When an infamous gang made a midday, $75K Dayton jewelry store heist in 1936

A band of hardcore hooligans, guns in one hand and pillowcases in the other, robbed a downtown Dayton jewelry store in April 1936. 

Five armed men entered the Sol Partner jewelry store at 20 N. Ludlow St. at 2:30 in the afternoon on April 9, 1936. The jewelry store owner, three employees and four customers were inside.

The bandits, “well-dressed in light raincoats and topcoats, scorned the cheap jewelry and bulky pieces,” according to the report in the next day’s Dayton Daily News, leading police to suspect they were professionals. 

Unbeknownst to the people in the store, the gang rummaging through the jewelry displays would soon be known as the infamous “Brady Gang.” Led by Alfred Brady, the ruffians bubbled up soon after the death of famed mobster John Dillinger. 

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The ambitious band is said to have insulted Dillinger’s legacy, saying they would “make Dillinger look like a piker,” according the FBI’s website. 

Inside the Dayton store, the thieves “worked smoothly and spoke few words.” Outside, if a pedestrian stopped to admire goods in the window displays for too long, they found themselves quietly ushered inside by a gunman. 

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James Dalhover

A postal carrier, Lawrence C. Schlemann of 98 Cliff St., innocently stepped into the store to drop off the mail as the looting was going on. 

“The bandits were too smart to molest him,” reported the newspaper. “They dropped the muzzles of their pistols and stared hard at him without speaking. Realizing they might shoot if he made a dash for the door, Schlemann voluntarily joined the employees and customers who had been herded in a corner.” 

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During the 20-minute robbery, the men made several trips back and forth to unload bags into a nearby parked car, according to a woman who witnessed the procession but thought nothing unusual was happening. When it was all over, the thieves had taken $75,000 in jewelry. 

Brady and his gang would go on to rob another jewelry store in Lima a couple weeks later, boldly hold police officers at bay and then hightail it to Indianapolis. There they killed a police officer during a shoot-out. 

Brady, along with gang members James Dalhover and Clarence Lee Shaffer, were captured by Indianapolis police on May 11, 1936, according to the FBI. Five months later, they escaped from a county lock-up. 

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Clarence Lee Shaffer

The trio was on the lam for a year, but this time the FBI was involved, tracking them to crimes in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Baltimore, where they learned “Brady frequented several roller skating rinks and had exhibited a particular liking for the sport.” 

The FBI, working on a tip, laid a trap for the gang at a sporting goods store in Bangor, Maine on Oct. 12, 1937. Dalhover, who entered the store to pick up firearms, was taken into custody. Shaffer and Brady drew their guns and fired at the G-Men. 

When it was over, the leader of the gang that robbed a Dayton jewelry store and led the FBI on “one of the greatest manhunts in the history of American crime” was dead in the middle of a Bangor street.

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