Prohibition Agent John Irwin Wilson

Photo of Prohibition Agent John Irwin Wilson
End of Watch: Wed, Jul 22nd, 1931
Date of Incident: Wed, Jul 22nd, 1931
Cause of Death: Gunfire (Intentional)
Service Time: 3 years & 2 months
Age: 40


He was survived by his wife, Nelly.


Prohibition Agents John Wilson, Oliver Cetteland and Walter Gilbert had arranged to make an undercover purchase of illicit liquor from George Adams in Fort Wayne, IN. Adams, a convicted felon, was on recent parole from prison for a previous Federal liquor violation.

Agents Wilson and Gilbert were accompanied by additional agents in separate automobiles. They proceeded to the agreed upon meeting location, on the lower Huntington Road near Waynesdale, in Allen County. At the meeting site, Agent Wilson approached Adams' vehicle to consummate the purchase of liquor, but Adams apparently became suspicious and drew a .45 caliber pistol and threatened to kill him. Agent Gilbert, fearing for Wilson's safety, fired several shots through Adams' windshield slightly wounding him. Adams returned fire killing Agent Wilson. More gunfire was exchanged, during which Agent Gilbert was also shot and badly wounded. Adams wounded two other agents before making his escape. Agent Gilbert was rushed to Lutheran Hospital, but died that evening. Adams was captured by agents and police the following day.

BACKGROUND: Agent Wilson joined the Bureau of Prohibition on 6/4/1928, with an annual salary of $2,400. He served in Chicago and Springfield, IL and probably knew or worked with Eliot Ness. In 1929-1930, Agent Wilson was responsible for a number of significant criminal cases, including several undercover investigations in Detroit that involved two different smuggling syndicates. These investigations resulted in the seizure of 6,000 cases of illicit liquor, four transportation boats, two speed boats and a large quantity of money along with the arrest of 35 suspects. In 1929, Paul Hiller, a bootlegger, wrote a poem about Agent Wilson's exploits and how he had worked undercover loading boats with illicit liquor until one day, Hiller found himself arrested by Agent Wilson.

In June 1931, Agent Wilson was appointed Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis, IN, field office. Agent Wilson served in the U. S. Navy from 1917 - 1919 and the U. S. Army from 1922 - 1927. Agent Wilson was born in Des Moines, Iowa and is buried in Rockwell City, Iowa.


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