In late September, Fred Barker and Campbell registered under fake names at the El Commodore Hotel in Miami. Joining them was Fred’s mother—Kate “Ma” Barker, who was known to help her criminal sons. When Fred asked for a quiet place to live, the hotel manager told him of a friend’s cottage for rent on the nearby Lake Weir. The Barkers moved there in November.
In December, Doc Barker was tracked by Bureau investigators to a home in Chicago. On January 8, Doc was arrested without incident. Later that night, several associates of Russell Gibson were also apprehended. Heavily armed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, Gibson tried to fight it out but was mortally wounded. Searching the apartment, agents found powerful firearms and loads of ammunition. And, tellingly, a map of Florida—with Lake Weir circled. Agents soon located the cottage hideout.
Shortly after 5 a.m. on January 16, 1935, a group of agents led by Earl Connelly surrounded the house and demanded the Barkers’ surrender. No response. They waited 15 minutes and called again. Again, no answer. Following another call for surrender and more silence, agents shot some tear gas grenades at the windows of the house. Someone in the house shouted, “All right, go ahead,” then machine-gun fire blasted from the upstairs window.
The agents responded with volleys of their own; more gunfire erupted from the house. Over the next hour, intermittent shots came from the home, and agents returned fire. By 10:30 a.m., all firing had stopped. Both Ma and Fred, it was soon learned, were dead.
The Barkers were history, but the cunning Karpis was still on the loose. How we caught up with him is another story that we’ll tell in the coming months.
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