This article was originally published April 5 by Will Maddox, but it was too good to let you forget. Consider it our early Christmas gift.
The middle of the 20th century was rife with creative bandit nicknames. “Pistol Pete,” “Ice Pick Willie,” “Joe Bananas” and “Johnny Sausage” packed the pages of newspapers all over the country.
Dallas had its fair share of criminal nicknames, including the East Dallas “pants bandit.” His story, pieced together from the Dallas Morning News archives, is one of violence, robbery and, strangely, tying pants in knots.
In 1957 and 1958, Nelson C. Scott, 35, held up a series of motels, gas stations, liquor stores and other businesses at gunpoint, taking a few hundred dollars and escaping over the course of several months.
Scott earned his nickname, the “pants bandit,” from his unique escape tactics. He was not stealing pants, as one might think, but using his victims’ pants to aid his getaway. He would force his victims to pull down their pants then tie the legs in knots to delay pursuit. Read that again and reflect on how quaint criminals were in the 1950s.
The victims would have to untie their pants and put them back on before they could make it to the phone or chase after the bandit.
The clerk at a Dallas towel company — he took $1,000 from the Hotel Tower Courts on Harry Hines in March of 1958 — holding up three employees along the way. On another cold night, Scott held up a gas station attendant named Charles Sesko who was wearing two pairs of pants to keep him warm. Scott made him remove both pair before taking $190.
Scott’s robbery spree ended March 26, 1958, when he picked the wrong gas station attendant to rob. At a lonely gas station on Buckner Boulevard, Scott met his match in Henry Ling. The attempted holdup at 1 a.m. turned into a fracas and left Scott’s face lacerated from a pistol whipping and a bullet in Ling’s leg. After Scott got away, Ling headed to the emergency ward of Baylor Hospital in East Dallas, where he would cross paths with his attacker again.
While waiting for medical attention, Ling looked up and saw Scott, who also went to Baylor for treatment. He identified the pants bandit, who was detained. Police searched Scott’s Bryan Parkway apartment in East Dallas, confirming their suspicions that he was their man.
Though he denied it at first, Scott eventually admitted to two dozen robberies in Dallas and Highland Park after being identified by multiple victims. Six robbery charges were filed. He eventually pleaded guilty. “There’s just no excuse for it… I just owed a lot of money,” he told the Dallas Morning News in April of 1958. The Aransas Pass native was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the robberies.
The story doesn’t end there.
Apparently, the sentence length didn’t sit well with Scott, and in June he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape the Texas State Prison in Huntsville. He covered his body, face and clothes in ink from the prison print shop, hopped out the window of the craft area and ran along the roof of the cell block. He then shinnied down some ivy on the outer wall and made a break for it.
The ink made him difficult to see, but prison guards spotted him running across an intersection and ordered him to stop. When he didn’t, they fired their shotguns, peppering his legs with buckshot. His injuries were not considered serious, and he was returned to prison.
Stay tuned for the Netflix special.
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