Bonnie and Clyde

Clyde Champion Barrow and Bonnie Parker were shot to death by officers in an ambush near Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana on May 23, 1934, after one of the most extensive manhunts the nation had seen up to that time.

Barrow was suspected of numerous killings and was wanted for murder, robbery, and state charges of kidnapping.

The FBI, then called the Bureau of Investigation, became interested in Clyde and Bonnie in December 1932 through a singular bit of evidence. A Ford automobile that had been stolen in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, was found abandoned near Jackson, Michigan, in September of that year.

At Pawhuska, law enforcement learned that another Ford car had been abandoned there after having been stolen in Illinois. In this car was a prescription bottle, which led special agents to a drug store in Nacogdoches, Texas. Investigators learned the medicine had been prescribed to Clyde Barrow's aunt. 

Further investigation revealed that the woman who obtained the prescription had been visited recently by Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, and Clyde’s brother L. C. It also was learned that these three were driving a Ford car—identified as the one stolen in Illinois. It was further shown that L. C. Barrow had secured the empty prescription bottle from a son of the woman who had originally obtained it. 

On May 20, 1933, the United States Commissioner at Dallas, Texas, issued a warrant against Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, charging them with the interstate transportation—from Dallas to Oklahoma—of the automobile stolen in Illinois. The FBI then started its hunt for this elusive pair.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, during their crime spree, playfully pose with guns outdoors for the camera.

The Bureau joined the chase for Bonnie and Clyde in 1933. Until then, we lacked the jurisdiction to get involved in what were local crimes. But in the spring of that year we gathered evidence from a stolen car that had crossed state lines—and traced it to the elusive pair. That led to federal interstate car theft charges and enabled us to officially join the manhunt in May 1933.
Identification Order No. 1227 for Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, dated May 21, 1934.

The Crime Spree Begins 

Bonnie and Clyde met in Texas in January 1930. At the time, Bonnie was 19 and married to an imprisoned murderer; Clyde was 21 and unmarried. Soon after, he was arrested for a burglary and sent to jail. He escaped using a gun Bonnie had smuggled to him, was recaptured, and was sent back to prison. Clyde was paroled in February 1932, rejoined Bonnie, and resumed a life of crime.

Later in 1932, Bonnie and Clyde began traveling with Raymond Hamilton, a young gunman. Hamilton left them several months later and was replaced by William Daniel Jones in November. Ivan M. "Buck" Barrow, Clyde's brother, was released from the Texas State Prison on March 23, 1933, having been granted a full pardon by the governor. He quickly joined Clyde, bringing his wife, Blanche, bringing the group to five.

This gang embarked upon a series of bold robberies that made headlines across the country. They escaped capture in various encounters with the law. However, their activities made law enforcement efforts to apprehend them even more intense. During a shootout with police in Iowa on July 29, 1933, Buck Barrow was fatally wounded, and Blanche was captured. Jones, who was frequently mistaken for "Pretty Boy" Floyd, was captured in November 1933 in Houston, Texas, by the sheriff’s office. Bonnie and Clyde went on together. 

On November 22, 1933, the Dallas, Texas sheriff and his deputies set a trap to capture Bonnie and Clyde near Grand Prairie, Texas, but the couple escaped the officer’s gunfire. They held up an attorney on the highway and took his car, which they abandoned in Miami, Oklahoma. On December 21, 1933, Bonnie and Clyde held up and robbed a citizen at Shreveport, Louisiana.

On January 16, 1934, five prisoners, including Raymond Hamilton (who was serving sentences totaling more than 200 years), were released from the Eastham State Prison Farm at Waldo, Texas, by Clyde, accompanied by Bonnie. Two guards were shot by the escaping prisoners with automatic pistols that had been previously concealed in a ditch by Barrow. As the prisoners ran, Barrow covered their retreat with bursts of machine-gun fire. Among the escapees was Henry Methvin of Louisiana.

Bonnie Parker

Bonnie Parker was listed as 5'5" and 100 pounds

Clyde Barrow (Left) with William D. Jones, One of the Barrow Gang

Clyde Barrow (left) with William D. Jones, one of the Barrow gang

The Last Months 

On April 1, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde encountered two young highway patrolmen near Grapevine, Texas. Before the officers could draw their guns, they were shot. On April 6, 1934, a constable at Miami, Oklahoma, was mortally wounded by Bonnie and Clyde. The criinals also abducted and wounded a police chief.

Although the FBI had jurisdiction solely on the charge of transporting a stolen automobile, the efforts of Bureau agents were vigorous and relentless. Every clue was followed. "Wanted notices" with fingerprints, photographs, descriptions, criminal records, and other information were distributed to all officers. Agents followed the trail through many states and into various haunts of the Barrow gang, particularly Louisiana. The association with Henry Methvin and the Methvin family of Louisiana was discovered by FBI agents, and they found that Bonnie and Clyde had been driving a car stolen in New Orleans.

On April 13, 1934, an FBI agent obtained information that placed Bonnie and Clyde in a remote section southwest of that community. The Methvins home was not far away, and the agent learned of visits there by Bonnie and Clyde. Special agents in Texas had learned that Clyde and Bonnie had been traveling from Texas to Louisiana, sometimes accompanied by Henry Methvin.

The FBI and local law enforcement authorities in Louisiana and Texas concentrated on apprehending Bonnie and Clyde. It was learned that Bonnie and Clyde, with some of the Methvins, had staged a party at Black Lake, Louisiana, on the night of May 21, 1934, and were due to return to the area two days later.

A crowd gathers around Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-ridden Ford sedan not long after the fatal ambush on May 23, 1934, when the couple drove down a dusty back road in Louisiana and straight into an ambush.

A crowd gathers around Bonnie and Clyde's bullet-riden sedan

Before dawn on May 23, 1934, a police officers from Louisiana and Texas concealed themselves in bushes along the highway near Sailes, Louisiana. In the early daylight, Bonnie and Clyde appeared in an automobile and when they attempted to drive away, the officers opened fire. Bonnie and Clyde were killed instantly.

At the time they were killed, Bonnie and Clyde were believed to have committed 13 murders and several robberies and burglaries.

Clyde was suspected of murdering two police officers at Joplin, Missouri. He was also suspected of kidnapping a man and a woman in rural Louisiana. He released them near Waldo, Texas.

Numerous sightings linked this pair to bank robberies and automobile thefts. Clyde allegedly murdered a man at Hillsboro, Texas; committed robberies at Lufkin and Dallas, Texas; murdered one sheriff and wounded another at Stringtown, Oklahoma; kidnapped a deputy at Carlsbad, New Mexico; stole an automobile at Victoria, Texas; attempted to murder a deputy at Wharton, Texas; committed murder and robbery at Abilene and Sherman, Texas; committed murder at Dallas, Texas; abducted a sheriff and the chief of police at Wellington, Texas; and committed murder at Joplin and Columbia, Missouri.