VITAL SIGNSrnCRIMErnThe Zebra Killingsrnby James P. LubinskasrnAs President Clinton’s Dialogue onrnRace draws to a close, his panel willrnbe offering a final report on how to remedyrnthe evils of racism in America. Givenrnthe members of the hand-picked panel,rnit can be said with certainty that thernracism to be remedied will be whiternracism and only white racism. But whilernthis modern day Kerner Commission isrnworking on its report, a California grouprnis trying to focus attention on one of thernmost troubling episodes of racial murderrnin the nation’s history.rnThe San Jose-based European AmericanrnIssues Forum (E/AIF) is going tornhold a memorial ceremony on Octoberrn20 to mark the 25th anniversary of thernZebra killings —one of America’s worstrncases of serial murder. These raciallyrnmotivated hate crimes occurred betweenrn1972 and 1974 and left 71 people dead.rnThey were dubbed the Zebra killings becausernof the radio channel used by thernpolice investigating the case (channelrnZ). But the name would later take on arnmore sinister meaning as it became apparentrnthat a group of blacks was systematicallyrnkilling whites merely becausernthey were white.rnIt was not until the attacks becamerncentralized in San Francisco starting inrnOctober 1973 that police knew they hadrna case of serial killings on their hands.rnWhile all serial murders are disturbingrnand the work of psychopathic minds, authoritiesrnwere doubly disturbed by thernnature of these attacks. Not only werernthey racially motivated, but the victimsrntended to be women and slight or elderlyrnmen who could not fight back.rnThe victims were not chosen byrnchance. The killers were part of an organizationrncalled “The Death Angels,” arngroup within the Nation of Islam whichrnbelieved the standard NOI line aboutrnwhites: that whites were the evil, inferiorrncreation of Yacub, the mad black scientistrnwho wanted a race of inferiors to rulernover. The Death Angels took this logic arnstep further in believing they could earnrn”points” towards becoming an angelrnwhen they died if they killed whites—especiallyrnwomen and children.rnThe first San Francisco killing occurredrnon October 20, 1973. Richardrnand Quita Hague were a young couplernout for an after dinner walk when theyrnwere abducted at gunpoint and forcedrninto a van. They were bound, andrnRichard was hit several times with a lugrnwrench and knocked unconscious. Quitarnwas sexually molested and hackedrnwith a machete. While begging for herrnlife, she was decapitated. Before leaving,rnthe attackers hacked at the face of the stillrnunconscious man. Miraculously, he survivedrnand was able to give information tornthe police.rnThe brutal attack on the Haguesrnmarked the beginning of 179 days of terrorrnin San Francisco that would result inrn23 victims, 15 of them murdered; somernof the others were left paralyzed or withrnpermanent nerve damage. One of thernsurvivors is Art Agnos, who would go onrnto become (an extremely liberal) mayorrnof San Francisco.rnThe Agnos shooting illustrates that thernattacks were in no way a political protestrnof “oppression.” A member of the CaliforniarnCommission on Aging, Agnos wasrnattending a meeting in a black neighborhoodrnto discuss building a governmentrnhealth clinic in the area. In the samernneighborhood, some of the killers werern”hunting” for whites. As the meeting wasrnletting out, Agnos stopped to talk withrntwo women. One of the killers came uprnbehind him and shot him twice in thernback. The bullets ripped apart his lungs,rnspleen, and kidneys. Luckily, bystandersrncalled an ambulance and Agnos barelyrnsurvived.rnZebra (1980) by crime writer ClarkrnHoward, remains the definitive book onrnthe killings. Using court records, policernreports, witnesses, and interviews withrnthe killers themselves, Howard was ablernto piece together the horrid details of thernmurder and the unrelenting hatred thatrninspired the killers.rnBrutality and a lack of remorse on thernpart of the criminals mark the attacks.rnThey were not murdering human beingsrnbut “grafted snakes,” “blue-eyed devils”rnand “white motherf- s.” More oftenrnthan not, they chose the weak and defenselessrnto kill. Vincent Wollin wasrnshot in the back and killed on his 69thrnbirthday. Mildred Hosier, an obese olderrnwoman, was shot while walking to arnbus stop after frantically trying to getrnaway from her younger, faster attacker.rnIlario Bertuccio—a 135 pound, 81-yearoldrnman —was killed while walkingrnhome from work. Marietta DiGirolamo,rna 5′!” white woman with a blackrnboyfriend, was shot and killed on her wayrnto a nearby bar. In none of these casesrndid the victims do anything to provokernthe murderers. They just had white skinrnand were in the wrong place at the wrongrntime.rnAs the murders added up, the SanrnFrancisco police came under pressure tornsolve and stop the crimes. In what wasrnknown as Operation Zebra, more policernwere put on the street and securityrnchecks were beefed up. E/AIF PresidentrnLouis Calabro was a street patrolrnsergeant on the San Francisco PolicernDepartment at the fime and was a part ofrnOperation Zebra. He describes thernmood of the police force during the attacks:rnI think what most cops were thinkingrnwas how the hell are we goingrnto end it. It kept happening whilernwe were on full alert. They wouldrnhit and run and make their escapernbefore it could be reported. Therernwere rumors a b o u t . . . a departmentrncop who was a member ofrnthe Officers for Justice, a black policernofficers association primarilyrnformed to get more promotionalrnjobs for themselves. We were allrnappalled and disgusted with the viciousnessrnand randomness of thernattacks—old people . . . stark terrorrnat not being able to stop it.rnThe increased police presence hadrnthe predictable effect of enraging thernblack community. In what was perhapsrna precursor to the Los Angeles riots andrnthe O.J. Simpson trial, blacks in SanrnFrancisco showed a troubling lack of remorsernat the murders of their whitern36/CHRONICLESrnrnrn