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Why did they shoot Bonnie and Clyde so many times?

The infamous crime duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met a violent end when they were ambushed by law enforcement in Louisiana in 1934. Despite being taken by surprise, Bonnie and Clyde were shot around 50 times each, leading many to wonder why so much firepower was necessary to take them down.

Bonnie and Clyde’s Criminal History

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow embarked on a 21-month crime spree across the central United States during the Great Depression. They robbed gas stations, grocery stores, and banks in rural areas, stealing money, food, and supplies. It’s estimated they killed as many as 13 people, including 9 police officers, during their string of robberies from 1932-1934.

As their exploits became infamous, law enforcement made stopping Bonnie and Clyde a top priority. The duo proved hard to catch, using stolen cars to evade police and escaping capture after several close calls. With violence escalating, officials decided extraordinary measures were needed to end Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree for good.

The Ambush Plan

Former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was tasked with hunting down Bonnie and Clyde in early 1934. After tracking them across several states, Hamer learned they planned to visit the Methvin family in Louisiana. He hatched a plan to ambush the couple on the road with the help of local law enforcement.

On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde drove along Highway 154 near Gibsland, Louisiana en route to the Methvin’s home. Hidden in the bushes along the road were Hamer, 5 other Texas Rangers, and 4 Louisiana officers, armed with rifles and automatic weapons. They took positions and waited.

The Shootout

As Bonnie and Clyde approached, the officers opened fire, rapidly emptying their automatic rifles and shotguns. Accounts suggest the initial volley lasted about 5 seconds, firing over 100 rounds into the couple’s stolen Ford V8. With the car disabled, both Bonnie and Clyde were still alive, though gravely wounded.

Not wanting them to escape wounded, the officers kept firing. Reloading their weapons, they pumped round after round into the car until they were certain Bonnie and Clyde were deceased. In total, officers fired about 130 rounds during the ambush.

Extent of the Injuries

Coroner reports found Bonnie suffered more than 26 gunshot wounds and Clyde had around 17. The fatal shots were to the head and chest areas, though they both had wounds to the arms and legs. Some shots likely struck after they had died. The extent of their injuries has been explained by several factors:

  • Officers wanted to ensure Bonnie and Clyde would not escape alive
  • Automatic weapons allowed rapid, multi-shot bursts
  • Firepower kept the criminals pinned in the car
  • Officers reloaded and continued firing after the initial volley
  • Close range contributed to multiple hits on the targets

While gruesome, the lawmen were taking no chances in definitively ending the threat Bonnie and Clyde posed.

Controversy Over the Shooting

The scale of the ambush and number of shots fired caused some controversy. Many thought the police action amounted to overkill. However, law enforcement justified the shooting as necessary to stop dangerous fugitives who had evaded capture and were considered armed and dangerous.

Arguments in defense of the ambush include:

  • Bonnie and Clyde were suspected of killing 13 people, including 9 police
  • They had escaped prior attempts to apprehend them
  • The criminals were considered dangerous and likely to flee
  • Officers came prepared for armed resistance
  • Rapid fire was used to prevent escape

The police posse was heavily criticized as well for its actions:

  • Number of shots fired called excessive
  • Continued shooting seen as “overkill”
  • Public shocked by photos of the bullet-riddled car
  • Questions raised about need to fire so many rounds

In the aftermath, the ambush was deemed justifiable and necessary to halt Bonnie and Clyde’s criminal rampage, though the sheer firepower employed raises difficult questions even today.

Details of the Weapons Used

The arsenal used to ambush Bonnie and Clyde reflected both their firepower and police determination to leave no chance of escape. Weapons documented as being fired include:

Weapon Details
Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) Heavy automatic weapon with 20-round magazine. Fires .30-06 rounds at 500 per minute.
Remington Model 11 Shotgun Semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun. Holds 5 rounds.
.35 Remington Rifle Pump-action rifle firing large .35 caliber rounds. Effective range up to 300 yards.
.25-35 Winchester Rifle Lever-action rifle with 8-round tube magazine.

These weapons allowed for concentrated rapid fire on the car. The automatic BAR accounts for a significant portion of shots fired. With at least 6 officers armed with BARs, they could discharge over 100 high-powered rounds in just seconds.

Final Moments and Aftermath

With Bonnie and Clyde lifeless inside their car, the police officers searched the vehicle, removing various weapons and ammo. They claimed a trove of stolen items inside, from the couple’s personal belongings to cash, guns, and license plates.

Hundreds crowded the ambush site and Gibsland funeral home where the bodies were taken. Curious onlookers tried to grab anything off the bullet-riddled Ford, forcing police to deploy tear gas. The crowds reflected public fascination with Bonnie and Clyde’s exploits.

Bonnie and Clyde were buried separately in Dallas soon after. Though their graves attracted visitors, public opinion shifted as more details emerged, portraying the duo as violent cop-killers rather than romantic anti-hero bandits.


The bloody ambush ended Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree but also contributed to their legend. While originally depicted as dangerous criminals, they later became viewed as flawed but sympathetic anti-establishment figures.

In death, Bonnie and Clyde remain two of America’s most infamous folk anti-heroes. Their doomed love story continues to inspire numerous films, books, songs and other artistic interpretations. The story’s popularity stems in part from the dramatic, violent ending that made headlines in 1934 – going down together in a hail of gunfire.

The scale and brutality of Bonnie and Clyde’s death raised difficult questions about justice, vengeance, and the boundaries of law enforcement response. While the ambush accomplished its objective, the sheer firepower employed continues to fuel debate on proper force over 80 years later.