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March 6th, 1934 – On This Day in Sioux Falls History, perhaps one of the most exciting things in Sioux Falls history took place… FBI public enemy #1 robbed a bank… right here in Sioux Falls!  Though we understand it is probably not appropriate to be excited about a bank robbery, Johnny Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and their gang certainly brought the “excitement factor” of this small South Dakota town to a boil!

John Dillinger had just escaped from prison in Crown Point, Indiana where he was scheduled to stand trial for the murder of Chicago Policeman William O’Malley.  Using a fake gun, he claimed to have shaped from a spare piece of wood, pressed into the back of an unsuspecting guard, Dillinger was able to get free of his cell, obtain two machine guns and lock up the guards and jail clerks before fleeing… apparently to Sioux Falls, SD!

He met up with Baby Face Nelson and his crew supposedly in St. Paul, Minnesota, spent the night in Madison, SD on a tip from his girlfriend, and in the morning hours of that brisk Tuesday Morning, John Dillinger and 5 other men stepped out of the green Packard sedan and proceeded to rob First National Bank at the corner of 9th and Main Ave. in Sioux Falls!

The robbery went down much the same way as you see it in the movies, “Every body lay down, hands above your head, don’t do anything stupid and everyone will get through this safely!”  Cue one of the tellers pressing the silent alarm button and a blast of a Thompson Machine Gun and it could have been taken straight out of Hollywood.  Of course the bullets were real as local patrol man Keith Hale found out when he tried to approach the building and received multiple blasts to the abdomen and lower extremities (he would be blessed to survive!).

To make their escape Dillinger and his gang surrounded themselves with hostages as they left the bank and got back into their car, making the police to afraid to open fire for fear of hitting a hostage.  Dillinger then had 3 young women who were working as tellers, along with the bank manager stand on the running boards of the car as the robbers made their escape.

Dillinger would drop the hostages near old Route 77 on the south end of town, before he and the gang escaped back to St. Paul with over $46,000 from the bank! Perhaps not a shining example of the perfect Sioux Falls Spring Morning, but certainly an eventful morning that has lived on in the lore of Sioux Falls ever since!