The Bandits in the Blizzard

Paul Schroeder ran through the repair shop, trying to avoid the hail of bullets flying towards him. He raised his revolver, firing blindly. Paul wasn’t really trying to hit anything, but rather keep the police from shooting at him. If he hit one, though, it would have probably been all the better. If Paul hit a cop bad enough, he couldn’t shoot at him anymore.

He and his brother, Everett, had wanted to avoid the police for as long as possible. They more than likely knew that it was just going to be a matter of time before they crossed paths with the law, but that doesn’t mean that they were looking for them, either. At that moment, though, none of that mattered. All that mattered was getting to the car.

Briefly, Paul wondered if the cops knew that he and his brother had stolen it. That certainly wouldn’t help their case any, not after everything that the brothers had already done. Stolen or not, it was Paul’s car now, and he needed it. That car was their ticket out the mess they were in, and there was no way he wasn’t going to get to it. There was no way in hell that Paul was going back to prison.

Firing a few more random shots, Paul quickly glanced around, looking for Everett. There he was, shooting at the police. There was a sudden roar, and Everett was lifted completely off his feet. One of the officers must have had a shotgun and had gotten a good shot off.

For a brief moment, Paul’s heart stopped. Then, almost miraculously, Everett scrambled to his feet and started running again. Paul smiled and ran after his brother.

In another instant, he reached the driver’s side door. Jerking it open, Paul threw himself behind the wheel. The passenger door flew open and Everett got in beside him. All around them, they could hear bullets thudding into the car and the shop walls.

Almost before his brother had closed the door, Paul started the car stepped hard on the gas. The car lurched forward as he lowered his head and hunched his shoulders, trying not to get shot.

Although the big car was a lumbering hulk of a machine, it still had some real power. Feeling himself starting to lose control of it, Paul fought to manage it. He felt a jarring impact as he crashed into another car. All the while, the cops kept firing, not letting up for a moment.

Without thinking, Paul jumped out of the now wrecked car and began running. Everett got out and did the same, fleeing with his brother into the downtown shopping district.

The two brothers, Paul and Everett Schroeder, had spent some of their childhood in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Although they didn’t stay there, the place must have held good memories for them. In prison, good memories are sometimes the only positive thing that a person has.

oskaloosa-iowa
Oskaloosa, Iowa

 

In the 1920’s, Everett, Paul, and an associate of their robbed a card game in Peoria, Illinois. Unfortunately for them, they’d been caught and sentenced to a 10-year term at the Joliet State Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois.

Eight years later, in December 1936, the brothers were both released after serving only eight years. They settled in Davenport, Iowa, and, like so many others during the Great Depression, went looking for work. They were among the fortunate ones and found employment with the Red Jacket Pump Company.

Red Jacket made well water pumps that were easy to repair and extremely reliable. Their business was still strong, which meant that Paul and Everett might have been able to earn a steady paycheck for quite a while. For a few months, they did. But living life on the straight and narrow wasn’t for them.

For their own reasons, the two decided to become criminals again. Maybe they liked the large amounts of cash that they could steal fast, or perhaps they liked the adrenaline rush that came with a high-stakes robbery. Whatever their drive was, Paul and Everett decided that they would start their new crime spree in Oskaloosa.

A few days later, they had arrived in their old hometown. Soon after that, they robbed a local drug store. No one had gotten hurt, and the Schroeder’s had gotten away clean. They were definitively back to being professional criminals.

Around the same time as the drug store robbery, a local craps game was robbed. One man had been killed, and the police wanted to talk to the Schroeder’s about it. They had been identified by someone, and investigators noticed that the robbery they’d gone to prison for had some close similarities with the craps game theft.

The police had found out that the Schroeder’s were at a local business, the OK Repair Shop. They knew the brothers were armed and might have already killed at least one man, so they weren’t going to take any chances. The officers armed themselves with revolvers, shotguns, and at least one Thompson submachine gun.

When they found Paul and Everett at OK’s, the police asked the brothers very nicely if they would surrender.

Needless to say, it had definitely been a surprise to see the cops come through the door. The Schroeder’s probably hadn’t expected to be caught so quickly. But, neither of the them wanted to go back to prison. They knew what they had to do.

The Schroeder’s drew their revolvers and opened fire on the police officers at the repair shop. The officers were ready, and returned fire on the hapless criminals.

Now the Schroeder’s were running for their lives down a snowy alleyway. These cops meant business, and it was clear that they weren’t just going to give up and let the brothers go.

At the end of the alley, they saw a man getting into his car. Without stopping, the Schroeder’s ran up to him, yelling and swearing at him to get away from it. The man froze, staring at the two wild-eyed men with the guns in their hands. Paul and Everett grabbed him, pulling him out of the car.

They got in and drove away as fast as they could, leaving the confused man standing in the snow that had just begun to fall.

Paul and Everett drove north, going as fast as they dared. The further that they went, the harder the snow fell. What had started as a light drizzle that morning had turned into large, wet snow flakes. It was heavy and clung to everything, and was getting deeper by the hour.

In better times, they probably would have just stopped. They could have found a room in town and drank a few beers as the snow fell. But the police had caught up to the Schroeder’s and the only choices they had were to either run or go to jail. Paul kept driving, passing the city limits.

The roads were getting slicker. It was getting harder and harder to drive through the growing drifts. The omnipresent threat of losing control of the car and sliding into the ditch couldn’t have been ever been far from Paul’s mind at that point. But that wasn’t the only fear that was bothering him.

Everett and Paul had both been shot. Everett had been hit with not only one, but two solid hits of buckshot. He needed medical attention, and probably soon. Paul wasn’t hit as bad, but he’d still been wounded.

Paul and Everett Schroeder
Paul and Everett Schroeder

They were in rural Iowa in the middle of snowstorm that was getting gradually worse. More than likely, they weren’t going to find any hospitals or doctors out there. The Schroeder’s must have figured that their best chance was to get away from Oskaloosa and get to another decent-sized town.

Four miles north of the city, bad luck found them again.

As they were driving, the car started to slide. Paul fought to control it, but couldn’t. With a jolt, the vehicle slammed to a halt in the ditch. The brothers were tired and bleeding. The car was stuck fast, and there was no point in trying to dig it out. Not wanting to freeze to death by waiting in the car, Everett and Paul climbed out and began to walk.   

As soon as they saw a farmhouse, they walked up and knocked on the door. 33-year-old Walter Lindley and his mother answered.

The brothers told them that their car had just gone in the ditch while they drove through the storm, and that they had been hurt. The Lindley’s were friendly and helpful people, and invited them in without question. Thanking them, the Schroeder’s went inside.

As they talked, Mrs. Lindley bathed and dressed Everett and Paul’s wounds. As soon as she was finished, the brothers stopped being polite. Drawing their guns, they demanded a change of clothes. They dared Mrs. Lindley to call the police.

The clothes were brought and the Schroeder’s changed. At gunpoint, they then demanded Walter drive them to Ottumwa, a fair-sized town to the north of where they were. The brothers still had relatives there who might be willing to help them. It may not have been the best plan in the world, but it’s what they had.

Mrs. Lindley pleaded with them not to take Walter. She explained that he was her only son, telling them to just take the car instead. Her pleas fell on deaf ears. Pointing his gun at her, one of the brothers told her not to tell anyone that they had been there. With that, the trio climbed into Walter’s car and drove off into the storm.

Mrs. Lindley didn’t care what the men had said. They were dangerous, and they had her son. Without hesitating, she went straight to the telephone and called the police.   

   As bad as the storm had been earlier that day, it was even worse now. What had started as a gentle snowfall was now a raging Midwestern blizzard.

In some places, the snow was nearly a foot deep. Temperatures had plummeted far below the freezing point. Sixty mile per hour winds howled across roads and fields.

All across Iowa, authorities began to close major roads. The deep snow drifts were too much for the plows to handle, and they reluctantly had to head to safety. Several people, their cars stuck or unable to proceed any further, abandoned their vehicles and sought shelter wherever they could for the night.

But Walter Lindley was not among them. He drove steadily northward, Paul Schroeder’s revolver pointed at the back of his head. Squinting against the glare of his headlights off the snow, Walter drove them straight into the very teeth of the storm.

For hours, Walter pushed his car through the deep drifts and down the slick roads. When he couldn’t get through one way, he would turn around and try a different one.

Finally, almost unbelievably, the three of them finally reached Ottumwa. Walter had driven the Schroeder’s nearly 100 miles in some of the worst weather that the Midwest can manage.

When they got a few miles from their relations house, the brothers let Lindley go. In spite of kidnapping him and the way they had treated his mother, Paul and Everett told Walter to call his mother and let her know that he was alright. With that, they climbed out of the car and began walking off through the night.

Walter watched them go. After a few minutes, he decided to take their advice. Driving to the nearest phone he could find, he called the police and told them what had happened.

For the next several miles, the Schroeder’s trudged across snow-covered fields and struggled down drifted-in roads. It was freezing, and the wind cut through their clothing. They were tired, and their wounds ached. Finally, the brothers hid inside a barn and tried their best to sleep.

When morning came, the two set off again. Finally, through great force of will and dogged determination, they finally made it to their destination.

Exhausted, the Schroeder’s went to the door and knocked. One of their relatives answered. They agreed to help the pair, but insisted that they had to throw away their guns first. Everett had already lost his along the way. Paul, desperate to get out of the cold, threw his gun into the snow without a second thought.

That taken care of, the two were taken inside. The Schroeder’s were given a change of clothes, which they gladly accepted. Changing into them, they curled up on the living room floor and quickly fell asleep.

Later that day, five policemen came to the farm where the Schroeder’s were staying. When Walter had told them that his kidnapers were in the area, the police had concentrated their efforts there. Soon enough, they were discovered on their relative’s farm. Each armed with machine guns, the officers advanced on the house and knocked. After the gun fight in the garage, they were taking no chances.

The owners let them inside without any commotion. Paul and Everett still lay on the floor, spent. They were frostbitten, exhausted, and suffering from gunshot wounds. When the police came in and told the brothers they were under arrest, neither of them gave any protest. Paul and Everett were so weak that the officers didn’t even bother to handcuff them.

Without any ceremony, the officers led the Schroeder’s away. Their short-lived crime spree had come to an end.

A doctor treated their various ailments and assured the local sheriff that they would recover. Police discovered that the Schroeder brothers weren’t ever at the craps game, and were ruled out as suspects. However, the drug store owner they had robbed was more than willing and able to identify them as the ones who had robbed his store.

Paul and Everett Schroeder wanted to be criminals again. They had a chance at an honest life, but willing gave it all up to rob, steal, and kidnap. After it was all over, the brothers ended up back where they had started: broke and in prison.

 

Sources

Held for Murder of Fellow Crap Shooter.’ Dixon Evening Telegraph, 4/23/1930

Bandits Flee With Hostage After Battle.’ The Courier, 2/21/1937

Pair Held in Ottumwa for Kidnapping, Shooting, and Robbery.‘ The Daily Times, 2/22/1937

Wounded Pair Taken Early at Ottumwa.’ The Des Moines Register, 2/22/1937

Oskaloosa Gunmen Captured on Farm Near Ottumwa, IA.’ Davenport Democrat and Leader, 2/22/1937

Hold Two For Investigation In Shooting Case.’ Carroll Daily Herald, 2/22/1937

Two Held in Inquiry Into Iowa Slaying.’ Iowa City Press Union, 2/22/1937

Carroll Persons View Shooting Suspects.’ Carroll Daily Herald, 2/23/1937

Pair Held at Ottumwa After Brief Crime Wave.’ The Daily Times, 2/23/1937

Clear Schroeder’s in Heider Killing.’ The Courier, 2/24/1937

Schroeder’s Will Be Returned to Prison.’ The Mason City Globe-Gazette, 4/9/1937

1920 Federal Census Records

1940 Federal Census Records

 

I am an author and historian who writes about long-forgotten and out of the way events and places. I love the bizarre, the unusual, and the downright weird. I write a regular blog at my website, www.johnbrassardjrcom.wordpress.com, and also manage a facebook page about things of historical interest called The Kitchen Table Historian.

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