True Crime is the world’s most interesting subject. If that weren’t the case, Law & Order would have gone off the air in 1992. The Bay Area is home to a ton of creepy, confusing, and fascinating crimes, including the very famous Zodiac Killer and Jonestown Cult. Today, let’s look at the rarely mentioned Zebra Killers.
Quoting SFGate, the Zebra Killings were, “execution-style shootings that killed 14 people and wounded eight others between October 1973 and April 1974, mostly at night along the city’s Divisadero Street corridor. The gunmen were African American and the victims were mostly white. The killings got the Zebra label from police use of a special radio band, the Z channel, in their investigation.”
Here are 5 really interesting facts about the Zebra Killings:
1. The first murders in this spree occurred on October 19, 1973 and were particularly grisly. Richard Hague, 30, and his wife, Quita, 28, were kidnapped and forced into a white van as they took an evening walk around Coit Tower. Quita was fondled by two men and then nearly decapitated by a third with a machete. One of the killers then attacked Richard with the machete, but he survived.
2. One of the people wounded by one of the Zebra Killers was former San Francisco Mayor and all around charmer, Art Agnos, who was shot twice at point blank range while chatting on a sidewalk after a meeting in Potrero Hill.
3. (This comes from Wikipedia) In an unprecedented move, San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto and Police Chief Donald Scott announced that police officers would begin stopping and questioning "large numbers of black citizens" who resembled the description of the killer: a black man with a short Afro and a narrow chin. Once stopped, checked and cleared, each citizen received a specially printed Zebra Check card from the officer(s) that they could show to police if stopped again. Can you imagine?
4. One murder that the police didn’t know about until they began to apprehend the killers was that of a homeless man abducted from Ghirardelli Square, who was taken back to the killers’ hide-out. They tied him up, gagged him, and took turns hacking off his limbs until the homeless man died. The homeless man’s body parts later washed up on Ocean Beach. All of the other victims of the Zebra Killers were shot.
5. At the time, the trial of the Zebra Killers was the longest trial in California History. Four men, Larry Green, J.C.X. Simon, Manuel Moore and Jessie Lee Cooks, were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. Each was sentenced to life in jail. Jesse Lee Cooks actually came up for parole a couple of weeks ago. It was denied.
There are only 2 books on the Zebra Killings and like, 673,491 on the Zodiac Killer. The Zebra crimes are a terrifying and important part of San Francisco history. They deserve to creep you out as much as any other local crimes. Never forget.