Little Bits of History

Up on the Roof

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 7, 2014
Mark James Robert Essex

Mark James Robert Essex

January 7, 1973: An American killing spree comes to an end. Mark James Robert Essex was born in 1949 in Emporia, Kansas. He graduated from Emporia Senior High School in 1967 and went on to Emporia State University. He dropped out after one semester. He joined the US Navy in 1969 as a dental technician and was stationed in San Diego, California. He was stationed there for two years and claimed to have been subjected to unending racial abuse. Other African-American friends explained that it was just the way of the military and while a bitter pill to swallow, he had to learn to live with it. He had to learn that the Navy was not like Emporia. Instead, he went AWOL from October 19 to November 16, 1970 and was given a general discharge for unsuitability on February 10, 1971. After his discharge, he became involved with black radicals in San Francisco, California and joined the New York Black Panthers.

He was in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve in 1972. He was 23 years old at the time. He parked his car a block away from the New Orleans Police Department. He walked to a parking lot across the street and shot and killed 19-year-old Cadet Alfred Harrell and wounded Lt. Horace Perez. Harrell was also black and it was later noted that Essex was planning to kill “just honkies”. Essex managed to escape capture and while being pursued, he broke into a building and officers responded, not knowing it was connected to the prior shootings. Essex shot Officer Hosli who later died of the injuries. Essex then managed to escape again.

At 10:15 AM on this day, Essex shot Joe Perniciaro, a grocer, and then carjacked Marvin Albert. Essex drove to the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Hotel across from City Hall and the Louisiana Supreme Court. He climbed the stairs only to find his entry blocked by locked fire doors. He continued to climb to the 18th floor where he gained entry. He told three black employees he was there just to kill white people. He found his first two victims in vacationing Virginians, Dr. Robert Steagall and his wife, Betty. After shooting them, he entered their room and set the curtains on fire. After leaving the room, he shot his way into several more rooms and started more fires. He shot both the general and assistant managers; both died.

Police and fire arrived quickly and Essex kept shooting at those who tried to enter the building. More officer were sent to effect rescue of the downed policemen and were also shot. A Tulane medical student walked into an open field and carried a wounded officer to safety without incident. Lt. General Pitman of the US Marine Corps offered the use of a CH-46 military helicopter and as nightfall came, they were able to trap Essex on the roof. Gunfire was exchanged with Essex hitting the helicopter’s transmission. Sharpshooters aboard the helicopter and stationed on nearby buildings were able to stop Essex and an autopsy showed more than 200 gunshot wounds. Essex had shot 19 people, ten of them police officers. Nine of these people died. When entering Essex’s apartment, it was found to be covered in anti-white graffiti.

I was raised to believe that excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism. And that’s how I operate my life. – Oprah Winfrey

Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human. It’s a self-centered falsehood that corrupts our minds into believing we are right to treat others as we would not want to be treated. – Alveda King

Racism is a refuge for the ignorant. It seeks to divide and to destroy. It is the enemy of freedom, and deserves to be met head-on and stamped out. – Pierre Berton

Racism is taught in our society, it is not automatic. It is learned behavior toward persons with dissimilar physical characteristics. – Alex Haley

Also on this day: Zeus’s Lovers – In 1610, the four Galilean moons were discovered.
CQD – What? – In 1904, a new distress signal was called for.
Around the world in more than 80 days – In 1887, Thomas Stevens completed his trip around the world on a bike.
Fire! – In 1950, the Mercy Hospital in Davenport, Iowa caught fire.


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