approximately 2:40 p.m. on Friday, December 16, 1932, a large black
Lincoln sedan pulled up to the Third Northwestern National Bank at 430
East Hennepin Avenue. It parked alongside the bank on the left side of
Four men, who were of average
size and appeared to be well dressed, got out of the car and quickly
burst through the front door of the bank.
tellers were preparing to check up the business of the day, before
closing shortly at 3 p.m. The hour could not have been more propitious
and obviously was planned by men who had taken every angle and detail
Because Friday and Saturday are
“heavy” days at the bank, an armored car had just delivered $19,000 in
currency, and pulled away a few minutes before the black Lincoln
Once inside the bank, the four bandits, armed
with pistols and a machine gun, commanded, “Hands up.” They then gave
the order for everyone to lie down, while the machine gunner waved his
There were 10 employees and six
customers in the institution at the time. The bandits worked very
quietly and methodically, and with a seeming lack of excitement. They
started through the tellers’ cages, scooping all the cash in sight into
large canvas bags they carried.
Suddenly one reached
down for a teller, and pulled him to his feet. Meanwhile, the teller
managed to step on the burglar alarm that sent the note of danger into
“We want the combination to the vault,” the bandit shouted.
teller, managing to stand squarely on the burglar alarm again as he
talked, said he did not know the combination. Without another word, the
bandit brought his gun down over the fellow’s head, cutting a deep gash
and knocking the teller unconscious. He was revived later and taken to
a doctor’s office for treatment.
It was believed that
the bank robbers had known that this was the time of day when the
police patrol day shift was going off duty and the evening shift coming
on. The closest patrol car should have been at the East Side station, a
mile or more from the bank.
But one east side patrol
car was three minutes behind schedule and still enroute to the station
when the bank alarm was broadcast. In this car were Patrolmen Ira L.
EVANS and Leo R. GORSKI. They had decided to answer the alarm before
reporting off duty.
As their patrol car drew up at the
Central Avenue entrance of the bank, and before they could alight, the
windows of the bank seemed to burst out with gunfire and a hail of
bullets crashed into their police car.
see the glass flying and the windows in the police car smashing. Then
four men came running out of the door, one with a machine gun, firing.
close range, he sprayed the police car with a withering rain of
bullets. The policemen didn’t have a chance to get out. One of their
doors swung open, and the man with the gun poured his fire directly
into the car when the two policemen were slumping down.
Ira EVANS was killed instantly as he sat unable to defend himself in
his seat. He slumped over the wheel, riddled with at least 10 machine
gun slugs in his body.
Patrolman Leo GORSKI opened the
door right in the face of the fire and tumbled out of the radio car
from the seat beside EVANS, his body torn by at least 3 slugs that made
a sieve of their police cruiser.
The four gunmen ran
for their waiting car carrying the loot, $20,000 in currency and
securities. The doors of the big car slammed, and the motor roared. The
car sped over Fifth Street, swung back onto East Hennepin Avenue and
bounced out the pavement, gathering speed as it went.
front right tire was flat and the radiator was punctured, apparently by
stray bullets from one of the bandits’ own guns. It rumbled and began
to shred as the car bounced over the pavement.
bandit machine threw the shredded tire as it hit Larpenteur Avenue, the
St. Paul continuation of East Hennepin Avenue, but it did not slacken
speed. Rumbling over the pavement on the rim, it finally made its way
to Como Park, where the fleeing bandit gang had a smaller green sedan
waiting for them.
A few minutes later, as they were
changing automobiles, they ruthlessly opened up a burst of gunfire on a
car that had slowed down out of curiosity, as it passed by. The driver
of the car was a 22 year old St. Paul Christmas wreath salesman. He was
taken to the hospital where he was found to have been wounded twice,
one bullet piercing his skull. He died at 4 a.m. without regaining
St. Paul police later recovered the
expensive sedan from where it was abandoned in the park. It had been
stolen from a White Bear Lake car lot two days before the bank robbery.
Meanwhile, the gravely wounded Patrolman GORSKI was
driven to General Hospital by a citizen in his private car. He was shot
in the back, the abdomen and the leg.
immediately called for donors of blood, and several transfusions were
administered from fellow members of the police force, as physicians
battled to save GORSKI’s life. His temperature was reported at 107, and
he seemed to be sinking.
Patrolman GORSKI continued in
critical condition into the next day, with a slight improvement shown
late in the afternoon. Attendants at General Hospital said his
condition was in no way favorable.
Mrs. Ira Evans, wife
of the patrolman shot to death by the bank bandits, was at work, within
three blocks of the scene of her husband’s death.
ominous clatter of the bandit machine gun penetrated to her desk in the
office at 101 Central Avenue. A few minutes later, Patrolman EVAN’s
radio cruiser, literally sieved by machine gun slugs, was driven past
the office where Mrs. Evans was employed.
unaware of the tragedy until some time later when she was notified by
police. She, accompanied by her sister, went to the Hennepin County
morgue to claim the body.
On Saturday, December 17th,
the city controller’s office revealed that Patrolmen EVANS and GORSKI
had been working three and one-half days without pay when EVANS was
shot to death and GORSKI seriously wounded by bank robbers. Police
department paychecks for the first half of December were short two and
one-half days pay, and Friday was the first day of the last half of
December, in which policemen will receive no pay because of a shortage
in the police fund.
A price was placed on the heads of
the bank bandits, when the Hennepin County commissioners voted to pay
$500 for each member of the gang apprehended “dead or alive.”
available detectives on both the Minneapolis and St. Paul police
departments were working around the clock to check out every lead or
tip that came in. Witnesses were shown “mugshots” of known bandits, and
local hoodlums were rounded up and brought in for questioning. All of
this without success, until the big break finally came early Sunday
morning, December 18th.
One of the bank robbers, drunk
from a celebration of his success in the robbery, staggered into the
wrong apartment at 928 Grand Avenue, St. Paul, where a bridge game was
The occupant ordered him to leave, and as
he did so, the robber drew a pistol and threatened the tenant. St. Paul
police were called and they started searching the apartment house. They
walked into an apartment near the caller’s quarters, and were met by a
“drunk” who came running out, clad only in his underwear and a fur
coat. He began to draw a pistol from his coat pocket, but the two
officers fought with him over the weapon and finally felled him with a
blow from one of their pistol butts.
The police by this
time decided they had more than an ordinary drunk to care for. While
they waited for the “wagon” to come, they decided to search his
apartment, where they found $1,700 in currency with Northwestern
National Bank wrappers on it, and $10,000 in securities.
man was taken at once to St. Paul police headquarters, where he was
identified as Lawrence Devol, 27 years old. He also went by the names
Barton and Barker. He was wanted at Kirksville, Missouri for the murder
of a policeman, and the wounding of another in November, 1930.
police were notified and a squad of detectives, along with Chief
Meehan, rushed to St. Paul and started questioning Devol. Almost at
once he broke down and confessed that he had been a member of the bank
“I shot the two coppers,” Chief Meehan quoted Devol as saying.
you can’t get me to say another thing. It wasn’t me that shot the
fellow in Como park. It was a younger member of the outfit. We tried to
stop him, but he shot before we could. I won’t tell you who he is. I
might as well take the rap for that, too.”
sobered up, he became “cagey,” in the words of the police. Questioned
concerning the whereabouts of other members of the gang, he first gave
two fictitious addresses in Minneapolis. He was “questioned rather
severely” then, and finally gave the address of an apartment at 209
East Sixteenth Street.
Detectives went to the Sixteenth
Street apartment, and were “planted” there only a short time before
they arrested two more members of the gang, Robert Newbern and Leonard
Hankins, a.k.a. Owen Lewis, and “Louisville Slim.”
about the same time, a squad of St. Paul police, “planted” in the Grand
Avenue apartment, captured the fourth member of the gang, Clarence
Devol, brother of Lawrence Devol, when he appeared at the apartment.
Devol also used the alias of James Colton.
All four of the men arrested were ex-convicts and possessors of long police records.
of the arrests were made shortly before 7 a.m. Sunday, at which time
the bandits had planned to leave St. Paul in a new automobile, which
police located in the rear of the apartment house. Detectives found the
back of the car was outfitted with a complete arsenal, including two
rifles and four automatic pistols fixed to shoot like machine guns.
angle that puzzled police was what happened to the remainder of the
loot from the bank robbery. They were sure the $1,700 found in the
Grand Avenue apartment house was part of the loot, because the money
had just been issued and records of the bank disclosed it had never
been used. A calculation found on a bit of note paper in the apartment
indicated the bandits had obtained $22,400 in the robbery.
were inclined to believe the rest of the loot was hidden somewhere in
the Twin Cities, and an intensive search was started for it, without
Capture of the gang, police agreed, was one of
the biggest windfalls of luck the police department had ever
experienced, but luck was combined with sound police action and police
This successful roundup of the bank bandits
came just a few hours before Patrolman Leo GORSKI died from his wounds
at General Hospital
The next day, December 19th, only a
few blocks from the spot where gangsters’ guns ended his life,
Patrolman Ira L. EVANS was paid a final tribute. Nearly 200 uniformed
policemen and an equal number of citizens and dignitaries filled the
little funeral chapel at 2535 Central Avenue, and flowed out across the
sidewalk and into the street. So large was the crowd that traffic was
held up for two blocks on both sides of the funeral home while the
services were conducted.
The flag draped casket was
then borne from the chapel by six of EVANS’ fellow patrolmen, and the
entire throng stood with bowed heads in honor of the man who gave his
life in the line of duty.
The procession started on its
way to Sunset Memorial cemetery with a detail of 65 uniformed
Minneapolis and 15 uniformed St. Paul policemen, marching in line ahead
of the hearse. Marching at the head of their men were Chief Meehan of
Minneapolis and Chief Dahill of St. Paul. A detail of 50 firemen also
marched ahead of the casket.
At the cemetery the Fort
Snelling firing squad presented arms as the casket was carried to the
grave. After the graveside blessing, the squad fired a salute of the
grave. As the crowd departed, a bugler blew the final taps.
EVANS was born October 6, 1893, and was 39 years old at the time of his
death. His appointment to the department was January 1, 1924. He served
at the Bryant Avenue station in 1926. On April 1, 1925 he was
transferred to the motorcycle division from the traffic division. He
was transferred to the East Side station on May 1, 1930, from the
Central station. Patrolman EVANS lived at 3010 Johnson Street NE. He
was survived by his wife.
On the day Patrolman EVANS
was buried, a police showup was conducted for 35 persons who viewed the
four prisoners. The captives, each bearing a card with a number on it,
were paraded before 15 witnesses to the bank robbery and a group of 20
police officers and city officials. Two other men, selected at random
from the city jail, marched before the witnesses with the prisoners.
persons identified Lawrence Devol as the man who riddled the police car
with machine gun bullets as it stopped in front of the bank while the
holdup was in progress. Three people identified Robert Newbern as the
man who carried the loot from the bank. Both Leonard Hankins and
Clarence Devol were identified by three witnesses as members of the
bank robbery gang, and they were seen shooting as they left the bank.
primarily on the witnesses’ identification of the four prisoners, the
Hennepin County grand jury returned indictments charging each man with
two counts of first degree murder, and one count of bank robbery.
Lawrence Devol gave police a signed confession that he was the leader
of the bandit gang. The other three men denied any knowledge of the
On December 21, 1932, solemn rites at
Holy Cross Catholic church, University and Seventeenth Avenues NE,
attended by hundreds of colleagues and friends, marked final tribute to
Patrolman Leo R. GORSKI.
As the priest chanted the
requiem mass over the flag draped casket of the second Minneapolis
policeman to die from bullets of the gangsters in the bank raid,
several hundred persons stood silently in the cold morning outside of
the church because every available space inside was filled. Inside the
church were several hundred uniformed men from both the Minneapolis and
St. Paul police departments.
A guard of Patrolman
GORSKI’s fellow policemen stood at attention on either side of the
massive entrance to the church, and when the doors swung open, they
snapped into a salute as uniformed pallbearers carried the casket down
the steps on the way to its final resting place in Sunset Memorial
Policemen who attended the service, many of
them off duty, formed into a two-column guard before the hearse, and
with the chiefs of police from Minneapolis and St. Paul at the lead,
marched to the cemetery. Marching with the policemen to honor the slain
policeman was a detail of 50 Minneapolis firemen.
of neighbors and friends of Patrolman GORSKI followed the hearse in
automobiles in a procession that was almost 10 blocks long. At the
cemetery a guard of Minneapolis and St. Paul police again stood at
salute while the casket was put in place and a firing squad, from Fort
Snelling, fired a salute over the grave.
As the crowd departed, a bugler blew taps.
GORSKI was born February 9, 1895, and was 37 years old. He had been a
member of the police department for 10 years. He was a World War
veteran and was wounded in service in France. He resided at 2915
Benjamin Street NE with his wife and 9 year old son.
January 10, 1933, Lawrence Devol, the confessed leader of the gang that
killed the two policemen, pleaded guilty to a second degree murder
charge and was immediately sentenced to Stillwater State Prison for a
life sentence at hard labor.
The 27 year old gunman
admitted that he had obtained $2,500 of the loot from the bank robbery
as his “split.” As he left the witness stand smiling, Devol joked with
deputy sheriffs about the “big hotel” he was going to. In May of 1936,
he became “stir crazy” in Stillwater Prison, lost his reason and became
so violent that it was necessary to transfer him to the state asylum at
St. Peter under heavy guard. He remained there until his death years
Leonard Hankins was brought to trial next. Even
though he denied any knowledge of the robbery, he was found guilty of
first degree murder and also sentenced to life in Stillwater State
Prison, at hard labor. Hankins tells his jailers, “I’m a high class
gambler, I wouldn’t stoop to a thing like bank robbery.”
lengthy delays in starting their respective trials, Robert Newbern and
Clarence Devol used the delays to their advantage. Some witnesses could
not be located, and other witnesses’ memories became clouded and their
identification of the men tentative.
As a result, both men were acquitted of the charges and released.
the aftermath of this terrible crime and the needless loss of two
protectors of the city, civic leaders asked that the police department
be provided with armored cars and machine guns to combat gangsters
already supplied with such weapons.
The chief of police
concurred. “This bank robbery is a good example of the things our
squads may encounter at any time,” he said. “It is a crime to send
police, armed with only pistols or shotguns against a gang of bandits
wielding machine guns that fire as many as 600 shots a minute. Bandits
get the best equipment they can buy or steal. Why should not the police
be equipped as well?”
The chief requested a sufficient
increase in the police department funding, so that members would not
have to continue to be forced to take payless vacations, as they were
doing this year. At the present time, each police officer must take a
15-day payless vacation, and it appeared that the police would have to
work an additional 15 days without pay in order to make up a shortage
in the 1933 budget.
Minneapolis Mayor William A.
Anderson issued the following statement concerning the police
department situation and the deaths of the two patrolmen:
Ira Gorski and Leo Evans, who fell before the bullets of a gang of
ultra modern bandits, displayed a type of courage that is practically
unprecedented in the police history of any city.
with the new type of efficient machine gun pistols used by the bandits
who robbed the Third Northwestern National Bank, the equipment of the
Minneapolis police department is woefully obsolete. We not only have no
machine guns, but no protection against machine gun fire.
whole reason is a matter of finance. We have been forced to curtail
expenditures to a point which puts us at the mercy of organized and
well equipped criminals.
This condition is not due to
the high tax rate. It is not the average taxpayer who is the most
articulate in opposing necessary costs of government and adequate wage
and salary scales. It is not the inability of the average citizen to
pay his taxes that has cut so heavily into departmental budgets. The
articulate and organized minority of large taxpayers, however, is the
group mainly responsible for our financial embarrassment. Surveys made
at my request show that if the so-called big taxpayers all would pay
their just share, if they would buckle down and shoulder their share of
the burden and as willingly and with as much uncomplaining sacrifice as
the small taxpayers have, we would not now be unable to meet police
Patrolmen Evans and Gorski not only did their
duty. They went far beyond the normal requirements of their position.
Because the police fund was exhausted, they were not even on the city
payroll when they were killed, trying, without a chance of success, to
defend the property of a large and successful institution.
their heroism will be remembered as long as Minneapolis exists, their
sacrifice reflects little credit upon the city. Certainly a community
as prosperous as this even in times of depression should be able to pay
an adequate wage for the protection we demand and should have.
not only gave their lives freely, but gave them without the chance even
of their just financial reward. The laborer is worthy of his hire. And
now we are threatened with further wage reductions, and the group
fighting for those wage reductions is the same as supported and
approved budgetary curtailment which held policemen on duty without
Minneapolis should provide some fitting memorial
to Evans and Gorski. I hope it can be done, and if it is, it should set
forth the full account of their deeds, including the fact that the city
was too poor to pay them for their work.
memorial , however, and the one which would go furthest to remove this
stain from Minneapolis’ name, would be a spirit of cooperation among
our best and wealthiest citizens, a determination to provide not only
adequate wages for their protectors, but modern equipment, machine guns
and armored cars, with which to combat clever and ruthless thugs.
this result is accomplished, it will set an example for other cities to
follow, and perhaps the lives of Evans and Gorski will not have been
given in vain.”