What Time.Do Red Box.Movies Have To.Be Returned.By Newton Gang Robs Two Banks in One Night

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Newton Gang Robs Two Banks in One Night

Newton gang drive into Hondo, Texas, January 9, 1921, a town 30 miles west of San Antonio, robbed one of the town’s two banks. It was just after midnight and the temperature was near freezing.

The Newtons knew Hondo’s night watchman, and as was his custom, they found him huddled around a pot-bellied stove in the warehouse. They cut all the phone lines and went back to check on the Night’s Watch. He didn’t leave his position by the stove, so Joe was placed across the street as lookout while the others went to the bank.

In his 1979 interview, Willis proudly told his version of the story:

“Sometimes you get lucky because they leave the vault door open. They don’t lock it, so we don’t need nitro or anything. We open the window, walk up to the vault, try the handle, and she opens You’d be surprised how many times they bank just shut the door and make it look locked during the night.

“We cleared out the vault pretty quickly and went to see if the night watchman was still in the warehouse. Sure enough, he was reading a magazine and drinking coffee by the stove. Well hell, we thought we’d have enough time so we Will go to the other side to try. I have Joe and Doc watch the night police while Jess and I go to the other side.

“We went into that bank and cleaned it up. Damn it, cleaned two banks in one night, and the night cop, he never came out of the station!”

local newspaper, hondor anvil heraldCovered the story with a catchy headline:

Jaegers Rob Hondo Banks

One of the most daring robberies ever in Texas happened on Sunday morning

The people of Hondo were both surprised and outraged Sunday morning when they learned that both banks had been broken into by yeggs at midnight and during the day and robbed of money and valuables. Entrance to the First National Bank was achieved by forcing the front door; and to the National Bank by prying open the railing on the last window in the alley between Parker and the Bank.

The newspaper went on to describe the robbery in detail:

Since most of the money at both banks was in cash drawers with time locks in place, the cash losses were not significant, with First National losing a total of $2,814, while State Bank lost slightly in terms of actual cash losses. Even more fortunately, it lost $1,879; the two banks lost a total of $4,694, almost all in silver coins.

Funds at both banks are insured against theft, so neither party suffers. [Just like Willis had assured his brothers.]

The private box owners who kept their valuables in bank vaults were the ones who lost the most, and their actual losses would not be determined for some time – maybe a month – because the box owners were the only ones who lost a lot. Losses can be eliminated and bank officials will not be told what is in the box.

The owner of the safe contained cash, government bonds, war savings stamps, jewelry and other valuables, so it is impossible to determine the exact amount stolen in the robbery. Estimates of up to $30,000 have never been confirmed.

The article goes on to describe “Security Experts:”

…the robbers were experts, as evidenced by the fact that they were able to use codes in First National Bank vaults. [Willis said it was left unlocked.] They are also experts in the use of explosives, the National Bank vault door was blown open by one of the most powerful explosives known – TNT [ Willis swore in his interview that he never used dynamite-only nitroglycerine.]

The vault was completely ransacked, with about two feet of paper strewn across the floor.

From the thoroughness with which the robbers searched the securities, it was clear that they had been in the bank vault for two hours or more, and the clients’ private boxes were in dire condition, most of which were opened with some heavy tool, possibly with A sledgehammer stolen from Mask & Co’s smithy.

…the fact that robbers are not tyros (an ancient word meaning beginners) in the robbery business proves yet again that they take every precaution to avoid getting caught for possession of jewelry, gold coins, etc., which may lead to their identities. The vault floor is literally littered with items that could lead to their discovery. Paper notes and other items of value that cannot be converted into currency are discarded and left behind.

It is generally believed that the gang consisted of 6 to 8 people, two banks were robbed at the same time, each bank was assigned a gang.

Another case that shows that robbers are no strangers to the game of bank robbery is that every phone line in town is apparently cut before the bank robbery. This part of their plan is carried out most effectively by a professional telephone operator.

… cables were severed, apparently with a saw, and individual wires were severed with wire cutters. Only three phones connected to the local exchange were working on Sunday morning.

The robbery was discovered by night watchmen around 5 a.m. Sunday morning and was immediately reported to Deputy Sheriff CJ Bless.

…our local telegrapher Harry Crouch was summoned and sent messages east and west to intercept the robbers, but as far as the public knows, nothing is known of the whereabouts of the robbers.

Detectives from San Antonio and surrounding areas gather at the Hondo Bank looking for leads in a duel heist.

… One of the most remarkable coincidences of the whole affair is that these robberies could have taken place right in the middle of town, not more than 200 feet apart, and none of our people knew this until dawn to reveal what happened , and it also developed into the night watchman and two other men in the waiting room of the station, not sixty yards from the front door of the First National Bank, while the robbery was being completed. The robbers must have done their work quietly so as not to be detected. [It is hard to image a “silent” explosion of nitroglycerine.]

The word newspapers used to describe burglars was “yeggs,” a popular vernacular expression of the era. Interesting to compare the newspaper reports to Willis’ account where the First National Bank vault was unlocked and they blew up the National Bank vault using nitroglycerine (instead of TNT) Door. Even more interesting, there is no follow-up article on the heist. Over the next few months, no one mentioned the multi-bank burglary – even though it included large advertisements for both banks. It was as if neither bank had ever been robbed.

The Galveston Daily News reported on the robbery on Jan. 10, describing a “clue” that proved to be a distraction:

Bandit heel could lead to arrest

Phone connection dropped when Hondo’s bank was robbed

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Jan. 10 – A missing rubber heel on a shoe could have led to the identity of the bank robber who managed to rob the First National Bank of Hondo and the Hondo State Bank of $20,000 early Sunday morning.

Bank robbers gained access to both banks by prying open the iron bars on the buildings’ rear windows and manipulating the codes for the First National Bank vaults, but blew out the doors of the National Bank vaults.

The thefts were carried out from safe deposit boxes at both banks, and the robbers only managed to secure $1,500 in cash from First National and $29,350 in cash from State Bank. The smaller safes at both institutions were left untouched.

Officials at both banks estimated that the balance of the stolen money was obtained from the owners of the bank safes. Hondo was unaware of the bank robber’s visit until near noon Sunday, when open windows were discovered behind two bank buildings.

The heels are lost in the bank.

Sergeant JS Baden was given the missing rubber heel found in front of the First National Bank vault during the investigation. Further investigation revealed that the thieves left behind a set of anti-theft tools including pipe wrench, saw and chisel. However, these are not critical as they are standard manufactured and can be easily purchased at any hardware store.

Just outside the window through which the robbers entered the National Bank, Sheriff Baden found the number 13,555 scratched on the brick. Bank officials believe this indicates the amount of money the robbers obtained from the bank deposit boxes. [This curious piece of information appears to have been just another “red herring.”]

Sheriff Baden believes the robbery was carried out by six men who sent two advance guards into Hondo last week.

… Citizens of Hongdu who woke up early Sunday morning reported to the sheriff that they saw a high-powered vehicle leaving the outskirts of the city with six men inside. The sheriff believes these are the Hondo robbers.

[Ironically] Sheriff Baden suffered a loss during an early morning visit from robbers when his safe at the First National Bank was broken open and $300 in postage stamps and $150 in bonds were stolen. A $100 Liberty Bond, property of his son OJ Baden, from Donna, remained in the box.

Newtons never went to trial for the Hondo bank robbery due to false “leads.”

Willis Newton (1889-1979) was the longest-lived outlaw in Texas. He and the Newton gang raided trains and banks in the early 1920s, but their biggest heist came in 1924, when they robbed a train outside Rondout, Illinois, for $3,000,000. They still hold the record for the largest train robbery in American history.

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