Crime stories weren’t exactly common in Maine. But back in the late 1930s, Public Enemy #1 Al Brady came to Maine to hide out. And he might never have been found had it not been for his longing for the true badge of an American gangster of the time, a Thompson submachine gun. When he tried to pick one up at a Bangor gun shop, the FBI was waiting. He died in a shootout that was so bloody that the Fire Department had to be summoned to wash the blood from Central Street.
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
BANGOR, Maine (UPI) – The stolen eight-cylinder Buick glided to a stop outside Dakin’s Sporting Goods store. Alfred Brady, the FBI’s Public Enemy Number One, slouched in the back seat while another man went in to see if the Thompson submachine gun they had on order had come in.
It was Oct. 12, 1937. Brady’s blood was about to be splashed over Central Street, and the story was about to be splashed across the front pages of newspapers around the world.
It was the most exciting thing to ever happen in Bangor. Now, 50 years later, the Bangor Daily News hopes to raise enough money to buy a small granite marker to memorialize the gunfight between the Brady Gang and the FBI.
“We’ve put out an appeal to raise $650 for a marker to commemorate the spot,” said Richard Shaw, a Daily News copy editor and amateur history buff who is involved in the project. “So far we have raised about $100, and the readers are really responding.”
The heat was on for the Brady Gang in 1937. Brady and his two henchmen had begun their crime careers in Indiana, and had robbed a string of banks and jewelry stores, killing three people along the way. J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI had launched one of its famous manhunts for the trio, and had named Brady Public Enemy Number One.
The gang found a place to hang out in Connecticut, and began to put together an arsenal.
Brady thought that Maine would be a great place to buy guns. It was fall, and hunting season was about to start. People buying guns shouldn’t raise an eyebrow in Maine, Brady reasoned.
The gang made several trips to Maine in the shiny Buick they had stolen earlier in Baltimore. On one trip they bought a number of handguns, and an obliging merchant at Hussey Hardware in Augusta innocently wrote a letter of introduction to the owner of a hardware store in Bangor when he couldn’t provide the guns the gang had asked for.
Even though Brady had accumulated a number of pistols and rifles, he dreamed about obtaining the true badge of the 1930s gangster, a Thompson submachine gun. When the gang got to Bangor, they went to the hardware store and then to Dakin’s, and Brady asked a clerk about the prospects for obtaining one of the weapons.
The store clerk, Shep Hurd, apparently realized a Thomason submachine gun was not the weapon of choice for most deer hunters. His suspicions aroused, he told Brady he might know where to get a submachine gun, although delivery would take a week.
When the gang members left the store, Hurd went to the police.
Brady and the other two men hung around Bangor for a week, waiting for the gun to arrive. At midday on Oct. 12, they drove back downtown and parked on Central Street near Dakin’s.
The gang didn’t know it, but downtown Bangor was crawling with FBI agents. Hurd, the store clerk, had been replaced by an agent. FBI sharpshooters were at the second floor windows of the buildings across the street. Others were stationed at other strategic spots along the street.
One of the gangsters, James Dalhover, got out of the Buick and entered the store. Brady and Clarence Shaffer Jr. stayed in the car.
Dalhover asked about the Thompson submachine gun and was immediately arrested. Shaffer finally left the car to see what was taking so long, and saw through the window that Dalhover was being handcuffed. He opened fire and was immediately hit with 25 rounds from FBI guns from inside the store and from across the street.
“That was when the FBI opened fire, and hit him with about 25 bullets,” Shaw said. “He twisted around like a top and collapsed in the street.”