as a young boy, notorious bank robber, car thief, and bootlegger, lester j. gillis, a.k.a. george "baby face" nelson lived at 944 north california avenue in humboldt park. after fbi agents shot and killed john dillinger, the fbi declared nelson as public enemy no. 1.
at age 14, nelson was already running with a local gang whose members dubbed him "baby face" because of his juvenile appearance and small stature (he was 5' 4" tall and weighed but 133 pounds). compared to the carnage he wrought later in life, nelson's early crimes were tame and included armed robbery, stealing tires, bootlegging, and "running stills" (whatever that means). in january 1931, he was sent to prison for a bank robbery committed in chicago. during his incarceration, authorities temporarily moved nelson to stand trial for robbery committed in wheaton, but on february 17, 1932, he escaped on the way back to joliet. he spent time in california, indiana, texas, nevada, and washington state before returning to chicago in april 1934.
one month prior to his return, nelson and henchmen he recruited for a slew of bank robberies, including one of their notorious associates, homer van meter, footed the necessary cash to help dillinger execute his famous "wooden pistol" prison escape in crown point, indiana. after the successful escape, nelson, his associate john paul chase, and his wife helen gillis joined the john dillinger gang. chase remained in chicago, but nelson and his wife vacationed with the rest of the dillinger gang at the little bohemia lodge in northern wisconsin, where fbi agents discovered them on april 22, 1934. nelson killed two hostages and an fbi special agent.
on june 30, 1934, nelson, dillinger, and van meter, robbed merchants national bank in south bend, indiana. as they approached their meeting place back in chicago, nelson shot and killed two police officers on wolf road.
after fbi agents shot and killed dillinger outside the biograph theater on lincoln avenue on july 22, 1934, nelson fled to california, but made frequent trips back to chicago. he and chase stole a car in chicago on november 26, 1934, and drove to wisconsin.
three days later, fbi inspector samuel p. cowley received word that two special agents spotted the stolen car near barrington, illinois. after a brief chase, nelson veered off northwest highway and stopped here, at the entrance to the north side park in barrington. in the ensuing five-minute gun battle, nelson shot and killed two fbi agents, including cowley. "baby face" was critically wounded and died around 8 p.m. that evening. the next day fbi agents discovered where chase disposed of nelson's body, near a cemetery in niles center, illinois.