Alfred Brady, 25, lies dead on Central Street following a brief gun battle between his gang and FBI agents. Credit: Courtesy of Richard R. Shaw

Eighty-three years ago, Al Brady — an Indiana gangster who in 1937 was deemed “Public Enemy No. 1” by the FBI — was gunned down in a spectacular firefight in downtown Bangor, alongside his gang of criminals.

The story is one of the most famous in Bangor history, spawning countless re-enactments, inspiring artwork and commemorated by a sidewalk plaque on Central Street, near where the Oct. 12, 1937, shooting occurred. Though Brady may not have the high-profile national name recognition of fellow public enemies like John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde or Machine Gun Kelly, his criminal exploits were just as shocking — and his demise just as violent.

Brady Gang mug shots. From left to right, Al Brady, James Dalhover, and Clarence Lee Shaffer, Jr. Credit: Courtesy of Richard R. Shaw

Brady was born in Indiana in 1910, and lost both his parents by the time he was 6 years old. At age 18, he committed his first robbery. After getting out of jail, he formed his notorious gang with fellow criminals Clarence Lee Shaffer Jr., James Dalhover and Charles Geisking. Together, they stole cars and robbed stores all across Indiana, murdering two people — one of them a police officer — before being arrested. Brady, Dalhover and Shaffer busted out of jail and robbed a bank, killing another police officer before fleeing the state.

Gangster Al Brady (foreground) and Clarence Lee Shaffer Jr. (right) were killed by government agents on Central Street in Bangor on Oct. 12, 1937. Credit: BDN file photo

Brady and his gang made their way up the East Coast until they made it to Bangor, with plans to buy guns. The owner of Dakin’s Sporting Goods in West Market Square became suspicious when they paid for the guns with huge wads of cash, and reported them to the police. When they came back a few weeks later to pick up the guns, the FBI apprehended them, and the shootout ensued, leaving Brady and Shaffer dead and Dalhover in custody.

Alfred Brady, 25, lies dead on Central Street following a brief gun battle between his gang and FBI agents. The date was Oct. 12, 1937. James Dalhover, a third gang member, had returned to Dakin’s Sporting Goods Co. to pick up a machine gun and instead fell into an FBI trap, tipped off by store owner Everett “Shep” Hurd. Credit: Courtesy of Richard R. Shaw.

The event has become a part of local lore. In 1987, on the 50th anniversary of the shooting, a plaque was laid in downtown Bangor, with Walter Walsh — the FBI agent who shot Brady — coming into town to unveil it.

Walter Walsh, the man who shot Al Brady, at the 1987 laying of the plaque commemorating the Brady shootout, with historian Dick Shaw and former BDN reporter A.J. Higgins. Credit: Courtesy of Richard R. Shaw.

On the shooting’s 70th anniversary in 2007, a large reenactment was staged by local historian Dick Shaw, who played Brady.

Actors playing FBI agents stand over the dead body of Public Enemy No. 1, Al Brady played by Richard Shaw after he was gunned down on Central Street in Bangor on Sunday in a 70th anniversary re-enactment of the event. Credit: Bridget Brown / BDN

And in the 2000s, a mural by artist Leon Treadwell was hung in Giacomo’s, a former downtown Bangor eatery. The mural depicted the shootout in graphic detail. It is now part of the collection of the Bangor Historical Society.

A mural painted by Leon Treadwell depicting the slaying of the Brady gang in downtown Bangor hangs over the counter at Giacomo’s on Thursday July 16, 2009. Credit: Kevin Bennett / BDN

Brady’s body was never claimed by anyone. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor, though a headstone was placed in 2007.

A grave marker for Public Enemy No. 1 Alfred James Brady was installed at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor in 2007. For nearly 70 years the grave was unmarked. Credit: John Clarke Russ

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.