THE BRADY GANG
Updated: Apr 21
BRADY GANG SHOOTOUT
DATE(S) VISITED: JULY 4, 2020
LOCATION: BANGOR, ME
A little Bangor history lesson (and also another Stephen King hook... The murder of fictional gangster Al Bradley in Derry, Maine, in Stephen King's novel IT is a fictionalized account of the shooting in Bangor.)
Central Street in downtown Bangor is a two-lane, one-way street that shuttles cars from both ends of Harlow Street into the heart of the city's downtown. Small shops and eateries line both sides of the thoroughfare. You probably wouldn't think anything of this street as it just looks like any other in a small city, but in the fall of 1937 Central Street was the scene of the bloodiest shoot-out in Maine history, complete with big-time gangsters and federal agents.
When federal agents killed Public Enemy No.1 John Dillinger in Chicago in 1934, gangster Al Brady then claimed the title of the United States most-wanted man. Brady and his small band of gangsters committed 200 robberies, countless assaults, and four murders which began in 1935. One of the gang's victims was an Indiana state trooper who died May 27th, 1937.
Authorities captured Brady and his men but they soon escaped from prison and fled to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where they disappeared. Contemplating their next move they thought Maine would be the perfect hiding place with its back roads, large wooded areas, and naïve laid-back residents, and because hunting season was nearing, Brady didn't think anybody would become suspicious when he sent his men into Bangor to buy guns and ammunition.
On September 21st, 1937, the gang walked into Dakin's Sporting Goods, located at 25 Central Street, where they bought two Colt .45 semi-automatic pistols, ammunition, a rifle, and they also ordered a third Colt .45. They told the clerk, Louis Clark, they were hunters but Clark didn't buy the men's story as hunters don't use pistols, much less semi-automatic ones. When the men left Clark told his boss, shop owner Everett Hurd, about the odd sale and order. Remembering that the FBI had tracked Brady and his men to New England Hurd told Bangor police Chief Thomas Crowley about the two suspicious customers. Crowley said there was nothing he could do because the men hadn't broken any laws and he was skeptical the Brady Gang would hide out in Maine. Besides, Hurd had no evidence the two men even belonged to Brady's gang.
The next day the gang returned to Bangor and went to Rice and Miller, another sporting goods store, on Broad Street. Rice and Miller clerk C.E. Silsbury also became suspicious when the men bought three .32-caliber pistols so Silsbury contacted Crowley and told him about the odd sale. Crowley realized something was wrong and that the two men were obviously not local, they were packing serious firepower, and their hunting story didn't cut it, so he contacted the FBI.
Thinking their hunting story was foolproof the Brady Gang returned to Dakin's four days after shopping at Rice and Miller. This time they bought another rifle, and this is where they went a little bit over the top with their requests as they then asked Hurd if he stocked Tommy Guns! Any doubts Hurd may have had that the two peculiar men were not thugs quickly disappeared and he realized he was dealing with the most sought-after gang in the country, but rather than break a sweat at the Tommy Gun request, Hurd told the two he didn't stock the type but he thought he could get one within a few days. Anxious and perhaps sensing they were pushing their luck, even with the backwoods Mainers, another man from the Brady gang went to Dakin's on October 9th and asked Hurd when the Tommy Gun would arrive, Hurd told him to check back later in the week. That same day 15 FBI agents arrived in Bangor along with 15 Indiana and Maine state troopers, where they began to stake out downtown Bangor and positioned themselves on rooftops and in windows at Market Square whilst FBI agent Walter Walsh, the operation's leader, posed as a clerk at Dakin's. Three days later the Brady Gang again returned to Dakin's and they parked their black Buick on the street in front of the store. Brady stayed inside the car whilst Clarence Lee Shaffer Jr. stood outside on the sidewalk and James Dalhover went inside the store. Upon entering Dalhover approached the counter and asked Hurd whether he had received the Tommy Gun yet, but before Hurd answered Agent Walsh came up behind the man and held him at gunpoint with two pistols and ordered him to surrender. When the man swung around to fight Walsh knocked him to the floor and during the scuffle Shaffer who was outside saw what was happening through the window and drew his gun, on seeing this Walsh dashed out the front door to then be shot in the shoulder as the gang member opened fire on him. Agents and officers atop nearby roofs fired their machine guns cutting Shaffer down whilst Agents on the ground rushed the Buick and threw open its doors. They ordered Brady to get out but Brady wasn't willing to surrender so easily, he drew a gun and shot at the agents inviting a similar fate as the dead man on the sidewalk. In all, the gunfight lasted about four minutes and the Brady men had been hit more than 60 times. The only gang member to survive was the one Walsh had knocked down in the store, James Dalhover. He was arrested and went to a holding cell in the basement of City Hall, which is only a block away, he was returned to Indiana for prosecution where he was convicted and executed by electric chair a year later. Brady and Shaffer went to the morgue, and whilst relatives of Shaffer claimed his body for burial, nobody claimed Brady's. Brady was buried in an unmarked grave at the city plot at Mount Hope Cemetery but a marker was finally erected in 2012.