As he spun around, he saw that a police car was barricading the road. One of the officers, Captain James Chinn, was reaching for his shotgun. Chinn, who had spent almost two decades as a detective, later said he had never seen anything like it: the white-haired figure barrelling toward him seemed to be smiling, as if he were enjoying the showdown. Then, as the car skidded over the embankment, Tucker lost control and hit a palm tree. The air bags inflated, pinning him against the seat.
Over a career that spanned more than six decades, he had also become perhaps the greatest escape artist of his generation, a human contortionist who had broken out of nearly every prison he was confined in. Not long ago, I went to meet Tucker in Fort Worth, Texas, where he was being held in a prison medical center after pleading guilty to one count of robbery and receiving a thirteen-year sentence. The hospital, an old yellow brick building with a red tiled roof, was on top of a hill and set back off the main road, surrounded by armed guards and razor wire.
Before long, a man appeared in a wheelchair pushed by a guard. He wore brown prison fatigues and a green jacket with a turned-up collar. His figure was twisted forward, as if he had tried to contort it one last time and it had frozen in place.
Forrest Tucker. His voice was gentle, with a soft Southern lilt. After he extended his hand, he made his way slowly over to a wooden table with the help of a walker. I was born in , and I was in jail by the time I was fifteen. His fingers were knotted like bamboo, and he wore bifocals. He pointed to the places along his arm where he had been shot while trying to flee. His voice sounded dry, and I offered to buy him a drink from the vending machine. He followed me and peered through the glass, without touching it.
He chose a Dr Pepper. He seemed pleased. When I gave him the drink, he glanced at the candy bars, and I asked him if he wanted anything else. During our conversations, which went on for sev-eral days, we always sat in the corner by the window, and after a while he would cough slightly and I would offer to buy him a drink. Each time, he followed me to the machine, as the guard watched from a distance.
It was only during the last trip to the machine, when I dropped some money, that I noticed his eyes were moving over everything—the walls, the windows, the guard, the fences, the razor wire. It occurred to me that Tucker, escape artist par excellence, had been using our meetings to case the joint. It was the spring of , and he had been incarcerated for stealing a car in Stuart, Florida, a small town along the St.
Lucie River which had been devastated during the Depression. Several days later, a deputy discovered him in an orange grove, eating a piece of fruit. The sheriff decided to transfer him to reform school. During his brief flight, however, Tucker had slipped a half-dozen hacksaw blades through the cell window to a group of boys he had met inside. That night, after sawing a bar, he slithered out, helping two other boys squeeze through the tiny opening. Unlike the others, Tucker knew the area. As a kid, he had spent a fair amount of time by the river, and it was in the river that the police found him and another boy, about an hour later, hiding with just their noses above water.
The story, which he repeated even as a boy, eventually spread throughout the town, and over time the details became more ornate, the theft more minor. If he became bad, it was only because the system made him that way. His father was a heavy-equipment operator who disappeared when Tucker was six. While his mother struggled in menial jobs in Miami, Tucker was sent to live with his grandmother, who was the tender of the bridge in Stuart. There he built canoes and sailboats out of scrap metal and wood, which he gathered along the riverbank, and taught himself to play the saxophone and the clarinet.
But as his reputation for cleverness grew, so did his rap sheet. The steel gradually ate into the skin, a condition known as shackle poisoning.
Although Tucker was released after only six months, he was soon convicted again, for stealing another car, and sentenced to ten years. His eyes are piercing. People who knew him say that he was extraordinarily charismatic—that girls flocked around him—but they also noted a growing reservoir of anger. At first, Tucker sought work playing the saxophone in big bands around Miami, and he seemed to have harbored ambitions of becoming another Glenn Miller.
Nothing came of it, though, and, after a brief failed marriage, he put away his sax and got himself a gun. Jesse James was my favorite hero. Read classic New Yorker stories, curated by our archivists and editors. When Tucker was growing up, during the Great Depression, the appeal of bank robbers, fuelled by widespread anger over defaults and foreclosures, was reaching its zenith. After the F. Because the holdup demands a public performance, it tends to draw a certain personality: bold, vainglorious, reckless.
At the same time, most bank robbers know that the society that revels in their exploits will ultimately demand their elimination, by incarceration or death. Indeed, by the time Tucker set out to become an outlaw, in the late nineteen-forties, most of the legendary stickup men had already been gunned down. Still, he began to imitate their style, dressing in chalk-striped suits and two-tone shoes, and he would stand in front of a mirror, pointing a gun at his own reflection.
A few days later, he went back to the same place, this time for the entire safe. He was apprehended as he was trying to crack it open with a blowtorch on the roadside. His career seemed even more fleeting than that of most bank robbers, but in the county jail Tucker decided he was more than an ordinary stickup man.
The authorities rushed him to the hospital, where doctors removed his appendix. While convalescing, still chained to his bed, he started to work on the shackles. He had taught himself how to pick a lock using almost anything—a pen, a paper clip, a piece of wire, nail clippers, a watch spring—and after a few minutes he walked out, unnoticed. He even talked like a character in pulp fiction. Hoping to improve his take, Tucker began to cast about for a partner. Like Tucker, Bellew modelled himself on the stickup men of the nineteen-thirties, and he ran with a stage dancer named Jet Blanca.
They began to hit one bank after another. After one heist, witnesses said the last thing they saw was a row of suits hanging in the back seat of the getaway car. Then they went to search the place Tucker had listed as his residence. There, in a spacious apartment in San Mateo, they found a young blond woman who said she had never heard of Forrest Tucker. She was married to a wealthy songwriter, she said, who commuted daily to the city, and they had just moved into a bigger apartment to make room for their five-month-old son.
Yet when the officers showed Shirley Bellew a photograph of the bank robber and longtime prison fugitive Forrest Tucker, she burst into tears. She recalled how her husband would come home every night and play with their baby, whom they had named Rick Bellew, Jr. I was No. At least half of the inmates had previously attempted to break out of other prisons.
An Aging Bank Robber’s Last Heist | The New Yorker
Surrounded by the freezing San Francisco Bay and its deadly currents, it was built to be escapeproof. Tucker arrived on September 3, He was thirty-three. He had been sentenced to thirty years. In his prison photo, he still has on a jacket and tie; his brown hair is brushed back with a touch of oil; he is slightly unshaved but still striking.
Within moments, he was stripped naked, and a medical attendant probed his ears and nose and mouth and rectum, searching for any tools or weapons. He was given a blue chambray shirt with his number stamped on it and a pair of trousers, as well as a cap, a peacoat, a bathrobe, three pairs of socks, two handkerchiefs, a pair of shoes, and a raincoat.
His cell was so narrow that he could reach out and touch both sides at the same time. As he lay in bed, he says, he thought about his wife and child. He remembered the first time he met Shirley Storz, at an event for singles in Oakland. And he remembered his son being born. Several weeks after he arrived, a guard roused him from his cell and led him into a tiny room that had a small window.
Peering through it, he saw his wife sitting on the other side. He picked up the phone. She told me she had to make a life for herself. Along with another inmate, they started smuggling tools from their prison jobs, hiding them in the laundry, and planting pieces of steel wool on other prisoners to set off the metal detectors, so that the guards assumed they were broken.
They carved holes in their toilet bowls and tucked the tools inside, putting putty over them. At night, they used the tools to tunnel through the floor, planning to go out by means of the basement. One day, according to internal prison records, a prisoner in solitary suggested that guards examine the cell toilets; soon a full-scale search was launched. The result of the shakedown of these toilets was the blow torch as I have mentioned, a bar spreader, a pair of side cutters, a brace and some bits.
The only way to stay warm was to keep walking. As the time passed, Tucker began to teach himself the law, and before long he was deluging the court with appeals, which he wrote in a slanting methodical print. According to Tucker, as well as court records, the night before his court appearance, while being held in the county jail, he complained of pains in his kidneys and was rushed to the hospital. Guards were stationed at every door. When no one was looking, Tucker broke a pencil and stabbed his ankle. Because of the wound, the guards removed his leg irons, strapping him to the gurney with his hands cuffed.
As he was being wheeled into the X-ray room, Tucker leaped up, overpowered two guards, and ran out the door. For several hours, he enjoyed the fresh air and the sight of ordinary people. He was apprehended, still in his hospital gown and handcuffs, in the middle of a cornfield. The brief escape, for which he was tried and convicted, enhanced his reputation as an escape artist.
Yet it was not for another twenty-three years, after Tucker had been released and arrested again for armed robbery, that he made his greatest escape. From the electrical shop, they spirited away two six-foot poles and several buckets. On August 9th, after months of preparation, Tucker exchanged nods with both of his confederates in the yard, signalling that everything was ready. While Waller and McGirk stood watch outside the lumber shop, Tucker drew on his childhood experience and began to fashion the pieces into a fourteen-foot kayak.
They wore sailor hats and sweatshirts that Tucker had painted bright orange, with the logo of the Marin Yacht Club, which he had seen on the boats that sailed by. As they set out, the winds were blowing more than twenty miles an hour, and massive swells began to swamp the kayak.
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It was those damn waves over the side. A guard in one of the towers spotted them clinging to the upside-down craft, kicking to shore, and asked if they needed help. California soon unleashed a statewide manhunt. Meanwhile, police in Texas and Oklahoma began to report a strange series of holdups. They all had the same M. Witnesses invariably noted that they were all, by the standards of the trade, old men. One even wore what appeared to be a hearing aid. One day, while we were sitting in the prison visiting room, Tucker leaned forward in his chair and began to teach me how to rob a bank.
You need to size it up, know it like your own home. I don't always agree with you ratings, I still love reading them, but you are right on this time. Episode 50 This is the real Log ! I'm sure you can guess which one. Reed and Malloy serve a warrant for felony assault, find out what a traveling salesman is really selling, help a theft victim, and uncover the identity of a bank robber. Ho hum, Pete and Jim are on their way to the Terry residence. Terry made a complaint against Mrs. Pete and Jim are going to pick her up and bring her to the station. They arrive at the Terry residence and Jim rings the bell twice.
No one comes to the door. He wonders if Mrs. Terry left town. Finally, I very large man answers the door. It's Mr. Terry and he wants to drop the charges against his wife and forget the whole thing. Malloy looks up, up, and up to take in Mr. Terry's full height. Reed, undeterred by Mr. Terry's hulking size, insists that they talk to his wife.
Terry, suddenly compliant, shrugs his shoulders and tells the officers, "Alright". Malloy, who has been locked out, desperately tries to open the door as he hears what sounds like a fight coming from inside. The End. I'm probably in the minority on this, but I don't really like this episode. You guessed it, I do not like the scenes where Mr. Terry beats them up. The slapstick humor of it feels out of place in a show that tried to be true to life. I know that the show has it's silly moments, but this is just really over the top.
The whole thing is just ridiculous and cartoonish and more suited to an episode of Batman than Adam If they had their guns, which I believe they did, why didn't they draw their weapons? I'm not saying they had to shoot Mr. Terry, but the sight of a loaded pistol may have made him stop the beating. Otherwise, he could be incapacitated.
Which would give the suspect an opportunity to take the officer's gun. Maybe this wasn't part of an officer's training in the late 's. But, even if I did suspend my disbelief of the situation, I still wouldn't like the scene with Mr. It just doesn't utilize the lead actor's strengths. I'd much rather watch him roll his eyes at Reed or a suspect than watch him perform this type of broad, physical humor. The funny sequences that focus on his face are so much funnier than this one.
After we get past the parts with Mr. Terry, the rest of the episode just falls flat.
X-Rays Show Bullet Still Lodged In Robbery Victim’s Face
I like Jed Allen well enough, but he doesn't have a large enough role to save the whole thing. So, sorry to disappoint, but I give "Log Bank Robbery" a rating of:. Do you agree? Let me know what you think of this one in the comments. I'll see you in two weeks. I've got a lot of traveling coming up, so I need to take next week off from the blog.
Thomas Mossman September 27, at PM.