The Spectacularly Incompetent
Bonnie And Clyde

In a new book, Jeff Guinn chronicles the never before told true story of how Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s crime spree almost ended three weeks after it began.

Clyde, Fults, and Hamilton drove through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa before finally picking out a bank almost 900 miles from Dallas in Okabena, Minnesota. It seemed like a perfect target. The bank was set in the middle of a town square. There were roads leading away in several directions. But at the last minute, Clyde called the robbery attempt off. There was too much snow and ice on the local roads, he told Fults and Hamilton. Their car might skid out of control during the escape. It would be better, he insisted, to turn back south and find another bank to rob in a less frigid region. According to Fults’ memoir, they’d seen one, the First National Bank in Lawrence, Kansas, that might do.

They had driven almost nonstop from Texas to Minnesota, pausing only for meals and gas. All three were exhausted, and when they took turns driving on the 400-mile trip back to Lawrence, each fell asleep at the wheel and let the car veer off the road into adjacent fields.

In Lawrence, Fults claimed in his memoir, they had enough money to check into a local hotel, the Eldridge. The next two days were spent casing the bank and the town. After the Simms fiasco, they wanted to be absolutely certain of success. They learned that the First National Bank’s president usually arrived at 8:45 in the morning, with the rest of the bank staff showing up some 10 minutes later. There seemed to be only one guard, but as soon as the bank opened for business there was a steady stream of customers.

On the third day, the bank president arrived at the bank at his usual time. Clyde and Fults, brandishing shotguns, rushed into the building after him while Hamilton waited outside at the wheel of the getaway car. Clyde forced the bank president to open the vault, while Fults guarded two employees who arrived while the robbery was in progress. The Lawrence bank’s vault wasn’t empty. Clyde was given two bags of currency. Then he and Fults locked their prisoners in the vault and ran out to join Hamilton. A few miles out of town they stole another car. It all seemed ridiculously easy. The bank guard hadn’t even arrived for work by the time the gang grabbed the money and fled. If the town cops made any attempt to pursue them, they never got within sight or sound of the thieves.

According to Fults, the trio fled 290 miles to East St. Louis, Illinois, where they paused to count their loot and discovered their take was an astounding $33,000. No old Lawrence newspaper accounts exist to verify or disprove Fults’ claim, but $33,000 would have been enough to recruit and supply an army to assault Eastham Prison Farm. Fults might have been wrong about the location of the robbery as well as grossly exaggerating the take from it. But whatever the amount and whichever bank the gang robbed to get it, the haul was substantial enough to impress Raymond Hamilton. He wanted to hit more banks right away. Clyde and Fults refused. They wanted money to finance their Eastham plan, and now that they had some in hand they intended to buy guns and head back to Texas.


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