Friday, January 2, 2009


To continue I will now attempt to relate to you the background and actual activity of the only honest to God shoot-out I was involved in during my entire career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As you are probably aware, I was a Special Agent with the FBI from July 1947 to January 1972. During that period of time I was assigned to Houston, Indianapolis and South Bend; spending a majority of this time in South Bend.

While I was assigned to the Bureau in Indianapolis we had a major case come up of a bank robber named Clyde Milton Johnson who had not only robbed some banks in Florida, but had escaped from the Dade County (FL) jail. Somehow or somewhere we had received a tip that Johnson and his girlfriend, name not recalled, were in Indianapolis and holed up in the Washington Hotel located in downtown Indianapolis. It was about dusk that a group was assigned to go to the Washington Hotel and check out this matter to see if the two were actually registered there and if so, use every possible means of apprehending him and putting him back in jail. A group of six or eight agents departed from the FBI office where the Washington Hotel being only about two blocks apart. Upon arriving at the lobby which was not particularly large, we agents situated ourselves in various positions where we would be most effective if our subjects should attempt to leave the hotel via the elevator.

We were in place only a relatively short time when the elevator door opened and out walked our Clyde Milton Johnson by himself. As the agents moved into arrest him, he ran out the front door in a westerly direction. This activity being on Market Street. I had been assigned the task of arresting the female companion in the event she was also staying in the hotel. As I moved toward the elevator, I heard a series of gun shots on Market Street as I left the hotel, running, I could see that the gunshots were coming from the pistol of Johnson. Johnson continued to fire as he ran toward the Monument Circle in the center of downtown Indianapolis. By the time I arrived at the circle, Johnson had run across the street and was firing from behind a lamp post in the circle. After two or three additional shots, he ran east across the streets of the circle and commandeered a taxicab that was parked right on the edge of the circle. At that point, an old-time of an agent, Tom Everson, jumped up on the back bumper of the cab and fired a couple of shots through the back window. The remainder of us agents commandeered another cab as both vehicles sped east on this street. We urged the cabdriver, at gunpoint, to run the traffic lights so we could catch up with the fleeing cab, however our driver, even at gunpoint, refused to break the law and we very shortly lost him in the traffic. A little later we learned that Everson's shots and wounded Johnson and he was then at a local hospital. A group of agents then proceeded to the hospital to make the arrest. A couple of other agents and I returned to the hotel and I got on the phone calling the room Johnson and girlfriend had occupied. The phone was answered by a female voice and she acknowledged she was associated with Johnson. I told her we were coming up after her and not to display any weapons of any type. I told her, in conclusion, that when the agents arrived, I wanted her to not display any weapons, and back out of the room and have her hands in the air. I then added, "Obey or we'll blow your head off." She protested that she was in her underwear. I told her to do as ordered. We proceeded immediately to the floor and stationed ourselves outside the hotel door. I knocked on the door, telling her to come backing out the door. She was dressed only in her panties and bra. We held her at gunpoint while a couple of agents went into the room to get her some sort of robe. She was taken to the Marion County jail where she remained until her companion was transferred back to Florida.

After Johnson had been apprehended and his injuries treated our agent in charge, Harvey Foster, had all of us who had participated in the incident write up his own account. I, among the others, did so, and I noted in my memo that I had fired my pistol four times, but obviously had not injured our subjects. However, the various shots fired by both Johnson and the agents had penetrated the buildings fronting on the circle, fortunately, the shoot out had occurred late in the evening and outside of a few broken windows, nothing else disastrous had happened.

I do not recall the incidents surrounded Johnson and his girlfriend although I had heard via the grapevine that Johnson had been convicted in Dade County and been sent to Alcatraz. The rumor also noted that Johnson had attempted to escape and had drowned in the water of San Francisco Bay in which Alcatraz is located.

This incident had occurred in the summer of 1948 and it was also fortunate that all of us agents escaped censure by the headquarters due to our random firing.

Shortly thereafter I was transferred to South Bend where I remained until retirement. In South Bend I was assigned to the Security Squad which consisted of only one person, Hayes S. King. During the ensuing many years until retirement, I had more than reasonable success in developing informants and keeping headquarters abreast of any threats to its security.

1 comment:

  1. I love these stories. Do you remeber when "John" use to come to the back door of Kentucky Street? How about the man who used to come in the basement to talk to you? I do remember asking you every night when you came home if you ever shot anyone and unfortunately, for me, your answer was always no. You always emptied your gun and put the bullets and the gun on the top shelf in the dining room. I lvoe the memories, keep 'em coming... Juju