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Escape from Alcatraz

The plans to escape from Alcatraz differed for each inmate. Some sawed their way through bars in various parts of the prison, while others attacked guards to reach their intended destinations. In this article, you will learn about two attempts to escape from the famous prison in 1937 and 1938.

The 1937 Escape Attempt

Theodore Cole was at Alcatraz as a convicted bank robber and also arrested on kidnapping charges in Oklahoma. When he was sent to prison earlier, he had already tried to escape from the state McAlester Prison. Since he was deemed an escape risk, he was sent to the high-security prison Leavenworth. In 1936, he was transferred to Alcatraz. Ralph Roe was a bank robber in Oklahoma who was caught after a shootout with local police and FBI agents in Shawnee.

With a file, Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe took their time cutting away at the iron bars in the prison’s mat shop, which was located in the industries building. It was a day full of fog on December 16, 1937 when the pair escaped. The weather conditions helped them stay hidden from the guards in the watch towers. The two plunged into the icy cold waters and were never seen again.

However, the weather was brutal at the time of their escape and many believe that they drowned in the bay and their bodies were swept out to sea by the strong currents. Despite the belief that they did not make it to land, the FBI placed the dup on their Most Wanted List as #1 and #2. Sometimes, unconfirmed sightings of Cole and Roe were reported to the authorities.

The 1938 Escape Attempt

After attacking and killing a guard with a claw hammer while in the woodwork shop in the industries building, three inmates made their way to the roof for their great escape. Rufus Franklin, Thomas R Limerick and James C Lucas attempted to escape from Alcatraz on May 23, 1938. An armed guard on the roof shot Franklin and Limerick. Other guards that arrived at the scene cornered Lucas and he surrendered. When Limerick was shot for his role in the escape plan, he died from his injuries the next day. Lucas and Franklin were later tried and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Rufus Franklin was originally sentenced to prison for his role in bank robbery, grand theft auto and assault charges.

Thomas  Limerick started his criminal career as a boxcar bandit, and eventually joined a gang of bank robbers. The gang robbed a National Guard Armory, and later went on a spree of robberies , taking down large banks in Iowa and Nebraska. However, Limerick was arrested in a nightclub in Missouri on May 25, 1935. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Leavenworth Penitentiary, but was later transferred to Alcatraz.

James Lucas found his way to Alcatraz after being sentenced to 30 years in jail for bank robbery. He also violated the Dyer Act, which centered on interstate trafficking of stolen vehicles. He came to Alcatraz in January 1935 from the Texas State Prison. Fellow prisoners called him James “Texas Bank Robber” Lucas. Before his prison break attempt, Lucas had already gained attention when he attacked the infamous gangster Al Capone in the prison’s laundry room with a pair of shears from the prison barber shop on June 23, 1936.