January 13

This Day in History

Crime

Jan 13, 1939:

Doc Barker is killed by prison guards as he attempts to escape

Arthur "Doc" Barker is killed while trying to escape from Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay. Barker, of the notorious "Bloody Barkers" gang, was spotted on the rock-strewn shore of the island after climbing over the walls. Despite the fact that guards were ordering him to surrender, Barker continued tying pieces of wood together into a makeshift raft. As he waded into the water, the guards shot and killed him.

Doc Barker, along with his brothers Herman, Lloyd, and Fred, and their mother, the infamous Ma Barker, formed one of the more formidable criminal gangs of the 1920s and 1930s. Carrying out a series of bank robberies and kidnappings throughout the Midwest, Ma shrewdly paid off officials in towns all over the region, allowing the gang to avoid the law for long stretches of time.

In 1934, with their pictures in all of the newspapers, Doc and Fred Barker tried to change their appearance through plastic surgery. They enlisted Dr. Joseph Moran to conduct the operations, including removing their fingerprints. But the plan was a disaster, and each ended up with terrible scars, infected fingers, and recognizable faces anyway. Dr. Moran was adopted into the gang as a matter of necessity, but when he started to talk about their activities to a prostitute, the Barkers killed him.

On January 8, 1935, FBI agents, led by Melvin Purvis, captured Doc Barker in Chicago, Illinois. As he searched Barker, Purvis reportedly asked, "Where's your gun?" Barker replied, "Home—and ain't that a place for it?" Eight days later, Fred and Ma Barker were pinned down at their hideout in Florida. A massive gun battle left both of them dead.

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