Doc Barker was Killed While Escaping from Alcatraz - January 13, 1939

Jan 12, 2015 - 0 Comments



by Michael Thomas Barry 


This week (January 12-18) in crime history – Malcolm X’s daughter was arrested for conspiracy to kill Louis Farrakhan (January 12, 1995); Doc Barker was killed while attempting to escape prison (January 13, 1939); Old West lawman Wyatt Earp died (January 13, 1929); Notorious traitor Benedict Arnold was born (January 14, 1741); Bill Cosby’s son was murdered (January 16, 1997); Moon Maniac, Albert Fish was executed (January 16, 1936); The Great Brinks Robbery (January 17, 1950); Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was arrested in drug sting (January 18, 1990). 


Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -  


On January 13, 1939, Arthur "Doc" Barker was killed while trying to escape from Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay. Barker, of the notorious "Bloody Barkers" gang, was spotted on the rock-strewn shore of the island after climbing over the walls. Despite the fact that guards were ordering him to surrender, Barker continued tying pieces of wood together into a makeshift raft. As he waded into the water, the guards shot and killed him. Doc Barker, along with his brothers Herman, Lloyd, and Fred, and their mother, the infamous Ma Barker, formed one of the more formidable criminal gangs of the 1920s and 1930s. Carrying out a series of bank robberies and kidnappings throughout the Midwest, Ma shrewdly paid off officials in towns all over the region, allowing the gang to avoid the law for long stretches of time. 


In 1934, with their pictures in all of the newspapers, Doc and Fred Barker tried to change their appearance through plastic surgery. They enlisted Dr. Joseph Moran to conduct the operations, including removing their fingerprints. But the plan was a disaster, and each ended up with terrible scars and infected fingers. Dr. Moran was adopted into the gang as a matter of necessity, but when he started to talk about their activities to a prostitute, the Barkers killed him. On January 8, 1935, FBI agents, led by Melvin Purvis, captured Doc Barker in Chicago, Illinois. As he searched Barker, Purvis reportedly asked, "Where's your gun?" Barker replied, "Home—and ain't that a place for it?" Eight days later, Fred and Ma Barker were pinned down at their hideout in Florida. A massive gun battle left both of them dead. 


Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.” 


Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


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