Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were the founding members of the Barrow gang, made famous during their short lifetimes by the press and by Bonnie Parker’s attempts to add to their fame by presenting themselves as romantic, star-crossed lovers. In reality Clyde Barrow was a career criminal and murderer who started stealing and safecracking when he was in his late teens. By 1930 Barrow was in prison for multiple felonies, including car theft. While incarcerated he killed another inmate by breaking his skull with a length of pipe. Another inmate was charged with the murder, which Barrow happily let stand. He was paroled in 1932.
Barrow met Parker some time before he went to prison and sought her out upon his release. To make money, Barrow began to rob small stores and service stations with his accomplice Ralph Fults. In April 1932 Fults was arrested with Parker while robbing a hardware store, a crime for which Fults was convicted, but charges against Parker were dropped. While she was being held Barrow participated in the robbery of another store where the store owner was killed, and Barrow was identified by a witness as the driver of the getaway car. In August Barrow was approached by an Oklahoma sheriff and deputy in a parking lot when Barrow opened fire, killing the deputy and wounding the Sheriff. By December Barrow, accompanied by Parker and W.D. Jones had killed a victim of a car theft (Jones was likely the murderer) and a week into the New Year Barrow killed another lawman.
In March Barrow’s brother Buck joined the gang with his wife Blanche and the group which would come to be known under the name of Bonnie and Clyde began their criminal spree in earnest, having already a total of five murders on their resume. Although they would be remembered as bank robbers, some would even say daring bank robbers, Barrow preferred more helpless and isolated targets such as gas stations, isolated stores, and even diners and restaurants. His weapon of choice was the Browning Automatic Rifle, which became famous during the Second World War as the BAR, giving him an advantage in firepower over the local police.
Although legend has it that he preferred Ford cars for their speed, he was willing to steal whatever car was available, and often did. The gang would rob, or attempt to rob about twelve banks during their brief career. They also killed nine law enforcement officers, several in cold blooded murders rather than dramatic shootouts, and liked to take hostages to ease their escapes. Usually they would release the hostages and provide them with a little cash for their trouble. At least four members of the gang in addition to Barrow are known murderers, Parker is not one of them. They ranged from Texas to Minnesota, usually committing robberies in which relatively small sums were taken, a factor in the frequency of their crimes.
After a car accident when Barrow was driving and missed a sign warning of a closed bridge, Parker was severely burned and was unable to walk without support for the remainder of her life. Buck Barrow was fatally shot in an encounter with law enforcement in 1934, dying a few days after suffering a head wound. His wife was taken prisoner. By May 1934, Parker and Barrow were alone when they were ambushed by Texas Rangers, local law enforcement and officers from Louisiana. Their legend began shortly following their deaths. It does not typically include the nine police officers and more than a dozen victims or bystanders that were killed by the pair or members of their gang.