On this date in crime history – April 22, 1934, George "Baby Face" Nelson kills Special Agent W. Carter Baum during an FBI raid in northern Wisconsin. Nelson was holed up with notorious bank robber John Dillinger's gang at the Little Bohemia resort but didn't follow the planned escape route. As he was stealing a car to escape, he blasted several agents with two handguns. The notorious gangster was born Lester Gillis but wanted to be known as Big George Nelson. Unfortunately for him, his youthful looks caused everyone to call him "Baby Face." He joined Al Capone’s gang in 1929, where he was known for his particularly brutal strong-arm tactics. In fact, his unpredictable violence got so out of hand that it eventually led to his expulsion from the gang.
In the early 1930s, Nelson joined up with bootleggers in California. However, after Prohibition ended, Nelson returned to the Midwest to try his hand at bank robberies. Nelson hit a series of banks in 1933 and 1934 and was upset when John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd were given credit for his crimes. Despite this, Nelson teamed up with Dillinger in April 1934: The pair robbed two banks in South Dakota and Iowa. Reportedly, Dillinger was a bit perplexed by Nelson's outbursts during the robberies. After shooting bank employees at both of the banks, Nelson had to be persuaded not to kill them. Not long after the raid on April 23, Dillinger was killed by agents in Chicago, making Nelson the country's newest Public Enemy Number One. On November 27, Nelson was spotted driving in rural Illinois. After a chase involving two FBI agents, Sam Cowley and Herman Hollis, an epic gun battle ensued. Witnesses say that Nelson tired of exchanging shots from behind his cover and decided to attack the agents on the offensive. Although Cowley and Hollis fired many rounds into Nelson, he kept coming at them with a machine gun. Nelson killed both agents and hobbled away to a getaway car, but he did not survive the bold move. The next day, his body, riddled with bullets, was found in a ditch.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the authors website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
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