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Profile: Joseph Alioto
Joseph Alioto was a participant or observer in the following events:
Anthony Cornelius Harris. [Source: Corbis / TruTV]A wave of politically motivated murders takes place in San Francisco, claiming the lives of 15 people. Eight others are wounded. Most of the victims are shot to death; the first two victims, Richard Hague and his wife Quita, are attacked with machete blows. Quita Hague is also sexually molested. She is nearly decapitated, but Hague, though suffering terrible wounds, survives. Shopkeeper Saleem “Sammy” Erakat, a Jordanian Arab, is murdered, apparently for appearing “too white.” College student Angela Roselli, who survives an attack, remembers her assailant as having “this zombie look” as he shot her. “It was like he was in a trance. He was looking at me, but he was looking through me,” she says. The killings, called the “Zebra murders,” are later found to be racially motivated. “It was a very frightening time for the people of this city because of the random nature of the shootings,” future San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos will recall; Agnos is gravely wounded by one of the killers in December 1973, shot twice in the back. The killings are perpetrated by a small number of black extremists, members of the “Death Angels,” a splinter group from the Nation of Islam, which officially repudiates violence in its name. Mayor Joseph Alioto tells reporters that the “Death Angels” are a group “dedicated to the murder and mutilation of whites and dissident blacks.” Local press accounts falsely report that the killings are “initiation rituals” for membership in the Nation of Islam, and local African-American leaders take umbrage at Alioto’s implication that members of that organization are responsible for the murders. The name “Zebra” does not come from the black-against-white nature of the murders, but from the special radio band, “Z for Zebra,” used by police during their seven-month hunt for the killers. During the intensive police investigation, Alioto orders sweeping stop-and-search patrols that target many black males over six feet tall. After some 600 black men are detained, US District Judge Alphonso Zirpoli rules the dragnet is unconstitutional, calling it racial “profiling.” Agnos will recall: “The whole city was just in the grip of terror. But it was an ugly thing, a time when we failed our test on our commitment to civil liberties. When we are fearful, we tend to compromise that commitment too quickly.” Robert Brooks, a security guard detained and questioned by police, tells a reporter: “I think the mayor is persecuting the black community for the acts of a few crazy dudes. If the killings continue, some other people are talking about retaliation against blacks. That will be too bad. The thing is bad enough now.” Anthony Cornelius Harris, an accomplice in the murders, eventually gives information that leads to the arrest and conviction of four men: Manuel Moore, J.C. Simon, Larry C. Green, and Jessie Lee Cooks. All of the four are later convicted of 74 counts of murder, conspiracy, and assault. Moore, Simon, and Green will insist they are innocent of the charges; Cooks has already pled guilty to the murder of one of the victims, physical therapist Frances Rose. Another participant, Leroy Decker, who attempted to kill a gas company clerk, Robert Stoeckmann, is later convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. Five others are arrested and charged with participation in the murders, but are later released for lack of evidence. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/13/2002; TruTV, 2010]
Entity Tags: J.C. Simon, Art Agnos, Anthony Cornelius Harris, Angela Roselli, Alphonso Zirpoli, Frances Rose, Robert Stoeckmann, Saleem (“Sammy”) Erakat, Quita Hague, Larry C. Green, Joseph Alioto, Jessie Lee Cooks, Leroy Decker, Death Angels, Manuel Moore, Nation of Islam, Richard Hague
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
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