Zebra Killings

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Whenever whites commit crimes against blacks, the dastardly deeds make headlines and are featured on nightly news programs.  The president wrings his hands and makes speeches about racism.  The Promise Keepers hug one another, cry, and confess to a newly minted transgression, the “sin of racism.”  Western Europeans look down their long noses at us.  Jesse Jackson and other black race hustlers make appearances on radio and television.  Christian churches ask their congregations to atone for collective guilt.  Colleges announce new courses on race relations.  Textbooks record the events for posterity.  There is no end to the paroxysm of self-flagellation.

Meanwhile, the black crime wave against whites continues.  For every violent crime whites commit against blacks, blacks commit 13 against whites.  Most of the crimes, many horrific, are mentioned only briefly by the news media or go unreported.  Nor do they find their way into textbooks.  While nearly every American is familiar with the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas, very few know that whites were killed by blacks in a similar manner before and after the Byrd killing.  Neither can more than a few Americans identify the Zebra killings of the 1970’s.  I would not be surprised if most Americans thought it a reference to a slaughter in an African game park.

The Zebra killings were among the bloodiest string of murders in American history, claiming at least 15 dead and 9 wounded in San Francisco alone.  The total murdered in California may have exceeded 70.  The victims were selected for one reason only: They were white.  The Zebra perpetrators were Death Angels, a group of Black Muslims determined to exterminate the white race.  They were awarded “wings” for their murders.  White children were considered the most valuable targets, followed by white women, and then white men.  Black Muslims subscribe to a theology of black supremacy—something rarely mentioned by the media when describing Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.  Whites are “blue-eyed devils,” an evil race created thousands of years ago by Yacub, a wicked black scientist.

The pogrom against the blue-eyed devils began on an October night in 1973 in San Francisco.  Two officers in a patrol car, Ben McAllister and Bruce Marovich, came upon a van parked on Chestnut Street in the North Beach district.  Standing alongside the van were three black men, well dressed in suits and ties.  They told the cops that they had just finished changing a flat tire.  A decade earlier, the patrolmen would have gotten out of their car and asked, “Why aren’t your hands dirty?  Where’s the flat tire?  What do you have in the back of that van?”  But the SFPD had changed its procedures during the late 60’s, and officers now lived in fear of exceeding their bounds.  McAllister and Marovich moved on.

There was something in the back of the van on Chestnut Street, but it wasn’t a flat tire.  The something was a black man and a bound white couple, Richard and Quita Hague.  The Hagues were driven to an industrial section of the city, where Quita was sexually assaulted, then hacked to pieces by the Death Angels using machetes.  Richard was similarly hacked.  They were both left for dead.  Nearly decapitated, Quita was indeed dead, but Richard regained consciousness.  Although his hands were tied behind his back, his body soaked in blood, and the skin of his face and head hanging in strips, he stumbled to a nearby street.  Witnesses were aghast.  Thus began the Zebra killings.

A week later, the Death Angels pumped several bullets into Frances Rose as she stopped her car.  She died instantly.  Week by week, other whites were attacked.  Most, such as 81-year-old janitor and Italian immigrant Ilario Bertucci, or 19-year-old Neal Moynihan, a fifth-generation Irish-American resident of San Francisco, were relatively unknown.  Others, such as Art Agnos, a politician and future mayor of San Francisco, and Nelson Shields, the son of a wealthy DuPont executive, were of some prominence.

Agnos was one of the few to survive an attack.  Shot twice in the back, Agnos suffered damage to his kidneys, spleen, and lungs.  Shields was also shot in the back, but the handsome 23-year-old died instantly.  His father, Nelson “Pete” Shields, took a leave of absence from DuPont to work full-time for the National Council to Control Handguns.  He quickly came to chair the organization and later renamed it Handgun Control Inc.  He made it clear from the beginning that he wanted handguns prohibited.  He said nothing about the Death Angels, Black Muslims, the Nation of Islam, black crime—or machetes.

As the death toll mounted, tourism and nightlife in San Francisco declined precipitously.  Kevin Mullen, then a lieutenant, who would eventually rise to deputy chief of the SFPD, told me that patrolling the streets was eerie.  “The city was like a ghost town as dark fell,” he said.  As a consequence, Mayor Joseph Alioto announced Operation Zebra: Hundreds of cops would patrol the city and stop and question those who fit the profile of the suspects.  This meant young black men.  More than 500 of them were stopped and questioned before a federal judge, ruling on a suit sponsored by the NAACP and the ACLU, declared the profiling unconstitutional.

The SFPD offered a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers.  A young black man, Anthony Harris, responded almost immediately—and he had information that only someone who had witnessed the killings could have known.  Moreover, he described the torture-murder (with a knife, a meat cleaver, and a machete) of a homeless white man that had not yet appeared in the newspapers.  Eventually, four men were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.  There were several times that number involved who escaped punishment.  “The Zebra killings were a nightmare for the average cop working the streets of San Francisco,” retired SFPD lieutenant Lou Calabro recently told me.  “The nightmare for America is that this tragedy is essentially denied as ever happening.” 

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