Investigation Team: Sgt. Matt Miller, Dave Miller
Expedition Date: January 25, 2017
After Dillinger’s escape from Lima, Ohio (see Part 4) in October 1933, for the next eight months through July 1934 Dillinger and his gang killed 10 people, wounded 7 others, robbed police arsenals (of guns and bullet-proof vests) and robbed about a dozen banks. The gang staged three jail breaks and terrorized the Midwest. Returning to Dillinger’s arrest in Dayton, Ohio back on September 22, 1933, a Colt .38 handgun was taken from him. Thanks to Moraine Deputy Chief Tracy Harpster and to Gwen Haney, Curator for Dayton History at Carillon Park, we obtained special permission to see Dillinger’s gun.
THE GUN’S HISTORY
The gun was a Colt .38 Super semiautomatic blue-steel pistol, serial number 12187. Originally, the .38 Super was designed for law enforcement officers who found their regular .38 caliber weapons weren’t strong enough to penetrate the car doors of mobsters. Colt built the .38 Super on a standard .45 caliber frame then modified its workings to shoot Super .38 caliber ammo. The gun was special ordered and shipped to a gun shop in Chicago back in 1932.
Unlike today, where police are not allowed to take crime scene evidence as souvenirs, Dayton PD had the gun engraved and given to then Dayton Police Chief Rudolph Wurstner, a 47-year veteran of Dayton PD. The chief carried it with him the next 16 years until he retired in 1949. It is engraved “Taken from fugitive John Dillinger upon arrest in Dayton, Ohio, Sept. 22, 1933, at 2:30am. R.F. Wurstner Chief of Police” (Photo#2). Following the Chief’s death in 1969, the gun was hidden in family closets for decades, eventually appraised and almost auctioned off on the internet. Thanks to the descendants of Chief Wurstner, the gun was donated to Dayton History in 2004 and it is occasionally displayed. Photo#3 is the gun and the actual handcuffs used on Dillinger when arrested in Dayton.
THE GUN TODAY
My son Sgt. Matt Miller of the Fairfield Township Police Department and I were led to a back archives room at Carillon Park where Ms. Haney opened a box and allowed us to see and take photos of the historic gun (Photo#4 & #5) as well as a few other artifacts.