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Tommy Carroll
Born 1/16/1994
Died June 7, 1934 (aged 33)
Waterloo, Iowa
Cause killed in police shootout
Conviction(s) Armed robbery (1927)
Penalty 5 years imprisoment
Status Paroled from Leavenworth in 1931
Occupation Bank robber
Spouse Jean Delaney Carroll (or Crompton)

Thomas Leonard "Tommy" Carroll (1901-June 7, 1934) was an American bank robber and Depression-era outlaw. A boxer-turned-criminal, he committed numerous robberies during the 1920s and 30s as well as being a longtime member of the Dillinger gang.[1]




Early life and criminal career

An ex-boxer,[2] Tommy Carroll was first arrested on January 24, 1920, and served 60 days in the Douglas County jail "for investigation". On October 24, 1921, Carroll was arrested for larceny in Council Bluffs, Iowa and remained in jail for nearly four months before his conviction on February 7, 1922. Sentenced to five years imprisonment, he spent a year in the Anamosa state reformatory before his parole in March 1923.[1]

He continued to have run-ins with the law during the next few years, managing to avoid more jail time. He was twice charged with robbery, first in Kansas City on November 21, 1924 and again in St. Louis on August 11, 1925, and both cases were dropped. The following year, on August 28, 1926, he was jailed in St. Louis for auto theft but released without trial. He was picked up by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma for carrying a concealed weapon on September 15, but the charges were dropped. Returned to St. Joseph, he was arrested for bank robbery on September 29, 1926, and held until his trial and acquittal on January 11, 1927.[1]

On April 1, 1927, Carroll's luck ran out when he was convicted of armed robbery in Missouri and sentenced to five years imprisonment at the state prison in Jefferson City. He was later released on parole but only a brief time as he was quickly rearrested, tried and convicted under the newly-passed Dyer Act and spent 21 months in Leavenworth prison until his parole in October 1931.[1]

Carroll disappeared for a year and a half before he was arrested in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 17, 1933 for possession of burglar's tools. Carroll was able to negotiate his release and the charges against him were dropped. It was after this experience that Carroll became determined to break into major crime with a skilled team.[1]

Carroll and the Dillinger gang

Carroll joined the John Dillinger gang sometime in late-1933 and participated in his first robbery with the gang on October 23, 1933, when he joined Baby Face Nelson, Homer Van Meter, John Paul Chase and Charles Fisher in the robbery of $32,000 from a bank in Brainerd, Minnesota. On November 11, he was spotted and pursued by two Minneapolis detectives, managing to escape. Carroll soon after traveled to San Antonio, Texas to purchase weapons from gunsmith Hyman Lehman on behalf of Nelson and the others. Carroll was forced to return when a chance encounter with police turned into a shootout, leaving Detective H.C. Perrow dead.[1][3]

In February 1934, Carroll was sent by Homer Van Meter to Crown Point, Indiana to deliver a "cash payment" to help break John Dillinger from the local jail. Carroll was, as yet, not an associate of Dillinger's and was easily able to pass through the town without notice. On March 3, Dillinger escaped from Crown Point and went to St. Paul where he met Carroll. Three days later, he joined Carroll, Van Meter, Nelson, John "Red" Hamilton and Eddie Green in stealing $49,500 from a bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Carroll was assigned to watch the street and captured 12 police officers single-handed,[4][5] however Nelson shot and wounded motorcycle officer Hale Keith before they could make their getaway back to St. Paul.[1][3]

Carroll was the wheelman a week later when the gang made their biggest score yet when, on March 3, they robbed a bank in Mason City, Iowa for $52,344. Dillinger and Hamilton were both suffered gunshot wounds when they exited the bank and the gang fled to St. Paul. The robbery had attracted so much attention that they couldn't risk staying in the city long and decided to disappear for awhile. The gang headed for Emil Wanatka's Little Bohemia Lodge near Rhinelander, Wisconsin a month later.[1]

The FBI followed the gang to their hideout and, on the night of April 22, Melvin Purvis led a raid against the lodge. The raid resulted in disaster with Federal agents killing one civilian Eugene Boisoneau, 35 from the Mercer CCC camp. Federal agents also wounded John Hoffman, 28 a gas station attendant and John Morris, 59, the Mercer CCC camp cook. Baby Face Nelson killed agent Carter Baum and wounded agent Jay Neuman and local constable Carl Christensen at Alvin Koerner's place south of Little Bohemia.

All the gangsters easily escaped.

Carroll had fled through the woods and ended up in a nearby crossroads community. He then stole a car and drove down a logging road 12 miles north of the lodge. When the road turned out to be a dead end, he left the car and escaped on foot while federal agents were arresting the women that had been found at the lodge with the gang. Carroll's wife Jean Delaney Carroll (or Crompton), sister-in-law of Alvin Karpis, was among the women arrested and charged with harboring fugitives. She was later put on probation instead of serving a jail sentence.[1]

Carroll remained on the run with Dillinger and Van Meter for almost a month and eventually hid out in a cabin outside East Chicago, Indiana. On May 19, he and the rest of the gang were indicted by a federal grand jury in Madison, Wisconsin and charged with harboring each other as fugitives. Later that month, as the gang went their separate ways, Carroll was reunited with his wife who violated her probation to join Carroll.[1]


Carroll and his wife managed to evade the authorities for only a few weeks following their departure from Dillinger. On June 6, 1934, they checked into a tourist camp in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The next morning they drove to Waterloo where they stopped at a gas station. The station attendant noticed spare license plates in Carroll's new Hudson and called local police after they had left. Carroll unintentionally parked the car across the street from the Waterloo police garage where, at that time, Detectives Emil Steffen and P.E. Walker approached the two. Caught off guard by the officers, Carroll reached for his gun but dropped it underneath the car, stopped to pick up the gun and ran down a nearby alley. Steffen and Walker opened fire and shot Carroll four times. Carroll died of his wounds at a nearby hospital several hours later. His wife was taken into custody and sentenced to a year and a day for violating her parole, only two days following her husband's death, later miscarrying their child.[1][2]

Played by actor Spencer Garrett in the film "Public Enemies".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Newton, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Robberies, Heists, and Capers. New York: Facts On File Inc., 2002. (pg. 50-51) ISBN 0-8160-4488-0
  2. ^ a b Matera, Dary (2005). John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal. Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-1558-8. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  3. ^ a b Girardin, G. Russell; William J. Helmer (2005). Rick Mattix. ed. Dillinger: The Untold Story. Indiana University Press. pp. 377. ISBN 9780253216335. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  4. ^ Robert Nash, Jay (2004). The Great Pictorial History of World Crime. 2. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 1755. ISBN 9781928831228. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  5. ^ Toland, John (1995). The Dillinger Days. Da Capo Press. pp. 382. ISBN 9780306806261. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 


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