in their path. Bonnie Parker was laid down also covering fire with her own automatic rifle at the time. The gang eventually managed to  get into the getaway car, and even managed to slow down enough to pick up Buck and his wife’s dog Snow Ball.

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A modern day picture of Bonnie and Clyde’s hideout in Joplin, Missouri, and still with the same features. Taken 1n 2010.

As well as leaving some interesting roll’s of film at the hideout for us to still savour today, the gang also left some infamous images (and a suicide poem) that soon became notorious throughout the United States at the time, and cemented the pairs place in history as legendary outlaws.

For the next couple of months, the gang travelled from Texas to Minnesota on a villainous rampage of destruction and mayhem, the gang still managed to kidnap a couple and steal their car, and rob a bank in Indiana. Incidents like this occured for the gang up until 1934 and soon became accustomed for the couple to release the hostages with money to help them get back home safely. These charitable offerings from Bonnie and Clyde to their victims made headlines throughout the country, along with their more violent episodes. The gang were able to still be ruthless and did not hesitate to shoot anyone in their path.

Eventually however, the public perception of the ruthless gang had rapidly declined, due to the cold-blooded nature of the killings and brutality of their actions, which soon led to the gangs downfall and ultimate end.

On June 10 1933, whilst driving with Parker and Jones near Wellington in Texas, Barrow had failed to see a warning sign of a bridge under construction, and managed to somehow flip their car into a ravine. The accident was severe enough to cause serious third-degree burns to Parker’s right leg and restrict her mobility in walking for the remainder of her life. By July 18, the gang had checked into a tavern in Missouri near Kansas City, and drew immediate attention towards themselves by their raucous behaviour. The owner of the tavern soon became suspicious of the gang and reported them to a nearby highway patrol officer. While Clyde and Jones were in town to purchase supplies, a call was made to the local sheriff Holt Coffey who had already been notified about the gangs whereabouts prior to the call and  subsequently put the gangs cabin at the tavern under surveillance. Reinforcement’s from Kansas City were quickly dispatched to the scene, and by 11 p.m in the evening, the sheriff and a group of armed officers led a raid into the gangs hideout. Another shoot out then erupted and the Barrow gang somehow managed to evade the law once again in their getaway car when the officers mistook a cease-fire signal from a horn that had short-circuited  from an apparent bullet to the armoured car. Although the gang managed to evade the law again, Buck Barrow had managed to sustain a mortal bullet wound to his head that was severe enough to expose part of his brain, while his wife Blanche had been nearly blinded by glass fragments.

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With her husband Buck mortally wounded, Blanche Barrow is captured by the posse of law enforcers. At Dexfield Park, Iowa.

While camped out at Dexfield Park at an abandoned amusement park in Iowa, five days later, Clyde and Jones managed to dig a grave, and fearing the worst for Buck who was seriously ill. It wasnt long before the police had discovered the gangs whereabout again and soon the Barrow gang were surrounded by local lawmen and approximately 100 spectators, and soon was under more gun fire. Bonnie and Clyde along with W. D Jones managed to escape on foot while the injured Buck was shot in the back and captured along with his wife Blanche (above). Buck died in hospital five days later.

The three remaining gang members struggled on for the next six weeks, heading west to Colorado, north to Minnesota before heading southeast to Mississippi, while still managing to rob local stores on the way and restock with more weapons and a large quantity of ammunition. They managed to reach Dallas by early september to see their families before Jones had parted company with the pair. He was eventually caught on November 16 while visiting his mother in Houston. Throughout the autumn Barrow was executing  small-time robberies with a couple of local accomplices he knew, while Parker was severely disabled and attended to by family members. It was on November 28 that a Dallas grand jury delivered a murder indictment against Bonnie and Clyde for the killing in 1933 of the County Deputy officer, and Parkers first warrant for murder.

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The final run came for Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker after Barrow had orchestrated the escape of several gang members in the infamous “Eastham Breakout” in January 1934. The raid managed to generate negative publicity and attracted the power of the Texas and federal government into the search and capture of the criminal duo, dead or alive. It was at this time that The Texas Department of Corrections enlisted the help of retired former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to hunt down the Barrow gang. This tall, stocky and burly man had acquired a reputation in the past for some well known captures of a number of Texas criminals, and was credited with 53 kills in his career. By February 10, Hamer had begun to track down Bonnie and Clyde with the help of three of his Texas Ranger brothers. On April 1, 1934, Barrow and escaped convict Henry Methvin managed to kill two highway patrolmen at an intersection near Grapevine, Texas. An eye witness account mentioned that it was Barrow and Parker who fired the shots, and the story became big news in the press. Public opinion had turned against the pair with more accounts of Bonnie Parker being an active member in the killings. The outcry led Highway Patrol boss L.G Phares into immediately offering a $1.000 reward for the “dead bodies” of the Grapevine murders, with a further $500 reward added by Texas governor Ma Ferguson. In the meantime Ivan Methvin (Henry’s father) had in the past let Bonnie and Clyde use his place to hide out, and fearing for his sons life, managed to make a deal with Prison chief Lee Simmons for a full pardon for his son for information on the Barrow gang. Hamer was informed  of a “post office” in the area that was used by the Barrows for communication between the gang and their friends and relatives.

So the stage was now set for what became the brutal end of the lives of Bonnie and Clyde. At 1:30 a.m the Posse had set up blinds with tree branches  approximately 25 feet from the side of the road, on the east side so they could look down the road. They then waited about 7 hours until Bonnie and Clyde finally arrived at the scene on that fateful morning of May 23, 1934. The episode ended a two-year crime spree that had resulted in thirteen deaths, including nine police officers.

The lives of Bonnie and Clyde have now gone down as possibly the most famous romanticized criminals in American history, whose crime spree is forever imprinted on the consciousness of the nation, and have become a symbol of the era they lived in. The myth however that has surrounded Bonnie and Clyde’s short lives over the years bears little resemblance to reality, for example, the infamous picture of Bonnie Parker with a cigar between her teeth, earning her the title of The cigar-smoking gun moll was complete fabrication. Parker didn’t actually smoke cigars, and It is also said that Bonnie never actually killed anyone during the spree, in fact she probably never even fired a single shot, although the truth will probably never be known.

There lives certainly weren’t as glamorous either. usually spending their nights sleeping in the back of a car, eating beans and cold pork. And their crimes were mainly ‘nickel and dime robberies’, usually stealing between $5 and $10 from hardworking people trying to survive during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl drought that had devastated the farming heartland of America. The American reporter John Guinn also described the couple in his book as ‘perhaps the most inept crooks ever’ and calls their two year crime spree ‘as much a reign of error as of terror’.

Clyde Barrow died aged 25, while Bonnie Parker was 23.

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Photo shows services held for Clyde Barrow in 1934. Clyde’s remains were carried to the funeral Home attracting 30,000 visitors.

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Bonnie’s mother (left) and Clyde’s frail mother (right) need support as they leave the funeral.

Bonnie and Clyde wished to be buried side by side, although Parkers family wouldn’t allow it, and were buried in separate cemeteries. Clyde Barrow is interred in a family plot at the western Heights Cemetery with his brother Marvin “Buck” Barrow, and Bonnie Parker is buried in northwest Dallas at Crown Hill Memorial Park.

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The graves of Bonnie and clyde.

The bullet ridden Ford Deluxe was later exhibited at carnivals and fairs across the United States, and eventually sold as a collectors item in 1988 for the Primm Valley Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, purchased for $250.000.

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The original stolen 1934 V8 Ford Duluxe used by Bonnie and Clyde is now behind glass at whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada, since January 2008.