Verde Heritage 1928: BANK OF ARIZONA ROBBERY IN CLARKDALE; Bandit Killed June 21
Deputy Sheriff James Roberts, a watchman in the company town of Clarkdale, was credited with shooting and killing the bank robber who was driving the car away from the scene of the crime.
"The bandits, armed and unmasked, evidently had the robbery carefully planned and knew almost to a penny how much currency the institution was supposed to have on hand today to meet the bimonthly payroll in the smelter city."
"They timed their raid for an hour when only a few customers were in the bank and would have effected their escape, for the time, at least, if they had not listened to Bank Manager David O. Saunder's plea for mercy."
"Following Saunders into the bank shortly before 11 o'clock, one of the pair shoved him toward the counting room, while the second one rounded up the teller, R. C. Southard, a clerk, and a few customers, lining them up against the wall in the bank lobby. He kept them there and added the 8 or 10 customers who entered the bank in the meantime, while the first one filled a gunny sack with currency from the vault."
"There was about $50,000 on hand, but the bandit was not satisfied with this and came out into the lobby again to try to force Saunders to tell him where the rest, the other $20,000 was. It had been checked out the day before, the bank manager said, and his words must have carried a note of conviction, for the robbers accepted this statement and made preparations for their escape."
"They herded the group of clerks and customers, numbering about 15 by this time, ahead of them toward the vault and started to shut them in. Here Saunders quick wit came to the rescue and was the prime factor which led to the capture of the one and the death of the other. He stopped the man who had taken the money, evidently the leader of the two, and warned him that if the heavy door of the vault was closed, all the people inside would be suffocated."
"'You don't want to add murder to this robbery, do you?' he said, and once more his words carried conviction, for the robber closed only the auxiliary doors of the vault, the light ones inside the heavy steel door, and turned to leave."
"As the screen doors of the bank banged shut behind the robbers, Saunders rushed out of the vault, grabbed his gun and made for the door. The two bandits already were in their car, an open touring car, and were headed down the street, but Saunders opened fire on them from the doorway of the bank. One of the robbers returned fire but none of the shots reached their target."
Later, Mr. Saunders said, "I was afraid to do much shooting for the street was full of cars and people."
"By this time Deputy Sheriff Roberts had heard the commotion and joined in the chase, shooting at the car and the two men as he ran. Just as the car reached the Miller store corner in Clarkdale, one of the shots took effect, hitting the driver in the back of the head and killing him instantly."
"The bandit car, out of control, crashed into a wire, which tore off the top, then careened into the school building. With this, the second bandit jumped and started to run. He was captured without any difficulty before he had made 200 yards."
"Neither of the bandits was known in Clarkdale, it was said, today. Although the leader had been noticed hanging around for several days. The car they were driving, a Chrysler touring car, had license number 5-4659, and is listed as the property of Claude Shriver, of Cottonwood. The engine number had been chiseled off."
"Sheriff George Ruffner left for the smelter city immediately after word of the robbery and the subsequent shooting of the bandit was received here [in Prescott], and took charge of the situation early this afternoon."
"At the inquest, which was in progress in Clarkdale this afternoon, the identity of the dead man was established by his companion as Willard J. Forrester. According to information received from Judge D. L. Robinson, of Clemenceau, he recently came to this state from Oklahoma. His companion gave the name of Paul Haufmann."
"A third man is said to have been involved in the robbery, although he did not enter the bank and was not in the bandit car when the two others attempted to escape with the money. He is thought to be a Verde Valley resident. Sheriff Ruffner this afternoon had begun an exhaustive investigation of the affair and had thrown out a net for the third man."
"Haufmann is said to have been identified by Sheriff Ruffner as Earl Nelson, formerly an employee of the Plaza Annex garage" at Prescott.
"Haufmann was interviewed in the Clarkdale jail this afternoon but refused to say anything which might tend to throw a light on the robbery and attempted escape. He did admit, however, that he and Forrester had met in Wichita, Kansas, two or three years ago and since had been together in their travels."
"'Deputy Sheriff Roberts deserves a reward for his part in killing Forrester and the capture of Haufmann,' Mr. Saunders said this afternoon. Manager Saunders, in a statement made soon after the robbery gave credit for the killing of one of the bandits to Deputy Sheriff Roberts."
(Prescott Evening Courier; Thursday, June 21, 1928; pages 1 and 6.)
See: The Verde Independent; "1928: BANK OF ARIZONA ROBBERY IN CLARKDALE, June 21;" December 7, 2012; "1928: BANK OF ARIZONA ROBBERY IN CLARKDALE, Dramatic Trial;" December 5, 2013.
Re-enactments of the robbery of the Bank of Arizona will take place in Clarkdale at 10:30, 12:30, and 2:30 on Saturday, April 8, in connection with the Clarkdale Historic Building and Home Tour.