Bonnie and Clyde are probably the most infamous criminals of all time.
Jay Z and Beyoncé even made a song about them, immortalizing them in popular culture. While almost every person at least knows of their names, and generally that they were infamous for their life of crime, other people may not necessarily be aware of their story and how it came to its inevitable conclusion.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were finally caught by being ambushed on May 23, 1934. They were shot and killed on a rural road in Louisiana. The couple, who had previously eluded law enforcement, appeared in broad daylight in a car in Louisiana and were shot to death by four Texas police officers and two Louisiana police officers.
The police officers who finally caught the notoriously elusive duo were led by Frank Hamer, who had begun tracking the pair in February of 1934. This was no easy task, as the duo was quite well-known. Hamer studied their movements and found that they were a part of a crew that would skirt the edges of about five Midwestern states so that they could use the “state line” rule to their advantage, effectively beating the system. This “state line” rule stated that officers from one state’s jurisdiction did not have the ability or legal authority to pursue a fugitive in another state’s jurisdiction.
The reason that their strategy did not work this time is because Frank Hamer was even more prepared than they were. While Bonnie and Clyde initially used this rule to their advantage, it also made them very consistent in their movements. Frank Hamer charted the path that they took and went on to predict where they would go, and it appeared as though this time they were traveling to visit family in Louisiana.
Predictably, they did go to visit family in Louisiana. The police officers were waiting for them with a plan. The six police officers who eventually caught them did not do so without some work and some foresight. They set up an ambush at the rendezvous point along Louisiana State Highway 154. The group of police officers was in place and ready to go by about nine o’clock on the night of May 21 and waited throughout the entire next day without seeing the crime duo at all. Then at about nine in the morning on May 23, just when the police officers were about to call off the stakeout, a stolen vehicle tore down the highway towards them.
The official police report states that the duo stopped so that they could speak to a family member. This person had been stopped around there and planted with his truck in the morning so that he could be used as a distraction. When this occurred, the police officers opened up the fire, eventually killing both Bonnie and Clyde.
In total, about one hundred and thirty rounds of ammo were fired. Bonnie and Clyde both suffered numerous fatal wounds, so it is hard to say which one actually killed them, although it does appear that Clyde was killed before Bonnie. She could be heard screaming when she realized that he had been badly wounded, eventually fatally.
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Each of the six police officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle as well as pistols. The automatic rifles were used first and then the shotguns. Once that was done, they shot at the car with the pistols.
The police officers had stated that they were not going to take any chances with this notoriously elusive duo; they kept shooting at the car even after it had stopped moving and looked as though it was about to roll over.
There is some disagreement about how many times Bonnie and Clyde were shot. While legend puts the number at anywhere between twenty-five and fifty bullet wounds each, the official coroner’s report states that there are seventeen entrance wounds on one of the corpses and twenty-six on the other corpse. There were so many bullet holes that even the undertaker had a rough time embalming the bodies of the deceased.
When the police officers examined the vehicle after the shooting, they found a cache of stolen weapons.
There were automatic rifles, sawed-off semi-automatic shotguns, many handguns, and several thousand rounds of ammunition. Additionally, there were about fifteen license plates from various different states.
It was not long before word of the ambush got out, and a crowd of people began assembling around the site. Police were not prepared for crowds and were ill-equipped to guard it. The site was not well preserved.
Many people began collecting souvenirs from the scene, whether it was shell casings, pieces of the windows, bloody pieces of clothing, or hair or anything from the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde.
Within just hours the shooting, the small town in Louisiana where the most notorious criminals were finally caught and killed had about ten thousand people come in to see what had occurred. Prices spiked in places around the area to account for the increasing demand.
After years of eluding the police and carrying on an infamous life of crime, Bonnie and Clyde’s career was over, but their legacy lives on in popular legend and cultural consciousness.