After Bonnie and Clyde's deaths, researchers later found that they both were shot more than 50 times.
They are perhaps the most romanticized pair of criminals in American history.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are often depicted as a young couple in love, carelessly bouncing from one town to the next, robbing banks and being idolized by the media before meeting their untimely death in a dramatic ambush.
They started out as two young kids from Texas — Bonnie as a waitress, Clyde as a laborer — then got swept up in the dangerous excitement of the 1930s “Public Enemy Era” typified by famous gangsters like John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson.
They quickly made a name for themselves as their crime spree took them from Texas all the way to Minnesota over the course of two years between 1932 and 1934.
And throughout that daring run, they managed to avoid being caught despite their celebrity status. Clyde was seen as a romanticized version of a rebellious gangster and Bonnie was often thought of as his innocent girlfriend, chasing him for love and getting caught up in his lifestyle through no fault of her own.
Then, in May of 1934, their spree came to a whirlwind end worthy of two gangsters with a flair for the dramatic.
Prelude To A Bloodbath
In November of 1933, a Dallas grand jury issued a warrant for the arrest of Bonnie and Clyde. One of their gang members, W.D. Jones, had been arrested in Dallas in September and had identified Bonnie and Clyde as perpetrators of several crimes, leading to the warrants.
A few months later, another warrant was issued, this time for the murder of a man in Texas. Though Bonnie was often seen as a bystander in the duo’s crimes, the Texas murders changed that. A farmer, who claimed he had witnessed the murder, grossly exaggerated Bonnie’s part in it, claiming that she had been the one holding the gun and that she had laughed as he died. It is believed now that Bonnie had simply been, as she always was, a bystander.
However, the farmer’s accounts made headlines, and police in Texas offered a $1,000 reward for the pair’s bodies — not their capture.
Ramping up their efforts, police nationwide spent months searching for the pair as well as an accomplice named Henry Methvin.
Finally, police in Louisiana got word that the duo was on their way to Bienville Parish. Methvin had family there and their home had been designated as a safehouse by Clyde in case they got separated.
And indeed, during a stop in Shreveport, they had. Methvin had continued to Bienville Parish solo, leaving Bonnie and Clyde to find their way alone.
Bonnie And Clyde’s Deaths: The Ambush
On the evening of May 21, 1934, a police posse comprised of six members from Texas and Louisiana police departments set up an ambush on the main road into Bienville Parish. They enlisted Methvin’s father, with whom Bonnie and Clyde were familiar, to wait on the side of the road as a distraction.
The posse waited for Bonnie and Clyde for the entire night, and the next day and night. Then, as they were nearly giving up, the duo arrived.
At 9:15 AM on May 23, the posse got their first look at Bonnie and Clyde, speeding down the backroad at 85 miles an hour in their now-infamous Ford V8. Upon seeing Methvin’s father parked on the side of the road they pulled over.
Then, before Bonnie or Clyde had time to exit, the police officers opened fire. Clyde was killed instantly by a shot to the head, and one of the officers recounted hearing Bonnie scream as she realized he was dead.
The officers emptied their entire supply of ammunition into the car, firing 130 rounds in all. After Bonnie and Clyde’s death, researchers have found that they were each shot more than 50 times, even though the official coroner’s report at the time said Bonnie sustained 26 wounds and Clyde 17. The undertaker reported that he had difficulty embalming the bodies due to the number of bullet holes.
The Grisly Aftermath
The scene of Bonnie and Clyde’s death quickly descended into chaos with local looters trying to get a piece of the gangsters before the coroner arrived. One man tried to cut off Clyde’s ear, another took pieces of Bonnie’s bloodstained dress. By the time the authorities came to remove the bodies, there was a growing crowd full of people trying to get in on the action.
Though Bonnie and Clyde had been quite the team in life, in death they were unceremoniously separated. Though they had wished to be buried together, Bonnie’s family wouldn’t allow it. Both are buried in Dallas, Texas, but in separate cemeteries.
Their famous Ford V8, dubbed the “death car,” made its rounds nationwide for years after the Bonnie and Clyde’s deaths. Riddled with bullet holes and bloodstains, it was a popular tourist attraction that was displayed at fairs, amusement parks, and flea markets for almost 40 years, before it settled at Whiskey Pete’s Hotel and Casino in Primm, Nevada — a haunting reminder of the bloody end of two of American history’s most infamous outlaws.