Tucson celebrates John Dillinger days

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- A fire at Hotel Congress is what it took for police to catch one of America's most well-known gangsters 77 years ago in Tucson.  Saturday, hundreds of people learned more about the story of legendary criminal John Dillinger.

The year was 1934.  Hotel congress had only been around for 15 years, and it was about to become the site of one of the most notorious bank robber captures in American history.

"It's one little bit of our history that a lot of people don't know about, that John Dillinger came to Tucson and was captured here," said Hotel Congress Entertainment Director David Slutes.

Hundreds of people gathered at the hotel to watch a re-enactment of John Dillinger's days in Tucson.

"I feel like it's a part of Tucson, a part of me, a part of history," said observer Anna Ortiz.

The gangster was on the run after after robbing several banks in the Midwest., when he came to Tucson to stay at Hotel Congress.

A fire broke out in the building, which led Tucson police to capture Dillinger.

"They're the only law enforcement agency ever to capture him in a single gun shot fire," said Slutes.

"Incidentally the Pima County jail is one of the only jails i never escaped from," said a professional actor portraying John Dillinger.

A lot of vintage cars, costumes and of course the hotel building make the entire story come alive 77 years later.

"When you walk in their it's kind of eerie because you can kind of feel like, ya know, not ghosts or anything, but you kind of go back in time," said Ortiz.

The story brings some historical significance to the Old Pueblo.

"It's a city with a small town attitude, its just got a charm," said Dillinger.

An old time charm that continues to intrigue people through the years.

The actual anniversary of Dillinger's capture in Tucson will be on Tuesday. 

After his arrest, Dillinger was transferred to an Indiana jail that was considered "escape-proof" in 1934. Yet, he still got away. He was shot to death in a Chicago theater less than five months later.