The Barker gang did not rise to national prominence until it became secret partners with St. Paul police chief "Big Tom" Brown. At 6-foot-five and 275 pounds, Brown was an intimidating presence who inspired fear in cops and criminals alike. He shot three men dead "in the line of duty" and was suspected of setting up two gangsters for police execution. Gangsters paid off Brown and his clique for the "right" to commit crimes. In summer of 1933, and again in winter of 1934, Brown conspired with the Barker gang to kidnap two wealthy St. Paul men. They were held for a combined ransom that, in today's money, would amount to about $6 million. Had everything gone according to plan, Brown's share of the ransom would have been close to $1 million.


  • William Hamm kidnapped 6/15/34
  • Hamm held captive in Bensenville, Ill. until ransom paid, 6/19/34
  • Ed Bremer kidnapped 1/17/34
  • Bremer held captive in Bensenville, Ill. until ransom paid, 2/8/34
  • Hearing board finds Brown guilty of conspiring with the Barker gang in both kidnappings 10/7/36

Next: The damage done