During their three-year crime spree, the infamous young couple murdered nine police officers and at least as many civilians. The pair finally got what was coming to them on a dusty road in Louisiana, where a six-man posse ambushed them and shot them dead.
Frank Hamer, the Texas Ranger who led the posse, was rewarded for his service by being allowed to take anything the outlaws had in their possession at the time of their deaths.
So he took the Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol the 25-year-old male had in his waistband and the .38 Special the 23-year-old female concealed under her dress.
Over the years, the weapons Hamer recovered from the bullet-ridden corpses of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker ended up in the hands of collectors. And, this past weekend, the guns were sold at auction, with Bonnie’s .38 fetching $264,000, and Clyde’s Colt .45 going for $240,000.
Now I know the owners of the two weapons had the legal right to auction them off. And I know that the anonymous buyer of both weapons had the legal right to acquire them.
I still find the so-called “Gangster Auction” this past weekend revolting. Because I think it inherently offensive to traffic in instruments of murder – whether seller, buyer or auctioneer.
As it happens, the buying and selling of “murderabilia” – collectables related to killers and their crimes – has become a thriving cottage industry.
Indeed, in addition to the sale of Bonnie and Clyde’s weapons, RR Auction, based in Amherst, New Hampshire, also sold John Dillinger’s death mask and George “Baby Face” Nelson’s .38 Smith & Wesson revolver (which he referred to as his “lemon squeezer”).
Now, some may not consider RR’s “Gangster Auction” particularly disturbing since it was peddling the murderabilia of killers who committed their crimes way back in the Depression era; gangsters, like Bonnie and Clyde, have been dead more than three-quarters of a century.
But the passage of time has not taken the pain entirely away from 96-year-old, Ella Wheeler McLeod, the sister of the late Texas highway patrolman Edward Bryan Wheeler. A motorcycle cop, he was gunned down by Bonnie and Clyde, when he and his partner stopped by the outlaw couple’s car unwittingly thinking they needed help.
“I think about him every day,” McLeod said last year, on the anniversary of her brother Edward’s death. “He was always good to me,” she recalled. “He was my guardian angel.”
Neither RC Auction, nor the seller and buyer of Bonnie and Clyde’s weapons could care less about still-grieving Ella Wheeler.
And that’s why those traffickers in “murderabilia” are beneath contempt.