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Annals of CrimeJuly 8, 2002 Issue
The Trenchcoat Robbers
By Alex Kotlowitz
June 30, 2002
The New Yorker, July 8, 2002 P. 34
ANNALS OF CRIME about Ray Bowman and Billy Kirkpatrick, the Trenchcoat Robbers who robbed twenty-seven banks, and were among the most accomplished bank robbers in United States history... Of the seven thousand one hundred and twenty-seven bank robberies in the United States in 2000, the average take was just twelve hundred dollars, and most of the thieves were eventually captured. Bank robberies tend to be committed by inexperienced and desperate people, but Bowman and Kirkpatrick always worked with remarkable preparation and restraint, and they never bragged about their successes. They operated for fifteen years, one year less than Jesse James and his gang, and they robbed an average of two banks annually-always in a different city or town across the Midwest and Northwest. They’re a throwback to the old days, one veteran F.B.I. agent told me. I hope we don’t see anyone like them again. Bowman and Kirkpatrick were finally captured, but only after a number of small, uncharacteristic missteps, which resulted, in large part, from a middle-aged desire to lead more ordinary lives... Describes how a tip by a contractir to the I.R.S., and by a storage-locker owner to the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, led to their capture... Tells about the cash and firearms that turned up after their arrests, and writer interviews Bowman at a small, privately run detention center in Leavenworth, Kansas... He still does not admit he was one of the robbers...
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Published in the print edition of the July 8, 2002, issue.
Alex Kotlowitz, who teaches at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, is the author of four books, including, most recently, “An American Summer.”
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