Bangor In Focus
The Brady Gang
But in fall 1937, Central Street was the scene of the bloodiest shoot-out in Maine history, complete with big-time gangsters and federal agents.
When federal agents killed Public Enemy No. 1 John Dillinger in Chicago in 1934, gangster Al Brady claimed the title of the United States' most-wanted man.
Brady and his small band of gangsters committed 200 robberies, countless assaults, and four murders beginning in 1935. One of the gang's victims was an Indiana state trooper who died May 27, 1937.
Authorities captured Brady and his men, but they soon escaped from prison, fleeing to Bridgeport, Conn., where they disappeared. Brady and his men thought Maine would be the perfect hiding place with its back roads, large wooded areas, and naive laid-back residents. And because hunting season was nearing, Brady didn't think anybody would become suspicious when he sent his men into Bangor to buy guns and ammunition.
On Sept. 21, 1937, two of Brady's men walked into Dakin's Sporting Goods on Central Street. They bought two Colt .45 semi-automatic pistols, ammunition, and a rifle. They also ordered a third Colt .45. They told the clerk, Louis Clark, they were hunters.
Clark didn't buy the men's story. Hunters don't use pistols, much less semi-automatic ones.
The next day, the two men returned to Bangor and went to Rice and Miller, another sporting goods store, on Broad Street. Rice and Miller clerk C.E. Silsbury also became suspicious when the men bought three .32-caliber pistols.
Silsbury contacted Crowley and told him about the odd sale. Crowley realized something was wrong. The two men were obviously from away, they were packing serious firepower, and their hunting story didn't cut it, so he contacted the FBI.
Thinking their hunting story was foolproof, the Brady Gang returned to Dakin's four days after shopping at Rice and Miller. This time the two men bought another rifle and went over the top: They asked Hurd if he stocked Tommy guns.
Any doubts Hurd may have had that the two peculiar men were not thugs quickly disappeared. He realized he was dealing with the most sought-after gang in the country. But rather than break a sweat at the Tommy gun request, Hurd told the two he didn't stock the type but he thought he could get one within a few days.
Later that day, 15 FBI agents arrived in Bangor, along with 15 Indiana and Maine state troopers. They staked out downtown Bangor and positioned themselves on roofs and in windows at Market Square. FBI agent Walter Walsh, the operation's leader, posed as a clerk at Dakin's.
Three days later, the Brady Gang again returned to Dakin's. Their black Buick stopped on the street in front of Dakin's. The two familiar men got out of the car. One of them stood outside the store on the sidewalk while the other went inside.
The gang member who went inside approached the counter and asked Hurd whether he had received the Tommy gun yet. Before Hurd answered, Agent Walsh came up from behind the man and held him at gunpoint with two pistols. Walsh ordered him to surrender.
Agents and officers atop nearby roofs fired their machine guns, cutting the outside man down. Agents on the ground rushed the Buick and threw open its doors. They ordered Brady and the driver to get out. But Brady wasn't willing to surrender so easily. He drew a gun and shot at the agents, inviting a similar fate as the dead man on the sidewalk.
In all, the gunfight lasted about four minutes. The Brady men had been hit more than 60 times. Rivers of blood oozed down Central Street, some of it collecting in the trolley tracks. The fire department had to wash the street.
The only Brady man to survive was the one Walsh had knocked down in the store. He went to a holding cell in the basement of City Hall, only a block away. Brady and his two other cohorts went to the morgue. Relatives of the cohorts claimed their bodies, but nobody claimed Brady's. Today, it rests in an unmarked grave at Mount Hope Cemetery on State Street.
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