Walter R. Walsh Dies at 106

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Legendary FBI gunfighter and competitive shooter Walter R. Walsh recently died at age 106:

Walter Rudolph Walsh was born in West Hoboken, N.J., on May 4, 1907, to Walter Brooks Walsh and the former Dolinda Invernizzi. When he was 12, his father gave him his first rifle, a .22-caliber Mossberg. He shot rats in the New Jersey Meadowlands and honed his skills on an aunt’s laundry clothespins.

At 16 he lied about his age, joined the Civilian Military Training Corps and received his first formal training with a 1903 Springfield rifle. He joined the New Jersey National Guard in 1928, won a spot on its rifle team and did his first competitive shooting at national matches at Camp Perry, Ohio.


He joined the F.B.I. in 1934, a short, feisty James Cagney tough guy fresh out of Rutgers Law School. A natural left-hander, he was already a dead shot who could cut the center of a bull’s-eye at 75 yards with a rifle and blaze away at moving targets with a pistol in each hand — an enormous advantage in a bureau that was just breaking in its first class of agents authorized to carry guns.


Mr. Walsh, who killed at least 11 gangsters in his F.B.I. days, competed regularly in national shooting tournaments and broke the world record for centerfire pistol shooting in 1939 at Camp Ritchie, Md., scoring 198 out of a possible 200. He also won the Eastern regional pistol championships in 1939 and 1940.

In 1942, after America’s entry into World War II, Mr. Walsh joined the Marines. For two years he trained snipers in New River, N.C. He requested combat duty in 1944, was sent to the Pacific and joined the invasion of Okinawa in 1945. At one point, with his unit pinned down, he killed an enemy sniper at 80 yards with one pistol shot.

After the war, he briefly returned to the F.B.I. but concluded that his days as an agent were over and turned increasingly to competitive shooting. On the United States Olympic shooting team at the 1948 Summer Games in London, he placed 12th in the world in the men’s 50-meter free pistol competition.

In 1952, he won gold and silver medals with the American team at the International Shooting Sport Federation championships. He won many F.B.I. and Marine Corps competitions and trained Marine marksmen until his retirement as a colonel in 1970. He was the captain of the United States team at the world muzzleloading championships in Switzerland in 1994.

He still did not need glasses.

Mr. Walsh’s most famous case ended the Brady Gang’s cross-country crime spree:

On Oct. 12, 1937, Mr. Walsh was in the sporting goods store Dakin’s in Bangor, Me., posing as a gun sales clerk and waiting for Public Enemy No. 1, Alfred Brady, and two gunmen, James Dalhover and Clarence Lee Shaffer.

Wanted for four murders, 200 robberies and a prison breakout, they had been in the store days earlier and were returning for Thompson submachine guns. But a large force of federal agents and state and local police officers were waiting in ambush, hidden in cars, storefronts and offices across the street.

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The gang’s car drew up at 8:30 a.m. Dalhover got out and entered the store. He was immediately seized and disarmed by Mr. Walsh and taken to the back by other agents. Shaffer and Brady, sensing something was wrong, emerged with guns drawn.

Mr. Walsh, meanwhile, approached the store’s front with a .45 in his right hand and a .357 Magnum in his left. But as he reached the door he realized he was looking through the plate glass at Shaffer. The glass exploded as both men fired simultaneously.

Shaffer fell, mortally wounded, to the sidewalk. Mr. Walsh, although hit in the chest, shoulder and right hand, stepped outside firing his Magnum at Brady, who was cut down in a thundering fusillade from all sides as he shot back wildly. Witnesses said he was still moving as Mr. Walsh put another bullet in him.

As Weapons Man notes, that remarkable obituary is all the more remarkable for appearing in the New York Times.


  1. FNN says:

    Frank Pape — whose jurisdiction was limited to Chicago during times when it averaged about 90% white — killed nine.

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