In a 1933 memorandum found in the beginnings of the Dillinger file, it's extremely clear that while recognizing its limited jurisdiction at the time, the Bureau's assistance in the killing of a sheriff and the escape of Dillinger and others was specifically requested. Years and even decades later, critics would contend that J. Edgar Hoover had no real interest in the case at the time because it lacked any news worthy items for the Bureau Of Investigation. Fact is, the Bureau was doing everything it could to cooperate with local authorities on the matter. Director Hoover and the Bureau in general was most interested in helping to bring the killers of the Dillinger gang to Justice for the murder of a local sheriff.
The one thing Hoover and those at the Headquarters level did ensure was that, regardless of how bad the deperados of the day were, jurisdictional issues had to be addressed.
The 1933 memorandum is rarely mentioned by those who write about Dillinger.
By March, 1934 it was quite evident that Dillinger and his gang were way out of control with their brazen acts of violence and disregard for the innocent. That same year, Dillinger made a mistake in taking a stolen vehicle over state lines and thus violating the Dyer Act, also known as the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act. As anyone can read at the bottom of the wanted flyer, that particular vehicle in question belonged to Lillian Holley, the Sheriff in charge of the Crown Point, Indiana jail from which Dillinger escaped!
Over the ensuing years....the decades.....critics and their followers would spend countless hours massaging their writings. Efforts on a whole to "spin" the Dyer Act, in the Dillinger and other cases, into a means for the Bureau to enter cases where publicity was the ultimate goal. As if, in a matter of some type of convience, the Bureau simply pulled the jurisdiction "out of their hat" and cherry picked the cases they wanted.
What many overlooked was the fact that Congress passed this Act as early as 1919! This act authorized the Bureau to investigate auto thefts that crossed state lines. Prior to the passage of this act, jurisdictional boundaries between states hampered the ability of law enforcement officials to thwart interstate auto theft rings. The Bureau had been investigating these cases for fifteen years prior to John Dillinger surfacing in the national crime arena. In fact, the Bureau's first loss of a special agent, SA Edwin Shanahan, came at the hands of Martin Durkin who was being sought by the Bureau for this exact violation!
But a short history lesson is due here. The overall purpose of the Dyer Act is best explained in part, in a 1957 Supreme Court case: (U. S. vs Turley). The advent of the automobile during the early 1900s no doubt created extensive problems for law enforcement. Re-printed here, the Court stated....
"It is, therefore, appropriate to consider the purpose of the Act and to gain what light we can from its legislative history.
By 1919, the law of most States against local theft had developed so as to include not only common-law larceny but embezzlement, false pretenses, larceny by trick, and other types of wrongful taking. The advent of the automobile, however, created a new problem with which the States found it difficult to deal. The automobile was uniquely suited to felonious taking whether by larceny, embezzlement or false pretenses. It was a valuable, salable article which itself supplied the means for speedy escape. "The automobile [became] the perfect chattel for modern large-scale theft." 10 This challenge could be best [352 U.S. 407, 414] met through use of the Federal Government's jurisdiction over interstate commerce. The need for federal action increased with the number, distribution and speed of the motor vehicles until, by 1919, it became a necessity. 11 The result was the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act.
This background was reflected in the Committee Report on the bill presented by its author and sponsor, Representative Dyer. H. R. Rep. No. 312, 66th Cong., 1st Sess. This report, entitled "Theft of Automobiles," pointed to the increasing number of automobile thefts, the resulting financial losses, and the increasing cost of automobile theft insurance. It asserted that state laws were inadequate to cope with the problem because the offenders evaded state officers by transporting the automobiles across state lines where associates received and sold them. Throughout the legislative history Congress used the word "stolen" as synonymous with "theft," a term generally considered to be broader than "common-law larceny." 12 To be sure, the discussion referred to "larceny" but nothing was said about excluding other forms of "theft." The report stated the object of the Act in broad terms, primarily emphasizing the need for the exercise of federal powers. 13 No mention is made of a purpose to [352 U.S. 407, 415] distinguish between different forms of theft, as would be expected if the distinction had been intended. 14
"Larceny" is also mentioned in Brooks v. United States, 267 U.S. 432 (1925). 15 This reference, however, carries [352 U.S. 407, 416] no necessary implication excluding the taking of automobiles by embezzlement or false pretenses. Public and private rights are violated to a comparable degree whatever label is attached to the felonious taking. A typical example of common-law larceny is the taking of an unattended automobile. But an automobile is no less "stolen" because it is rented, transported interstate, and sold without the permission of the owner (embezzlement). 16 The same is true where an automobile is purchased with a worthless check, transported interstate, and sold (false pretenses). 17 Professional thieves resort to innumerable forms of theft and Congress presumably [352 U.S. 407, 417] sought to meet the need for federal action effectively rather than to leave loopholes for wholesale evasion. "
Like thousands of cases before him and his gang, a Federal warrant for violation of the Dyer Act was obtained and John Dillinger was now a Federal fugitive. Anyone with him would be considered a confederate or a harborer. If apprehended, they would be returned to the local jurisdiction looking for him/her if there were no Federal charges levied. The investigation by the Bureau would allow an opening into Dillinger family members, friends, associates and more giving the Federal government more latitude in prosecutions for a variety of crimes, too long to be listed here.
The hunt for Dillinger and his gang members was on...and it would be a multi-state manhunt beyond the capabilities of local law enforcement.