Homer Van Meter was born in December 1906 and died in August 1934. He was a famous American criminal notorious for his participation in bank robberies in the first years of the twentieth century. He is especially remembered as a criminal associate of John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, two important and renowned criminals.
He was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When he was 17 he was arrested for the first time, accused of being drunk and of having disorderly conduct. In 1923 he was sentenced to more than 40 days in jail for larceny and a year later he was convicted of stealing a motor vehicle. Following his conviction, he was sent to Menard Correctional Center. In December 1924 he was paroled, but only three months later he joined a former cell mate who joined him in a robbery of train passengers in Crown Point, Indiana. When he was caught and convicted, he received a 10 to 21 year sentence, to be served in the Reformatory of Pendleton. It was there he met John Dillinger and Harry Pierpoint. He immediately befriended Dillinger, but his attitude put him at odds with Pierpoint. As Homer Van Meter constantly violated the rules at Pendleton he was transferred to the state prison at Michigan City.
In the first month of 1926 he was transported to Chicago in order to testify in defense of a man that was wrongly suspected as his accomplice in the Crown Point robbery. Homer Van Meter escaped from the transport at Union Station but was apprehended by his captors immediately afterwards. Just a few days later he tried to escape from prison again, along with his cellmate Charles Stewart, but was caught once again. As a result, he spent a couple of months in solitary confinement, and was badly beaten by the security guards at the prison facility.
He was released in May of 1933. In August that year he joined forces with Baby Face Nelson and Tommy Carroll, and they robbed a bank in Michigan, stealing almost $30,000. Together with John Paul Chase and Charles Fisher, they continued to rob banks in Minnesota. In 1933 Homer Van Meter ranked 18th on the list of American public enemies. A year later, he robbed a bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, another one in Mason City, Iowa, and even a police station in Warsaw, Indiana where he got away with bullet proof vests.
Needless to say, he and his gang became the targets of an intense FBI manhunt. Van Meter and some of his gang members spent most of May 1934 hiding in a woodland cabin near East Chicago, Indiana. On June 30, Van Meter, Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and an unidentified fourth man robbed another bank, during which four bystanders were killed. Van Meter also murdered police officer Howard Wagner as he attempted to stop the robbery. It proved to be the gang’s last raid, and less than a month later, Van Meter was stopped by several police officers while walking on the street in St. Paul, Minneapolis. When he attempted to flee, a brief shootout occurred that left Van Meter dead. The officers who shot him claimed to have found around a thousand dollars in cash; however, his closest associates all confirmed that he must have been carrying close to $10,000 that day. The FBI has since made a statement that they believe another local gangster set up Van Meter to get his money, in an agreement with the four police officers who shot him.