Trooper Paul Minneman and the Thunder at Caley Church
WHITE COUNTY, Ind.--The first state trooper to die in Indiana by a murderer's bullets was Paul Minneman of Logansport. You might hear his name called out in police ceremonies. But, behind the name is the story of the Brady Gang and the thunder at Caley Church.
David Morrison, a retired state trooper, spent many years of his adult life researching not only the murder of Minneman, but the criminal exploits of the gang. He published a book in April called "Thunder at Caley Church". This article is based on an interview with Morrison and his research.
The book "Thunder at Caley Church" is available at firstname.lastname@example.org
The gang members boasted that their mission was to outdo John Dillinger, and in some ways the three men did.
They held up banks across Indiana before moving east. They murdered four people, including three police officers.
The murder at the church
On May 25, 1937, the Brady Gang held up the Goodland State Bank in Newton County. Trooper Minneman and Cass County Deputy Elmer Craig got in a patrol car and went to find the gang, not on a paved highway, but on a gravel road. What they didn't realize was that the gang had a World War I era machine gun, stolen from a war memorial in Ohio, and modified to shoot 30-06 ammo. They also had another rifle with a 50 round clip.
The gang sped away in a cloud of dust and were able to hide in ambush behind Caley Church, in White County.
"So, they're all ready for him and when they coasted in, Paul's got the door open looking for their tracks, and they open fire with this machine gun and they hit him, and he falls out and the car coasts and hits the church," said Morrison.
Deputy Elmer Craig also bails out of the car, hit by bullets and flying glass from the windshield. One of the gang members, seeing Minneman laying on the ground, riddled with bullets, walked over to him.
"And he kicked him several times and Paul groans, and he was shocked that he was still alive. So he took this now high-powered, 50 round clip rifle and point blank, just, boom boom boom boom, shot him again."
Getting him to the hospital
Morrison said Minnemen was shot more than 20 times, but lived through the incident. A neighbor heard the machine gun fire and came after the gang left (when they took off, they took the trooper's first aid kit and Deputy Craig's wallet).
"They put Paul in the back seat and the deputy in the front seat. Paul apologized for all the blood in the car and said the department would take care of it, prayed the whole way, cried the whole way."
Minneman lived for two days in the hospital, before slipping into a coma and passing away.
"His wife, new wife, pregnant wife, was by most all of that and he died holding her hand. And his last words, this isn't my book saying it, it's what the police and everyone said, was 'Margaret'."
Morrison said Minneman could have avoided death, had he been able to let other cops know where he was. He only had a one-way radio and no phone to make a call.
"By then the Brady Gang had become such a threat that I think his duty overwhelmed his common sense," said Morrison, who first learned of the story when he escorted Minneman's body to a new place of burial in 1976. He talked with Minneman's widow and spent years reading 3,800 pages of FBI documents, eventually recovering the trooper's gun and badge. The gun is now is the family's possession and the bade is part of a memorial.
Morrison was able to honor Minnemen during a ceremony in Tippecanoe County this week. It's National Police Week 2019.
"His daughter sat next to me during the ceremony when I was speaking. She's 81. So, 81 years and his death still first hand touches people."
Morrison said many people believe that cops go to work thinking each day might be their last. And, while Minneman's story may prove that's a possibility, it was never his experience.
"None of them expect to die. I never did, and never went to work one day thinking about, I'm gonna die."
Two members of the Brady Gang were killed in a shootout with police in Bangor, Maine, after living it up in Baltimore, with the loot from their Indiana hold-ups. A third was executed in Michigan City a year later on federal charges.