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Crown Point May Be Ready to Accept Dillinger

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One of the summer's biggest movies opens nationwide today. Public Enemies stars Johnny Depp as outlaw John Dillinger. Parts of the movie were filmed last year in Crown Point, Indiana, about 45-minutes south of Chicago. For years, residents of Crown Point wanted nothing to do with Dillinger because of his escape from the jail there and the allegation that he murdered a local police officer. It seems the movie may be softening that stance but not for everyone.

Crown Point is a long way from Hollywood.

But that didn't matter for nearly 300 people who shelled out $150 a pop to see an early screening of Public Enemies and get the red carpet treatment. Literally.

For some, the city of Crown Point is as much of a draw as stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.This shindig stands in stark contrast to Crown Point's reluctance over the years to have anything to do with Dillinger.

URAN: We're not here to glorify the villain. We're here to recognize our history and what part we played in it.

That's Crown Point Mayor David Uran who attended the pre-screening reception at the Hall of Justice, a building that sits right next to the very jail where Dillinger made his daring escape using a wooden gun.

Scenes were shot here as part of the film.


Set during the Great Depression, the film recounts FBI agent Melvin Purvis' attempt to round up outlaws Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd.

But the main focus is on Dillinger and his life of crime. The Indiana native robbed banks through the Midwest. In one robbery, he allegedly shot and killed a police officer in East Chicago, Indiana.

Dillinger fled but was eventually captured and brought to Indiana to stand trial. The sheriff at the time, Lillian Holley, famously took a photo with Dillinger at the jail. But soon after, Dillinger escaped.

That episode brought shame to Crown Point for years even as Dillinger's lore grew. Speros Batistatos, who heads the South Shore tourism bureau, has always felt Crown Point could have benefited from its connection to the gangster.

BATISTATOS: A guy named Johnny Depp has surely helped people understand the importance of that historical story and, frankly, I think it's great. In my book it's about 15 years after I would have liked to have seen it.

Not everyone is thrilled to see Dillinger brought to life on the big screen.

KASPER: Johnny Depp and everybody else there, it's a business with them. They have no idea what it's all about other than acting the part.

Don Kasper of St. John, Indiana, attended last night's screening to represent the family of William O'Malley, the East Chicago police officer whom Dillinger was accused of killing during the bank robbery. Kasper's wife, Carol, is O'Malley granddaughter.

Kasper says his wife can't bear to see a movie depicting...

KASPER: Somebody that killed a member of their family and caused so much agony for three daughters and a wife. You know they have to live on $50 pension a month after the death and what's the movie going to rake in, $20 million. Doesn't seem right, does it?

Over the decades Dillinger's legend had grown. Some attribute him with some Robin Hood compassion for the underdog.

DOMINGUEZ: He was no Robin Hood.

The current Lake County sheriff Roy Dominguez says he hopes the movie turns the spotlight on law enforcement. He wants the infamous jail to become a museum.

DOMINGUEZ: For our officers who have protected our community throughout the century and to honor their service to our community to remember our fallen heroes who have been killed in the line of duty.

Dominguez said yesterday's premier event was actually a fundraiser to pay for needed repairs to the historic old building.

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