Monday, September 30, 2013
Alvin “Creepy” Karpis got his nickname for his crooked, sinister smile. While in the Kansas State Penitentiary for stealing a car, Karpis fell in with members of the Ma Barker Gang, a family of brutal bank robbers known for their bloody heists. When Karpis was released from jail in 1931, he teamed up with the Barker Gang and headed north.
Hiding out in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Karpis-Barker gang staged a number of daylight bank robberies around the Midwest. On this date in 1932, Alvin Karpis, Freddie and “Doc” Barker, Karpis’ old partner Larry De Vol, and Jess Doyle walked in to the Citizen’s National Bank in Wahpeton, North Dakota, with machine guns drawn.
A cashier tried to hit the burglar alarm, was but caught and beaten by one of the robbers. The gang roughed up the bank manager until he gave them about $7,000. The robbers then took two hostages, bank stenographer Ruth Whipps and customer Doris Stock, as human shields in case there was a gunfight.
As they headed out the back door, a man saw the robbers escape and ran to a nearby store to raise the alarm. The people of Wahpeton quickly formed a posse and pursued the Karpis-Barker Gang. A small firefight broke out when the posse caught up with the robbers, and the poor hostages received the only injuries in the battle. Miss Whipps was hit by shotgun pellets and Miss Stock was shot in the leg. The robbers escaped, but they had to figure out what to do with a car full of bullet holes and two injured hostages.
The injured ladies were dropped off at a farmhouse about twenty miles east of Wahpeton and were picked up by the pursuing posse and taken to the hospital – both survived the ordeal. Karpis and his gang then stopped at a farm and offered to buy the farmer’s car. The farmer saw the bullet holes in the gang’s car, and Karpis admitted they had just robbed the bank. This sympathetic farmer said, “All the banks ever do is foreclose on us farmers,” so he sold them the car and the Karpis-Barker gang made a clean getaway.
The gang continued robbing banks and kidnapping people for ransom until Ma and Freddy Barker were shot by the FBI in 1935. Public Enemy Number One, “Creepy” Karpis, was arrested in 1936.
Dakota Datebook written by Derek Dahlsad.
“Dakota Bandits Loot Bank and Kidnap Women”, Thomasville Times Enterprise, 9/30/1932
“Loot Wahpeton Bank, Kidnap 2 Girls”, Moorhead Daily News, 9/30/1932
“Bandits Rob Bank, Kidnap Two Women,” The Pittsburg Press, 10/1/1930
“Alcatraz History: Alvin Karpis” http://www.alcatrazhistory.com/karpis.htm Retrieved 9/8/2013
“Ma and her Boys: One Family’s Life of Crime”, http://www.notfrisco.com/colmatales/barker/barkertl.html, retrieved 9/8/2013
“Bandit Victim About”, Turtle Mountain Star, 12/15/1932
Karpis, Alvin, and Bill Trent. The Alvin Karpis Story. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1971.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, “The Kidnaping of Edward George Bremer, St. Paul, Minnesota”, 11/19/1936