Homer Van Meter
While he isn’t a household name, Homer Van Meter ran with some celebrity gangsters during his life of crime in the 1920s and 1930s. His two most notable associates were none other than John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. Van Meter was born in Indiana in 1905. He ran away from home as a young boy and ended up in Chicago. Throughout his early years, Van Meter had several scrapes with the law and served time for crimes including larceny and car theft. In early 1925, he was arrested for robbing trains and was given a lengthy sentence at Pendleton Reformatory in his native Indiana. It was at Pendleton that Van Meter met John Dillinger.
Van Meter was paroled in May 1933. He immediately hooked up with George “Baby Face” Nelson (real name Lester Gillis) and robbed a bank in Grand Haven, Michigan of $30,000. He robbed another bank with Nelson in Minnesota and again made off with more than $30,000. John Dillinger broke out of prison in March 1934, and joined forces with Van Meter and Nelson. The trio, along with other gang members, robbed banks in South Dakota, Iowa, and Indiana. The gang maintained a hideout/safe house in St. Paul, Minnesota where they kept their loot.
By the summer of 1934, authorities all over the country were on the lookout for Homer Van Meter due to his criminal activity. In June, Van Meter and Dillinger both underwent plastic surgery in order to avoid police detection. Van Meter, Dillinger, and Nelson pulled one last heist together on June 30, 1934. The group robbed a bank in South Bend, Indiana, and killed a policeman in the process. On July 22, Dillinger was gunned down outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago, and Van Meter and his girlfriend split town for St. Paul.
A month later, on August 23, 1934, police officers confronted Van Meter on a street corner in St. Paul. Van Meter fired at the officers and was chased into an alley. The officers opened fire and Homer Van Meter was shot dead. He was 28-years-old.