A small Indiana town is asking Tucson police to hand over a Tommy gun taken from notorious outlaw John Dillinger more than 80 years ago.
Tucson police confiscated the Colt Thompson submachine gun when they arrested Dillinger on Jan. 25, 1934. The weapon is now stored behind display glass at Tucson police headquarters on South Stone Avenue.
Peru, Indiana, officials told the Kokomo Tribune they are convinced Dillinger and his gang took the gun from Peru police during a brazen robbery in late 1933.
Peru officials are asking Tucson to return the gun, but Tucson residents may want to keep the gun here, said TPD Sgt. Pete Dugan, noting Tucson police officers were the ones who made the arrest.
“We understand it’s a big part of their history,” Dugan said of Peru’s claim on the gun. “But it’s also a big part of Tucson’s history.”
Several guns were taken from Dillinger and his accomplices, Dugan said. Figuring out the origin of each of the different guns can be a difficult task.
Peru officials told the Kokomo Tribune the serial number, 5878, is proof the gun was stolen when a Dillinger accomplice posed as an insurance agent and asked Peru police to lay out their guns so he could give them a quote on insuring them.
Later that night, Dillinger and accomplice Harry Pierpont raided the police station, held the officers at gunpoint and made off with a shotgun, pump rifles, pistols, a bullet-proof vest, a pair of handcuffs and the Tommy gun. That’s the story told by Peru City Attorney Pat Roberts, son of one of the officers on duty during the robbery in 1933.
The serial number was included in a police report at the time of the robbery in Peru, the Tribune reported. The number also matches records gathered by Gordon Herigstad, who published a book called “Colt Thompson Submachine Gun Serial Numbers & Histories.” The book details the narrative of the 15,000 submachine guns manufactured outside of wartime production.
The Dillinger gang never returned to Peru, but the gun was used to hold up the First National Bank of East Chicago on Jan. 15, 1934, the Tribune reported. Ten days later, Dillinger was in handcuffs in Tucson.
Roberts told the Tribune the city may have a hard time convincing Tucson police the gun rightfully belongs in Peru.
One stumbling block is that Peru needs to find a copy of the purchase order to seal its case, he said.