Wednesday 23rd May 1934
Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker were shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police officers as they attempted to escape apprehension in a stolen 1934 Ford V-8 near Bienville Parish, Louisiana. Bonnie and Clyde met in Texas in 1930 while the 19-year-old Bonnie was working in a bar. At the time, Bonnie was married to an imprisoned murderer. Soon after the two met, Clyde was arrested for burglary and sent to prison. Bonnie smuggled a pistol into the prison, and Clyde broke out. Over the course of their crime spree together, Bonnie and Clyde were believed to have committed 13 murders and several robberies and burglaries. For over two years, the couple evaded local police officers in rural counties of Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Not until the FBI, then called the Bureau of Investigation, became involved in the case did law-enforcement officials gain ground on Bonnie and Clyde.
The Bureau of Investigation, curiously enough, could only investigate the two on the grounds of the National Motor Vehicle Act, which stipulated that federal agents had jurisdiction to pursue suspects accused of interstate transportation of a stolen automobile. Investigators initially traced a stolen vehicle to the house of Clyde Barrow’s aunt. As officers stepped up the pressure to catch Bonnie and Clyde, the well-armed couple went about adding to their own firepower. They were joined by Clyde’s brother, Buck Barrow, along with his wife. Later they were joined by escaped murderer Raymond Hamilton. In the spring of 1934, following tireless investigations, federal agents traced the gang to a remote county in Southwest Louisiana. A certain Methvin family was said to have been aiding and abetting the Bonnie-and-Clyde gang for over a year.
It was learned that Bonnie and Clyde, along with some of the Methvins, had staged a party at Black Lake, Louisiana, on the night of May 21. Two days later, just before dawn, a posse of police officers from Texas and Louisiana, including Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, laid an ambush for Bonnie and Clyde along the highway near Sailes, Louisiana. In the early morning, Bonnie and Clyde appeared in their automobile. The officers reported that the couple attempted to flee, but more likely, owing to the fact that Bonnie and Clyde had killed five policemen, the posse opened fire without warning. For two minutes, deputies showered the car with bullets. Both Bonnie and Clyde were killed in the barrage. Their bullet-riddled 1934 Ford later became a valuable collectible. Bonnie and Clyde gained a place in popular mythology as dustbowl Robin Hoods.
The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty as Clyde and Faye Dunaway as Bonnie, portrayed a charming and irreverent pair who took their game too far. Examination of the couple’s past, as well as an examination of their victims, shows that Bonnie and Clyde were more likely carefree killers. Their popularity owed to the mistrust of the authorities of the Dustbowl during the Depression era, and to the couple’s uncanny ability to elude the police for over two years.