Chad Lewis, author of the newly published "Minnesota Road Guide to Gangster Hot Spots," relied on contemporary news coverage to reconstruct many of the details of the robberies, kidnappings, crime sprees and shoot-outs that fill the book.
The famous Bank of Willmar robbery, on July 15, 1930, was chronicled in detail in the Willmar Tribune.
"Bank of Willmar Robbed of $70,000" the headline blared. The bandits were described as the "desperate type."
The opening paragraphs of the Tribune's coverage describe how the events unfolded:
"Five well dressed bandits, four with revolvers and one with a small machine gun, Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. held up the Bank of Willmar and made their escape with gold currency and bonds fixed at $75,000. Their hurried exit however, was not made without difficulty, as guns in the hands of two Willmar men wounded two of the bandits, one of them probably being fatally wounded.
"Three men entered the bank at 10:15 and ordered everyone, employees and customers, to hold up their hands. They next ordered them to lie on the floor. John Swenson, farmer near Willmar, refused at first to obey orders and was given a severe kick, after which he followed the example of the rest of the seven customers."
The detailed coverage included the names of all seven customers and an interview with a bystander who wrote down the license number of the getaway car, which later turned out to belong to a stolen vehicle.
A crowd gathered in front of the bank on Fifth Street for a group picture. Two female bank employees who managed to hide in the basement also posed for a photographer to demonstrate how they crouched under the stairs.