The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery – The site of the failed robbery in St. Louis

Fred Bowerman organized and led the disastrous Southwest Bank holdup, which resulted in a standoff between himself and his three partners against a force of officers of the St. Louis Police Department.

On the afternoon of April 24, he and three other men entered the bank, the robbery started out as planned. However, unknown to Bowerman and the others, a bank employee had set off a silent alarm. As the robbers were about to make their getaway, nearly 100 police officers arrived and surrounded the bank.

The historic former Southwest Bank building at the corner of Kingshighway Boulevard and Southwest Avenue / Image source

Bowerman was shot in the chest by police officer Melburn F. Stein. Bowerman’s remaining partners panicked. One man, Frank Vito, committed suicide by shooting himself with his pistol. The other, William Scholl, attempted to go for a backup weapon but police disarmed him and dragged him off in handcuffs. The fourth member of the robbery team, Glenn Chernick, the getaway driver, fled when police arrived. He was captured by detectives three days later at his father’s house in Chicago.

The events were later made into a film, The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery. Based on a 1953 bank robbery attempt of Southwest Bank in St. Louis, the film was shot on location in 1958 with some of the men and women from the St. Louis Police Department, as well as local residents and bank employees, playing the same parts they did in the actual robbery attempt. The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery is a 1959 heist film, directed by Charles Guggenheim and starring Steve McQueen.

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