Johnny Madison Williams Jr.

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Johnny Madison Williams Jr.
Born (1951-01-19) January 19, 1951 (age 66)
Waukegan, Illinois, U.S.[1]
Occupation Bank robber
Criminal charge 5 counts of bank robbery, 1 charge of using a firearm in a crime of violence, and 1 count of conspiracy[2]
Criminal penalty prison term of 92 years
Criminal status Incarcerated
Spouse(s) Carolyn Marie Williams
Motive Gambling[3]

Johnny Madison "The Shootist" Williams Jr. (born January 19, 1951) is one of the most successful bank robbers in American history. After his arrest on July 9, 1994, Williams confessed to robbing 56 banks across the states of California, Texas, and Washington over an eight-year period, often with the help of his wife, Carolyn. Williams kept a meticulous record of his heists, reporting his career total as $879,357. By the time of his apprehension, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were not even aware of 8 of his robberies. The FBI, in the course of tracking Williams, had nicknamed him "The Shootist" after the film by the same name starring John Wayne because of his habit of firing shots into the air at the beginning of each robbery.[2]

Performance art was a large part of Williams' method. His method of firing into the air caused people to avoid eye contact, so authorities had a hard time getting a description of Williams' appearance. The gunshots, in addition to cursing and yelling, provoked a sense of terror, ensuring the teller and customers' compliance.[4]

When I ask the manager or commercial teller if they want to be the next to die, and they can smell the acrid smoke of the gunpowder, and sometimes feel the warmth of the gun barrel next to their skin . . . they feel pretty certain that I have just shot a customer, or have at least shot someone in my past.

— Johnny Madison Williams Jr., [4]

Williams put a great amount of forethought into each robbery. He would sometimes survey a target for weeks or years, planning out contingencies and escape routes. On several occasions, Williams took a shortcut though shrubbery and then concealed the passage behind foliage. He was described by a spokesman for the San Jose police department as "by far the most calculating and surgical bank robber in the past second half of the 20th century."[2] It is unusual for bank robberies to be well thought out, as they are usually crimes of opportunity.[4][5]

Williams was sentenced to a prison term of 92 years for only 12 counts of bank robbery because of the expired statute of limitations for the earlier episodes. His wife, Carolyn Marie Williams, was sentenced to 20 years at a federal prison in Northern California.[6][7]


  1. ^ "Man's Confession Ends Robbery Career: 56 Banks in 8 Years". The New York Times. 14 July 1994. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c "Man's Confession Ends Robbery Career: 56 Banks in 8 Years". The New York Times. July 14, 1994. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 
  3. ^ RICCARDI, NICHOLAS (12 July 1994). "FBI Celebrates Capture of 'the Shootist' : Crime: Bank robbery suspect is notorious for allegedly firing gunshots into ceilings.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 April 2017. Williams needed money for his gambling habit 
  4. ^ a b c Boss, Kit (January 7, 1996). "The Shootist -- John And Carol Robbed Banks. How Long Could A Life -- And Love -- Like Theirs Last.". Seattle Times. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 
  5. ^ P-I Staff and News Services (September 8, 1994). "`SHOOTIST,' WIFE PLEAD GUILTY TO BANK HEISTS". Seattle PI. Retrieved April 23, 2009. [dead link]
  6. ^ "'The Shootist' Bank Robber Sentenced to Nearly a Century in Prison". Associated Press. SEATTLE: 21 January 1995. Retrieved 12 April 2017. 
  7. ^ "Local News | `Shootist,' Wife Sentenced | Seattle Times Newspaper". Seattle Times Staff. SEATTLE. 22 January 1995. Retrieved 12 April 2017.