|Bernard Paul Coy|
Bernard Coy mug shots, 1937
February 13, 1900|
New Haven, Kentucky
|Died||May 4, 1946
|Conviction(s)||Bank robbery, Kentucky|
Bernard Paul "Barney" Coy (February 13, 1900 – May 4, 1946) was a bank robber and federal prisoner best known as the planner of a failed escape attempt from Alcatraz prison, on May 2, 1946 which turned into a bloody two day armed confrontation leaving Coy, two fellow would-be escapees and two prison guards dead.
Coy was a native of Kentucky who turned to crime during the Depression and in 1937 was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. He was transferred to Alcatraz from Atlanta in 1938 and was later given the position of cell-house orderly which allowed him access through most of the main cell-block on Alcatraz. This relative freedom allowed him to spot a tiny flaw in one of the prison's security features, the bars of the gun-gallery overlooking the cell house. Coy along with Joe Cretzer, Marvin Hubbard, Sam Shockley, Miran Thompson, and Clarence Carnes planned to break into the gun galleries to steal weapons, take hostages and then flee to the dock. He was successful in creating a makeshift bar-spreader that enabled him to get through the relatively weak bars that protected the gun galleries and overpower the unsuspecting guard on his return from investigating a fabricated incident caused by Shockley in the prison's secure unit, D-Block.
The prisoners now had one Springfield rifle, one .45 automatic handgun but the most important item supposed to be held in the cage was the key to the yard door of the prison from which the convicts expected to make their way to the island's dock to seize the prison's boat. However, Bill Miller, one of the nine guards held hostage in two cells had, contrary to regulations, held on to the yard door key to let out kitchen staff without having to disturb the gallery guard at lunch instead of returning it to the gun gallery. The escape attempt was thus foiled inadvertently as although the prisoners eventually found the key following a search of the captive guards and cells, the door would not open because it had been jammed by trying the lock with different keys.
The escapees held several guards hostage and as there was no hope of negotiating, the struggle between the prison authorities and the group of prisoners turned into a violent stand-off, that became known as the Battle of Alcatraz or "Alcatraz Blastout". After two days, the guards regained control of the prison and the body of Coy was found in a utility corridor along with those of Cretzer and Hubbard.