Piece of History with Violent Past Returns to Auburn

By Eric Olson

March 7, 2014 Updated Mar 7, 2014 at 12:46 PM EDT

AUBURN, In (21Alive)-A piece of local history has come home to Auburn after an 80 year absence. We’re talking about that nasty looking submachine gun held aloft by an Indianapolis FBI agent…the weapon stolen 80 years ago from the Auburn police station by a notorious depression era gangster.

On October 14th, 1933 John Dillinger, public enemy number one, freshly sprung from a Lima Ohio jail, pulled into Auburn, stormed the police station with his gang and stole a Thompson submachine gun along with rifles, pistols, bullet proof vests, and ammunition. It was just the kind of audacious, whirlwind strike the outlandish Dillinger loved to pull off. Three months later Dillinger was arrested in Arizona and the machine gun recovered by Arizona police who eventually handed it over to the FBI. Year’s later Auburn policeman Ed McDonald launched a mission to get the gun back from the bureau.

“He researched the serial number,” says Auburn police Chief Martin McCoy.” He was able to find documentation through the city that we actually did purchase the weapon and serial number from it so we could match it with the one with the FBI.”

Years of lobbying paid off this day with the return of the weapon to the people of Auburn, its rightful owners, who welcomed the gun like a rock star. Unfortunately officer Ed McDonald didn’t live to see this day, he died two years ago. But his efforts are a boon for the town he loved. The Thompson submachine gun, worth some estimates say a million dollars, will be restored and displayed in Auburn, possibly at the Auburn Cord Deusenberg Museum for everyone to experience. A direct connection with a wild and violent chapter in the story of this town, and this country. This is Eric Olson reporting.

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