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Known as “Jackrabbit” and eventually, “Public Enemy No. 1,” gangster and bank robber John Dillinger stands out as one of the U.S.A.’s most infamous criminals. Dillinger was also a Hoosier: he was born in Indianapolis, and spent much of his life in or around the state.
It seems he may have even had a connection to DeKalb County. On the evening of Saturday, October 14, 1933, three armed men raided the Auburn Police Department. Two of the men were identified as Walter Deitrich and Harry Copeland. The third man was believed to be Dillinger, who had escaped from jail in Allen County, Ohio, two days before.
According to the October 16, 1933 issue of the Evening Star, officers Fred Krueger and Henry West were on duty at the time of the raid. Officer West was seated at his desk, “when Officer Krueger entered at 11:20 o’clock, carrying a sack of popcorn. Mr. Krueger sat down, his back towards the door. Immediately afterwards two well dressed men about thirty years old strode into the room, each brandishing two revolvers, one in each hand.”
The two officers were forced to give up their guns, as well as the key to the gun cabinet. Officer Krueger attempted to get a look at their getaway car through the window, but one of the criminals noticed, and ordered the two policemen to face the wall, eventually locking them up in a cell.
They only caught a glance of the third man, believed to be Dillinger, “who was was in the hallway, evidently posted to handle any visitors.”
The men made off with a Thompson machine gun, several bullet-proof vests, and a number of other weapons and some ammunition. However, no useful fingerprints could be found on the gun case or elsewhere at the station.
Though most of the stolen items were never recovered, the Thompson machine gun was tracked down and returned to Auburn two years ago.