Lest We Forget: Remembering the Zebra Victims
By Nicholas Stix
If heinous crimes are forgotten or disappeared, a second injustice is added to the original crimes.
Like homicide detectives, journalists speak for the dead.
October 20 marked the 32nd anniversary of the beginning of the “Zebra Killings” in San Francisco.
Know ye, these dead:
Quita Hague, hacked to death….
Frances Rose, her face blown apart by close-range gunshots.
Saleem Erakat, tied up and executed.
Paul Dancik, shot down at a public telephone….
Marietta DiGirolamo, thrown into a doorway and shot to death.
Ilario Bertuccio, killed while walking home from work….
Neal Moynihan, shot down while taking a teddy bear to his little sister.
Mildred Hosler, shot down while walking toward her bus stop.
John Doe #169, kidnapped, tortured, butchered, decapitated.
Tana Smith, murdered on her way to buy blouse material.
Vincent Wollin, murdered on his sixty-ninth birthday.
John Bambic, murdered while rummaging in a trash bin.
Jane Holly, murdered in a public Laundromat….
Thomas Rainwater, shot down on the street as he walked to a market….
And Nelson Shields IV, shot three times in the back as he was straightening out the cargo deck on his station wagon.
The above passage is from Clark Howard’s 1979 book, Zebra: The true account of the 179 days of terror in San Francisco. I inserted ellipses, because Howard’s list contains both those who were murdered and those who were grievously wounded in San Francisco. I separated the groups into two lists. Herewith the wounded:
Richard Hague [Quita’s husband], his face butchered.
“Ellen Linder,” [a pseudonym Howard devised to protect her privacy], raped, ravaged, threatened with death.
Arthur Agnos [who would later be elected mayor], surviving after his insides were ripped up by bullets.
Angela Roselli, surviving with nerve damage in her back.
Roxanne McMillian, surviving but paralyzed from the waist down.
Linda Story, surviving with nerve damage in her back.
Ward Anderson, surviving but in serious condition after being shot down at a city bus stop.
Terry White, also surviving, also in serious condition, after being shot down at the same bus stop.
And courtesy of Julia Scheeres, at Court TV’s crimelibrary.com,
Robert Stoeckmann, grazed in the neck by a shot fired by Leroy Doctor.
Howard repeats the list again and again and again, throughout the book; the publisher, Richard Marek, repeats it on the book jacket. Some people may find that tiresome. But Howard did not want those names forgotten; neither do I. And so, if some should find me tiresome, so be it. They can switch to a different, less tiresome Web page.
The nine wounded victims survived due to the incompetence of the Zebra assassins, and in Ellen Linder and Robert Stoeckmann’s respective cases, thanks to their own resourcefulness. Linder psychologically maneuvered her attacker, Jesse Lee Cooks, into letting her live. Stoeckmann ducked from Leroy Doctor’s gun as the latter fired, and then, when Doctor shoved the revolver into Stoeckmann’s gut to finish him off, grabbed the cylinder (which one can only do with a revolver), so that it could not fire. Stoeckmann swung the gun away, it skittered away, and he won the chase for it. When Doctor continued after him, Stoeckmann shot him three times. Doctor was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, but was not charged in any of the Zebra killings.
Jesse Lee Cooks would seek to “atone” for his act of “mercy” in the case of Ellen Lindner, by blowing the face off of Frances Rose.
Arguably the most resourceful of all of the Death Angels’ (in this case, Jesse Lee Cooks, Larry Green, and Anthony Cornelius Harris’) intended victims were the first whom they targeted on October 20, 1973 — Michele Denise Carrasco, and Marie and Frank Stewart. When the Death Angels attempted to kidnap them with a van, in order to murder them, all three ran away. Plucky Michele Denise Carrasco was but 11 years old, Marie Stewart was 12, and Frank was 15.
All of the 24 victims were targeted for death for the same reason: They were white. Their attackers were all members of the black supremacist Nation of Islam (NOI), then primarily known as the Black Muslims, and acted on its behalf. They were members of the “Death Angels,” a branch of the NOI which existed for the sole purpose of murdering white people. The Death Angels had a scoring system, whereby they got more points for murdering women and children than grown men; their pathological cowardice had a numerical system. Clark Howard writes,
“Death Angels wings were awarded to each man who killed four white children, five white women, or nine white men. Upon completion of the required quota, a new member’s photograph was taken and a pair of black wings were drawn extending from the neck. The photo was mounted on a board along with pictures of other successful candidates, and the board was displayed on an easel at the loft meetings” at Black Self Help Moving and Storage.
The Death Angels were nurtured on a steady diet of NOI theology — that whites were “blue-eyed devils, “white devils,” and “grafted snakes,” a wicked race that had been created anywhere from 1,000-6,000 years ago by an evil black scientist named Yacub. (The number of years and method of Yacub changes from one version to another.) Actually, “the Myth of Yacub” was ripped off from black journalist George S. Schuyler’s classic, 1931 racial satire, Black No More. Schuyler in turn had been influenced by H.G. Wells.
Eight members of the NOI in San Francisco were arrested for the Zebra killings, but only four were prosecuted; all of the latter were convicted. They were Jesse Lee Cooks, J.C. Simon (aka J.C.X. Simon), Larry Green and Manuel Moore. The NOI paid for the defense of all but Cooks. The NOI wrote Cooks off as a traitor, because he alone confessed to a crime, the murder of Frances Rose. A black Moslem is never permitted to confess to a crime “in the white man’s court.” The police also had Cooks for the rape of Ellen Linder, and each crime could have gotten him a maximum life sentence. Prosecutors agreed — with Linder’s permission — to drop the rape charge, if Cooks would confess to the Frances Rose killing. (Cooks was caught minutes after the Frances Rose killing, mere blocks away, with the murder weapon in his waistband.)
Tom Manney, the manager of Black Self Help, and Dwight Stallings were also arrested but released, for lack of evidence. I have not been able to determine the names of the other two suspects who were released. For some peculiar reason, Howard refers to one by the pseudonym, “Jasper Childs.” All but one of the arrestees worked for the black Moslem business, Self Help Moving and Storage; Cooks worked for the Black Muslim-owned, Shabazz Bakery.
The convictions of J.C. Simon, Larry Green, and Manuel Moore were secured almost entirely through the testimony of one of their accomplices, Anthony Cornelius Harris.
Harris responded, as the authorities had hoped someone would, to enhanced reward money that was offered from a variety of public and private sources, for information leading to the arrest of the Zebra killers. The catalyst for Harris’ initiative, however, was a police artist’s sketch of two suspects, one of whom clearly was Harris.
Harris denied to police that he had committed any killings, but he obviously had been present at many of them, and thus an accomplice, and Clark Howard concluded from interviews with various Zebra killers and inspectors, and police reports, that Harris had murdered John Bambic. Harris also sought and got immunity, and new identities for himself, his girlfriend, and her child.
A note on the term “Zebra.” In the context of the NOI’s genocidal campaign, “Zebra” has been considered by many blacks to be controversial, and even racist. They are offended by the term’s black-on-white imagery. The term was employed by the SFPD, because the Department reserved radio frequency “Z” for all broadcasts related to the specific killing spree at hand. Killings were considered a part of the spree that were committed execution-style by a black against a white, using a .32 gun. (Only after Anthony Harris came in, did police discover that the machete killing of Quita Hague was a Zebra killing. Police also did not associate the Hague killing with the Zebra killings that followed it, because Jesse Lee Cooks sexually molested Quita Hague, and robbed the couple.) For clarity’s sake, all military and police organizations use a term for each letter in the alphabet. Thus, when one refers to “A Company,” one instead says, “Alpha Company;” for “B Company,” “Bravo Company,” and so on. One proceeds similarly when reading off a license plate number to a police dispatcher. For Z, one says “Zebra.”
But consider the blacks’ perspective. A black death squad is roaming around San Francisco, murdering whites in cold blood for no other reason than that they are white. It’s only natural that black folks would ignore the genocide in their midst, and focus on their feelings of racial slight, at the term used for the radio frequency police were using to try and solve the killings. The poor dears.
Note that this was over thirty years ago. Black sensitivities have since become much more refined. “Refugees,” anyone?
Howard recounts how local newspaper reporters interviewed blacks all over town, but could not find a single one who expressed any sorrow or sympathy for the victims. In fact, black San Franciscans were angry! After all, weren’t police focusing solely on black men? One black newspaper reporter even sought to embarrass police officials at a press conference, by insinuating that they should not be focusing on black men. In a show of common sense that today could spell career suicide, a police official reminded the scribe that all of the suspects were black men.
As some black residents commonsensically responded to a reporter’s question as to whether they felt afraid on the streets, no; the killers were only targeting whites.
But it gets worse.
On the night of January 28, 1974, the Death Angels dramatically upped the ante, shooting five whites, four of whom died, in five separate attacks.
The SFPD responded by circulating artists’ sketches of two suspects, and began stopping and questioning youngish, clean-cut black men who resembled the sketches. Howard writes,
The police began issuing specially printed ‘Zebra Check’ cards: identification cards about the size of a driver’s license, containing space for an individual’s name, address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, and the date, time, and location where he was stopped. The officer making the stop had to sign the card and note his badge number. If the person was stopped again, all he had to do was show the card along with his identification, and he was allowed to proceed without further delay.
The black organizations were not satisfied. They were determined to interfere with the police effort in any way they could.
I believe the legal term is, “obstruction of justice.”
The only black community leader who showed any decency was Dr. Washington Garner, a member of the three-man police commission, who reminded blacks that in the case of the Nob Hill serial rapist, in which the suspect was white, police had proceeded in identical fashion, stopping hundreds of white men for questioning.
Black organizations ignored Dr. Garner. The NAACP sued, and local Rev. Cecil Williams threatened a race war — as if the race war were not already in progress.
Officer Jesse Byrd (spelled Bird by some sources), the president of the segregated, black SFPD officers’ organization, Officers for Justice, also demanded an end to the street stops.
The local newspapers did show some gumption that they have long since lost. As Howard recounts, the San Francisco Examiner supported the stops, though in diplomatic language, while the San Francisco Chronicle was adamant in support of them.
The Zebra murders have brought out the police on highly visible, and reassuring patrols of the streets. The patrols are called ‘extreme measures’ by Mayor Alioto, who invoked them, and since their purpose is to involve police in stopping and questioning black men who may resemble a Zebra suspect, the procedure has created a certain amount of restiveness and complaint from black citizens and organizations. It is, however, hard to accept such complaints as justifiable. If the killers are black, there would be no point in stopping white men for questioning….
According to SFPD homicide Inspector (many other cities call the same rank, “detective”) Gus Coreris, who with his partner, Insp. John Fotinos, ran the case, at least one black officer conspired with the NOI to murder the one witness without whom no one besides Jesse Lee Cooks could ever have been prosecuted. (Cooks was apprehended minutes after he murdered Frances Rose, in the vicinity of the killing.)
Inspectors Coreris and Fotinos secreted away Anthony Harris, his girlfriend, Debbie, and her baby in a motel. One day, while Harris in the shower, Debbie called her NOI minister’s wife. The wife asked Debbie where she was staying, and Debbie told her. Within minutes, a squad of NOI assassins showed up to kill everyone. Coreris and Fotinos were able to sneak Harris and family out of the motel only seconds ahead of the NOI assassins, who, aware yet indifferent to the presence of the two inspectors, were conducting a room-to-room search of the motel.
After Harris and family were moved to a hotel, the NOI hit squad continued its fevered search for him.
When Insp. Coreris got back to his office the evening after rescuing Anthony Harris, there was a message waiting for him from a black police officer. The officer came to visit Coreris, and asked him for the new address where Anthony Harris was being secreted. The officer admitted to Coreris that members of the NOI had asked him to get the information. Coreris told the officer that the information was none of his business, and that Coreris would report him to his superiors.
Thus, a black police officer — at least one — conspired with the NOI to obstruct justice and murder a government witness.
And what happened, you may ask, to the rogue cop? Nothing.
One black policeman, homicide Insp. Rotea Gilford, did heroic work during the Zebra investigation. Insp. Gilford, the city’s first black homicide inspector, brought in Dwight Stallings. Insp. Gilford had grown up with Stallings, and knew Stallings had blood on his hands, but he lacked sufficient evidence to make the arrest stick. Gilford and Stallings have both since died.
Note that the Zebra killings were not the stuff of a tiny conspiracy. At least one dozen NOI member/killers attended regular Death Angel meetings at Black Self Help Moving and Storage. And at the NOI’s San Francisco headquarters, Mosque #26, the existence of the Death Angels, though not the exact identity of all of its members, was common knowledge.
The NOI’s local goal was to run all whites out of the city by the bay, and establish San Francisco (though surely with a new name) as America’s first Moslem city.
But these devils and their works were not limited to San Francisco.
As Howard writes, already by October 20, 1973, “there were 15 accredited Death Angels in California.” With the dozen aspiring Death Angels attending the loft meetings at Black Self help, that makes for 27. But there may have been as many as 50 Death Angels.
The California attorney general’s office had compiled a list of 71 execution-style murders committed around the state, either with a machete or a pistol, in which the killer or killers was always a well-dressed and groomed youngish black man, and the victim always white. In addition to San Francisco, the murders were carried out in Oakland, San Jose, Emeryville, Berkeley, Long Beach, Signal Hill, Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, Pacifica, San Diego, Los Angeles, and in the counties of San Mateo, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Contra Costa, Ventura and Alameda. The NOI genocide campaign had actually begun approximately three years before the San Francisco killings.
State police also acted in the professional manner of a bygone era. Dick Walley, of the state California Department of Justice’s Intelligence Analysis Unit (IAU), requested and got permission to “establish a central repository for all information pertaining to homicides with the following modus operandi: hackings, unprovoked street attacks, hitchhike kidnappings; all unexplained homicides of a similar nature, and all black-perpetrator/white-victim homicides.”
Imagine how large such a database would be today!
According to Clark Howard, however, the true number of Zebra murders was “just under 270.” And all of the Zebra killers but the four convicts and Anthony Harris have remained at large, ever since.
Lou Calabro, a retired SFPD lieutenant who was a sergeant at the time of the San Francisco killings, has labored for years to keep the memory of the Zebra killings alive, and to keep the convicts, who periodically come up for parole, in jail. In a recent telephone interview, Calabro told me that a team effort is required to ascertain the identities of all of the Zebra victims throughout the State of California. Calabro is the president of the European American Issues forum.
Since the NOI had revealed itself to be the deadliest domestic terrorist organization in American history, you’d expect that the FBI would have launched a national campaign against it, dwarfing its campaign against the Ku Klux Klan. But you’d be wrong. There was no FBI campaign. Indeed, it is the NOI that launched a campaign against the FBI, insisting that the Bureau had orchestrated the assassination of Malcolm X (Malcolm Little), who was in reality murdered by NOI assassins.
One of the greatest true crime stories ever written, Zebra is one of the best books you can’t buy, except used. And it’s not for lack of interest. It was printed once in hardcover and once in paper, and in spite of its fame and popularity, never reprinted. Peculiar, that.
You’d think that movies would have been based on it, but you’d be wrong. There is a move afoot to make a movie about the killings, only with a black policemen-hero, in inspectors Gus Coreris and John Fotinos’ stead. And that “hero” is not Insp. Rotea Gilford, but rather a politician named Ed Sanders, who via Officers for Justice made it all the way to chief, but who made no contribution that I could find to the Zebra investigation.
You’d think that such a heinous campaign of murder would be taught across the generations, so that no one would ever forget. But you’d be wrong. According to crime writer Julia Scheeres, few San Franciscans today are aware of the Zebra killings. Imagine it is the year 2031, and few New Yorkers are aware of 911.
I guess that after preaching against the evils of white, heterosexual males, the San Francisco public schools just don’t have any time left to teach about the Zebra killings.
Meanwhile, San Francisco journalists today are either silent about the Zebra killings, or have diminished and revised them beyond recognition, including editing out their racial character. And in academia, alleged historians have “disappeared” the history of the Zebra killings. And when anyone seeks to give students even indirect access to learn about the murders, the “historians” seek to destroy him.
But the unwriting of the Zebra murders is a topic for another time.
After reading this report, you may wonder, “Could Zebra happen again?”
What makes you think it hasn’t?
John Doe #169
Nelson Shields IV
And those of their attackers that were apprehended: Jesse Lee Cooks, J.C. Simon (aka J.C.X. Simon), Larry Green, Manuel Moore, Leroy Doctor and Anthony Cornelius Harris.