MAY 12, 1933, Evening edition of the Pharos-Tribune
FIRE FORTY SHOTS AND WOUND TWO AS HOLDUP OF STATE BANK FAILS
Doris Miner, 22, Lucerne, and Mrs. Ethel Jones, 22, Star City, Are Wounded as Fleeing Robbers and Their Two Women Companions Open Withering Machine Gun Fire On Residents of Town; Lawson Selders, Assistant Cashier, In Bank, Barely Escapes Death When One Bandit Fires At Him Point-Blank.
The ordinarily quiet and peaceful village of Lucerne in the northwestern part of Cass County was thrown into a state of wild excitement early today when bandits literally shot up the town in escaping after an unsuccessful attempt to rob the Lucerne State Bank.
More than two score shots fired by the bandits riddled the bank, crashed through the home of Mr. and Mrs. Court Miner and the Bell restaurant, whizzed by a score of citizens and wounded two slightly.
The tactics used by the thugs, two men and two women, resembled the wildest escapades of Chicago gangland and matched the tales of the wild and woolly west.
The wounded were Doris Miner, 22 years old, of Lucerne and Mrs. Ethel Jones, 22 years old of Star City, who is in Lucerne visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. UraWitters.
Les Bowlen, county councilman, and Homer Hunter, Logansport, who pursued the bandit car from Lucerne traced the machine west of Winamac on state road 14 where they lost the trail.
The bandit car ran into a herd of about twenty pigs and two sows on the flight northwest of Lucerne and killed two of the pigs.
The bandit driver was an expert at the wheel or he would’ve been wrecked.
Miss Miner was dressing in the bedroom of her home across the street and west of the bank when two bullets sped through the weather boarding of the home; fragments hitting her in the left shoulder and left cheek, inflicting painful but not serious injuries.
Mrs. Jones was standing in front of the Jesse Sheets home, the first house west of the Miner residence when a bullet grazed her right arm.
Gregg and Selders had worked about a half an hour putting the cash in drawers when Gregg stepped into the vault leaving Selders alone in the cage. Selders was working over an adding machine when he heard a noise above him and looked up.
A roughly dressed young man holding a pistol in his hand leaped up with a yell, “Put ‘em up”. Selders responded by lunging for the safety of the open vault. As he did so a shot rang out. The bullet missed his head by inches.
Almost at that moment, Ed Frushour walked pass the bank, heard the shot and looked in. The gunman beckoned him to enter and then shouted “come in”. Frushour ducked away as three bullets crashed through the big plate glass window. A fourth hit near the top of the glass.
Gregg and Lawson, armed by this time and waiting for the bandits to appear in the cage heard them leap down at the back of the vault. Then seven more shots fired by the bandits added to the din. The bullets crashed into the brick and cement reinforcement sheltering the vault.
The gunmen ran out of a back door. One of them turned and fired nine shots into the back wall and windows of the bank building before joining his companion in a Ford V 8 sedan in which the two women were seated.
The road in which the car was waiting when the men ran from the bank forms a loop south of the bank, coming back on the main street, state road 16, at the Christian church, a block west of the bank.
As the car was speeding around the corner, Ura Witters, who had heard the shooting, attempted to wreck the vehicle by tossing a large chunk of wood into its path. The driver, a man, veered the car to the right and into a soggy lawn but brought it safely back onto the narrow road and increased his speed.
At the Christian church, the bandit car slowed up to permit a third round of lead to be turned on the citizens who had rushed from their homes into the street to learn the cause of the firing and excitement.
It was here that Mrs. Jones and Miss Miner were wounded.
The bandit car headed west and vanished.
Les Powlen, driving a high powered car, accompanied by Homer Hunter of Logansport, gave pursuit.
Standing in front of the Sheets home when Mrs. Jones was injured were her husband, M. Jones, Mary Sheets and George and Willard Witters. They crouched in terror as the hail of lead passed over their heads.
Mrs. Miner was out in the strawberry patch at the rear of her home when she heard the shots that hit her home and injured her daughter.
One of the bullets that was fired in front of the Christian church passed through a telephone pole. A second was imbedded in the pole and two or three hit in the street. Another struck a cherry tree in the Miner yard.
Ruth Peckman who lives on the main street about a block west of the Christian church was an eye witness to the shooting that took place just before the bandits drove from town.
Bert Hilkert, a rural mail carrier drove by the bank just as Frushour was being shot at. The bullet missed his car by a narrow margin. He kept on going until out of range.
J. A. Frushour, who runs a hardware store adjacent to the bank at the west, had just entered the back door of his place of business when he heard shots and looked out in time to see the women drive up in the car and the two men retreat. He said that he believed that had he been in the yard when the robbers came out of the bank that he would’ve been killed. He also said that if he had had a gun he could have killed one of them.
That the bandits had been in town Thursday to look over the situation was testified by several persons including Mrs. Roscoe Russell, who said she saw the men twice the day before in the same car they used in making their escape. George Witters and Mrs. Elsie Hoover also said they saw the car and bandits Thursday.
The license number of the Ford was 625-096. It was listed in Greenfield, Ind. To Carl Porter of Waveland.
How long the bandit car was in Lucerne on Friday morning is a matter for conjecture but Elisworth Hoover saw it parked in front of his home with the two women in it at 7 o’clock. Ura Witters verified this. At first the car was parked directly in front of the Hoover home. It was moved slowly until it was right along side the Witters home. The women drove from this point when they heard the shots. When Hoover went to work he spoke to them. At the sound of the third shot, said Harry Thomas, who lives near the bank, a big dark-colored sedan roared through Lucerne going west. Others saw this vehicle, too, but all agreed that it was going at such terrific speed they were unable to ascertain the make or even a good description of it or the driver.
Those who saw the bandits leave town were alike in their stories that the women did a large part of the shooting and probably all of it during the parting fusillade.
Fourteen shells were picked up from the street in front of the Christian church. Five or six were found on the floor of the bank and Dewitt Stuart gathered up nine, one of which was unexploded, on the premises in back of the bank.
Sheriff Stonebraker and Golz Thomason of the police department examined the shells and said they believed they were from high powered rifles and not from machine guns as Lucerne citizens believed because of the rapidity of the firing.
Sheriff Stonebraker called Karl Burkhardt, chief of the state criminal identification bureau at Indianapolis, and was advised a state investigator will be sent here. Burkhardt ventured the opinion that the badits were the same gang who pulled a $40,000 holdup at Terre Haute recently and said that the identity of the Terre Haute robbers was known but could not be located.
Descriptions of the bandits was meager. One of the women was said to have been blond, about 20 years old and the other a brunette. The men dressed roughly and little else could be said of them save that the one who ordered Selders to put his hands up was dark complexioned and appeared to have and unusually low hair line at the forehead.
The streets of Lucerne were crowded for hours after the shooting and hummed with the voices of everyone giving their versions of what happened.
Cahier Gregg and Selders were probably as calm as anyone. Selders displayed unusual nerve in dodging away from under the menacing guns of the bandits and his action probably saved the bank from being looted.
Gregg said that had the men appeared in front of the vault they would have been at his mercy. He had a rifle. A repeating shotgun in the back of the bank was overlooked by the bandits. From appearances, they probably had so many guns on them they couldn’t have toted another.
It was the first time that an attempt had been made to hold up the institution. The bank is capitalized at $25,000. Willard Winn is president.
Besides the sheriff and Officer Thomason in the former’s automobile, Patrolman H. V. Carson and Jesse Vernon also answered the call from Logansport in the police car.
Sheriff Richardson, a deputy, and State Policeman of Winamac, also responded.
The bandit car turned north after leaving Lucerne and before reaching road 29 at Royal and zig zagged in a northwesterly direction. Powlen and Hunter were in hot pursuit.