Radical bank robbery: 1971
On May 25, 1971 Lawrence Caldwell, Eros Timm and Heidi Ann Fletcher robbed a savings and loan company at Arizona Avenue and MacArthur Blvd. NW, Washington, D.C.

There had been a spate of bank robberies across the District and police had staked out this savings and loan.

As the two men made their way out of the bank to their getaway van driven by Fletcher, two police officers burst from the back of the loan company.

Caldwell and Timm said their guns were tucked away when officer William Sigmon opened fire.

Caldwell wrote a letter to the Washington Post explaining his version:

“We were coming out of the parking lot with our backs to the door when I heard, ‘alright, hold it right there,’ Our guns were in our pockets, his was drawn. We turned to him and he fired! At that point it became an escape or die situation.”

As Sigmon pursued Timm, the officer took up a defensive position below a stairwell. Caldwell came up behind him at shot him in the back, striking his heart. Timm was wounded in the shoot-out.

The three made their escape, but hours later they were stopped in their van on Connecticut Avenue near Van Ness shopping center and arrested for murder, among other charges.

Caldwell claimed they were conducting bank robberies in order to buy a farm they hoped to use as a base for revolutionary activity.

Caldwell had a history of political activism and was arrested during a February 1970 march on the Watergate home of Attorney General John Mitchell protesting the convictions of the Chicago 7. He was one of the plaintiffs in a suit against police that resulted in the dropping of all charges against the 142 arrested that day.

He claimed that the three struck against financial institutions not for personal monetary gain, but instead to strike a blow against “banking institutions, stock exchanges, et. al.”

Fletcher, the daughter of a former deputy mayor of Washington, D.C., pled guilty and received an indeterminate sentence under the Youth Corrections Act. She served 53 months before being released.

Timm and Caldwell received life sentences. Timm was murdered in prison in 1983. Caldwell pursued somewhat of a career in prison as a jailhouse lawyer and an escape artist. He was skilled enough at brief writing to obtain hearings, sometimes winning cases including winning damages against the District of Columbia for denying him medical attention.

He tried many times to escape and succeeded for 14 months, but was recaptured. He was ultimately released in December 2003 after 33 years.

Caldwell recalled after his release, “There was a saying: ‘Kill a commie for Christ.’ So we said, ‘Off a pig for Krishna.’”
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