For six months, straddling late 1973 and early 1974, the city had 14 random killings. Most of the victims never saw it coming, shot in the back or the back of the head, execution-style, in what came to be called the Zebra murders.
The shootings were racially motivated and usually happened at night along the Divisadero Street corridor. Here are three that were out of the norm but crucial to the case.
On the evening of Oct. 19, 1973, Quita and Richard Hague came out of their four-story Victorian apartment building at 399 Chestnut St., at Stockton Street. They went west, downhill toward North Beach, maybe in front of Francisco Middle School one block down, when a white van pulled alongside with three men inside. The body of Quita Hague, 28, was found the next day on the railroad tracks across town. Her husband survived. The spree had begun.
Two months later, on Dec. 13, 1973, the killer struck again, at the corner of Wisconsin and 23rd streets, on Potrero Hill. Social worker Art Agnos, 35, had left a meeting and was walking to his car when people started fleeing from a loud popping noise. The future mayor tried to calm them before realizing he had been shot twice in the back.
On Jan. 28, 1974, Jane Holly, a 45-year-old Wells Fargo clerk, went into the Lightning Coin Launderette at 1440 Silver Ave., just off San Bruno Avenue. Her back was to the door. She was pulling clothes out of the dryer as a gunman walked toward the rear of the 24-hour wash-and-dry.In our recent discussions about gun violence, Django Unchained, and America's gun culture, I have learned a great deal. Several commenters have offered up interesting bits of information, such as this reference to Robert Charles, a black man who shot 27 white people in the year 1900 during the height of Jim and Jane Crow.
I have also had an interesting discussion about black mass shooters and the argument that such crimes by African-Americans are somehow under-reported. Such a claim is fascinating because of how it stands against volumes of evidence about the racialized nature of crime reporting in the United States, and how stereotypes about black criminality are integral to the prison industrial complex, and the school to prison pipeline.
I may not always agree with folks here on WARN--which is part of the fun of our honest conversations--but I always learn something from the exchange.
In the spirit of seeking new information and knowledge, I also enjoy reading white nationalist websites. As I have said many times before, one must understand their enemies as not to be ambushed by them. Their waters are toxic and befouled; they are pure to the supplicants and white nationalist troglodytes.
During the Right-wing media's online fit about Django Unchained, and the prospect that a black man may actually want to kill white slave owners and other white racists during the 19th century (and Hollywood may dare to present such a fantasy in the form of a major motion picture), I came upon repeated references to the "Zebra Murders."
These were common White deflections where white racists search high and low for examples of black "racism," criminality, or violence in order to balance the centuries-long historical record of white supremacy's barbarisms against people of color--and also against white folks who did not follow the dominant script. The false equivalence is glaring; nevertheless, it is still instructive.
As a person of a certain age, I had never heard of the Zebra Murders. As a child of the hip hop generation and the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area who was born in the 1970s, I was too young and geographically distant from California to have ever encountered any information about a murder spree that was supposedly committed by Nation of Islam members against whites (and others) in the Bay area from 1973 to 1974.
Color me fascinated by this tale of interracial murder, police corruption and racism; resentment towards Earl Sanders, the black Police Chief of the San Francisco police department; and what is a fascinating story that has been optioned for a movie by Brad Pitt and starring Jamie Foxx and Will Smith.