Today’s Bankrobbing Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
Today we continue the story of the Suburban Bonnie and Clyde – bankrobbers from 1990’s Chicagoland. In yesterday’s episode, Jill and Jeffrey Erickson were nabbed while preparing to rob a bank on December 16, 1991. Rather than let the coppers take her, Jill attempted to drive away from police and shot herself when the prospect of escape became hopeless. Today we learn what happened to Jeffrey.
Meanwhile, husband Jeff was hustled off to the Dirksen Building, where he was booked on federal bank robbing charges. In a newspaper interview just a few months later, the cynical and bemused ex-cop turned stickup man ridiculed the booking procedures and security lapses and recommended that the Marshal’s Service conduct an emergency officer’s safety training session. He boasted that it would have been easy for him to snatch a gun from the detention officer’s holster and walk scot-free through the Dearborn Street revolving doors and into the safety of the pedestrian throngs.
“When I was fingerprinted they told me they were going to put me in prison for life. But the number one wrong thing to do they did. You never handcuff palms together, hands in front and that’s what they did,” Erickson said, literally diagramming for a reporter his intended plan of escape. The FBI, the Marshal’s Service, and court security should have been paying closer attention, but they were not. “They put me in civilian elevators. That’s how they take guys out of the lockup area.”
The day of reckoning came on July 20, 1992 – the sixth day of Erickson’s criminal trial before Judge James Alesia of the U.S. District Court. At 5:30 in the afternoon, just as thousands of homeward-bound Loop office workers poured out of their offices and were on their way to the commuter train stations and CTA Rapid Transit lines, Erickson, dressed in a blue suit, was riding an elevator to the underground parking garage of the Dirksen Building from which he was scheduled to be transported to his cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), just a few blocks away.
While standing inside the garage elevator, Erickson managed to squirm out of his handcuffs and seize the firearm belonging to Terry Pinta, a female Deputy Marshal. “He’s got my gun!” Pinta yelled, as Erickson smashed her across the head with the weapon. He turned and fired two shots at deputy marshal Roy Frakes, who had no chance to defend himself. New to the job, Frakes collapsed to the floor with wounds to the head and back. He died at Northwestern Hospital less than half an hour later.
“I’m going to jail!” raged Jeffrey Erickson in a blind fury. “I’m going to jail! I’m going to die anyway! I’m going to take everybody with me!” Erickson raced through the garage toward the auto exit ramp leading out of the Federal Building and onto eastbound Jackson Boulevard with its dingy passport-photo studios and doughnut shops.
Standing between Erickson and freedom was Harry Belluomini, a retired thirty-one-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, who had left the job with the rank detective and an honorable career on the streets already behind him. At the time of the Erickson trial, he was employed by the General Security Services Corporation as a security guard.
Belluomini, who had earned many commendations in Chicago and was looking forward to retiring to Wisconsin with his wife once his Chicago house was sold, stood in the direct line of fire. Before he could release the safety, Erickson drew down.
Fatally wounded, Belluomini managed to fire off one round at the fleeing gunman with his dying breath. Erickson dropped to the narrow sidewalk, twenty five feet shy of the street. Though his wound was probably not fatal, the bank robber realized that his last chance to escape was squandered. He had saved a final bullet for himself, thus fulfilling his end of the death pact made with Jill, whom he had adored.
Harry Belluomini was cited for his heroism. The section of Dearborn Street passing by the Dirksen Building was appropriately renamed “Harry Belluomini Way” by the Chicago City Council.
Culled from: Return Again to the Scene of the Crime