SA Walter Walsh & Killing Russell Gibson

Special Agent Walter Walsh passed away in 2014 at the age of 106. The last remaining survivor of the Dillinger era in Bureau history, he had many a story to tell.  His distinguished career in the FBI, a decades long pistol shooting champion and a U. S. Marine Corps veteran who saw action in Okinawa, it would take me pages to cover all of his accomplishments. In 1937, Walsh was wounded in the Bangor, Maine shootout with the Brady gang during a stakeout at a gun store. In the shooting melee on the street, he fired a fatal round at gang member, Clarence Lee Shaffer, Jr., granting him a place in the promised land. Gang leader, Alfred Brady was also killed in the shootout.

A career and a lifetime deserving of a book or movie, there is one thing in Walsh's notable career that is mistaken and deserves mention.

It's unclear when or where it occurred but suffice it to say that with all the story telling, formal and informal interviews, small talk among friends, magazine articles or simply a glitch in transcribing notes, there was - well - confusion at best regarding something that happened back in 1935... 

I noticed all this recently during an examination of some random accounts of the 1935 killing of gangster, Russell Gibson, aka "Slim Gray." Sporadic narratives on the Internet whether it be a forum of sorts, an article about the gangster days, or an interview of Walsh himself attributed the killing of gangster, Russell Gibson to SA Walsh. 

My review of the above came simultaneously with my review of released FBI files on the actual shooting of Gibson that night on January 8, 1935.

It's well documented that along with others, SA Walsh was present at the Chicago hideout of gangster "Doc" Barker and participated in his arrest. That was sometime around 6:30pm, Chicago time. 

Two to three hours later on the same night, at a different Chicago hideout, arrest attempts with Gibson and others caused Gibson to exit the rear of an apartment building firing at FBI agents.  One particular agent returned fire, killing Gibson.

But it wasn't SA Walter Walsh...

Whatever happened during the stories over the years, Walsh was accurately placed at the Barker arrest at about 6:30pm, but a couple of hours later, was somehow moved over to the Gibson arrest where SAC E. J. Connelley and sixteen other FBI agents were executing that arrest (and shooting.) This would not have been unusal, due to Walsh's proficency with a handgun, had it actually occurred. The problem is, this is exactly where a couple of "wheels came off the wagon" in memorializing this incident. Simply put, there's nothing indicative in the official record that SA Walsh was at the Gibson shooting. 

Exiting the apartment during the FBI raid, Gibson was met at the rear by a cadre of FBI agents and namely one legendary figure named SA James "Doc" White of Texas Ranger fame. The files are clear that it was White - not Walsh - who fired on Gibson with a 30.06 rifle, killing him. I noticed off the top that author Bryan Burrough in his book, "Public Enemies" also identified SA White as Gibson's killer - not SA Walsh. Burrough's research was very thorough with regard to his book.  SA White's shooting of Gibson is also noted in a recent copy of SA Tom McDade's diary obtained by the FBI from his son and in some personal papers sent us by White's great nephew.  

We all have an obligation of keeping history as accurate as we can, regardless of how big or how small the issue. Forgetting any "credit" due in the killing of a bad man, the sporadic accounts of the Gibson shooting need correction.  But having said that, none of it removes anything from SA Walter Walsh's esteemed FBI and U. S. Marine Corps career.  May he rest in peace...