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Hello, devil.
A Zebra attacker before shooting his victim

The "Zebra Killers", also known as the "Death Angels", were a Black Muslim cult of serial/spree killers active in San Francisco between October 1973 and April 1974. In May 1974, with two members already serving time, most of the remaining ones were all arrested following a tip-off. In March 1976, four of the latter were sentenced to life imprisonment for their crimes.

Background

The "Death Angels" cult was a fringe group of the Nation of Islam devoted to murdering white people, active in the 70s. The cult consisted of NOI members who were indoctrinated into believing that whites were "blue-eyed devils" and "grafted snakes", a malevolent race that (according to the Nation of Islam's own beliefs) was created thousands of years ago by a black leader and scientist named Yakub, whose purported intention was to create a race of weak people that he and his ancestors could rule in the years to come. Yakub's doctrine, among other things, caused splits in the NOI: Malcolm X rejected the story, while Louis Farrakhan continues to assert that it is true. Each member who killed four white children, five white women, or nine white men was awarded with "wings" that certified his "angel" status. That meant, a photograph of the member was taken and two wings were drawn at the neck, in black ballpoint. The picture was then placed on a board along with portraits of other angels, and the board was displayed during group meetings. Sometimes, a photograph of the murder was requested as proof. According to Anthony Harris, in October 1973 there were at least fifteen Death Angels in California who were displayed on the board. Indeed, the attorney general's office had secretly compiled a list of forty-five murders which had taken place throughout the state: all victims were white and all the known suspects were linked to the Black Muslim movement.

Nonetheless, the Death Angels group which rose to prominence between 1973 and 1974 was the one in San Francisco. Headquartered at the Black Self-Help Moving and Storage Company, on Market Street, the group mostly consisted of ex-cons with priors for property crimes (e.g. burglary, robbery), who had met and embraced Muslimism while in prison at San Quentin. The Black Self-Help was run by NOI member Thomas Manney, and employed many of the angels. Core members included: Manuel Moore, Larry Green, Jessie Lee Cooks, J.C.X. Simon, and Anthony Harris. They all attended Muhammad's Temple # 26, on Geary Street.

The Zebra Killings

1973

On October 20, 1973, Larry Green, Jessie Lee Cooks, and Anthony Harris began prowling the streets with a Dodge van, looking for white victims to abduct and kill. They stumbled upon Frank Stewart, 15, his sister Marie, 12, and Michele Carrasco, 11. Cooks and Harris approached them with a ruse, and Cooks grabbed Michele by the arm. Luckily enough, Frank was able to distract the two long enough to allow for himself and the other kids to run away in opposite directions. That very night, Richard and Quita Hague, 30 and 28 respectively, were having a walk together outside their home in Chestnut Street. The trio, who had seen the couple, surrounded the two, forced them in their van at gunpoint, and tied them up. Harris socked Richard when the latter didn't keep his face down. Cooks robbed them, struck Richard with a lug wrench, and started groping Quita. When Harris started doing the same, Green pulled over in a remote dockland area, took Quita outside the van, and hacked her throat with a machete. Richard, who in the meanwhile had fallen unconscious, was similarly hacked in the face by Cooks and left for dead. After Green took polaroids of his killing, the three set off again. Richard miraculously survived his wounds after he was taken to a hospital by a passing couple. On October 23, Cooks, coming back from Black Self-Help, assaulted and raped Linda Lou Enger, 27, on Waller Street. According to Clark Howard, he did not kill her because rape was despised by the Death Angels, and he was afraid they'd kick him out. Six days later, on October 29, Cooks shot repeatedly Frances Rose, a twenty-eight-year-old university student, near the University of California Extension campus. He was caught immediately after the fact. Cooks pled guilty to first-degree murder, which costed him legal assistance from the NOI, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Since the murder was committed with a .22 pistol, authorities didn't immediately link the attack with the other Zebra Killings.

On November 9, twenty-seven-year-old Pacific Gas & Electric clerk Robert Stoeckmann engaged in a struggle with Leroy Doctor, 35, when the latter aimed a gun at his face on Army Street. Though he was grazed in the neck by a bullet, Stoeckmann gained control of the weapon and shot Doctor, who was caught hours later by police officers. Doctor, who was out on parole at the time, was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon. On November 25, on Larkin Street, fifty-three-year-old store owner Saleem Erakat was tied-up, shot execution-style with a .32 caliber pistol, and robbed by J.C.X. Simon (who pulled the trigger) and Edward Land. Anthony Harris was also there as a lookout.

On December 11, Paul Roman Dancik, 26, was shot three times by Manuel Moore on Haight Street. On December 23, future San Francisco mayor Art Agnos, then thirty-five years old, was shot twice in the back by Simon on Wisconsin Street, but survived his wounds. That same evening, Marietta DiGirolamo, 31, was thrown into a Divisadero Street doorway and shot three times by Moore. On December 20, eighty-one-year-old Ilario Bertuccio was repeatedly shot in the back by Moore on Bancroft Street. Shortly afterwards, Theresa DeMartini, 20, survived his wounds after she was shot three times by Simon. On December 22, both Neal Moynihan, 19, and Mildred Hosler, 50, were shot down by Green, on 12th Street and Gough Street respectively. On December 24, the group switched back to its old M.O. of abduction and hacking: they kidnapped an unidentified white man on North Point Street, brought him to Black Self-Help, and hacked him with bladed weapons while he was alive. The remains were later disposed of by Harris, who dropped them in the San Francisco Bay.

1974

Composite sketches of a Zebra suspect, made after the Hayes and Filmore Street shootings. Anthony Harris would recognize himself in this drawings.

On January 28, 1974, the night of the historic Frazier-Ali fight, six people were shot on the same evening. First was Tana Smith, 32, who was hit twice in the back by Simon on Geary Boulevard. On Scott Street, Vincent Wollin, 69, was also hit twice in the back by Moore. On the corner of Howard and Ninth Street, Harris was pressured into shooting one John Bambic, 84. Forty-five-year-old Jane Holly was shot two times in the back by Moore while she was inside a launderette on Silver Avenue. Roxanne McMillan, 23, managed to survive his wounds, but was left paralyzed from the waist down, after she was shot twice by Simon on Edinburgh Street. Twenty-six-year-old hitchhiker Thomas Bates also survived his wounds after he was shot three times by either Simon or Moore in Emeryville, north of Oakland.

On April 1, two Salvation Army cadets: Thomas Rainwater, 19, and Linda Story, 21, were shot twice in the back by Green. Only Story survived her wounds. Thirteen days later, on April 14, Ward Anderson, 18, and Terry White, 15, were both shot by Green while standing at a bus stop on the corner of Hayes and Filmore Street. Both survived. Lastly, Nelson T. Shields IV, the twenty-three-year-old son of a wealthy DuPont executive, was shot three times in the back by Simon.

Investigation

John Fotinos (left) and Gus Coreris.

The slayings threw San Francisco into a state of panic: citizens were now afraid of going out alone, especially in the evening and night hours, when most of the killings took place. Police found itself groping in the dark due to the apparent randomness of the attacks, and mounted one of the largest manhunt in the city's history. A dedicated task force was created to deal with the murders, led by homicide detectives Gus Coreris and John Fotinos, who had investigated the Erakat case and found out that the same gun had been used in the subsequent shootings. Dave Toschi, who had become famous for his work on the Zodiac Killer case, was also part of the team. The task force was dubbed "Operation Zebra", as police chief Donald Scott had assigned the "Z" police radio frequency for their exclusive use. The killings were consequently named the "Zebra" murders. The name stuck because of the black-on-white nature of the crimes. Mayor Joseph Alioto and the SFPD faced widespread criticism when police officers began stopping and questioning black people indiscriminately, based on their resemblance to the composite sketch of the killers. Each citizen, once stopped and cleared, received a "Zebra check card" they could show to police if stopped again. Eventually, a federal judge, acting on a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and the ACLU, deemed the operation unconstitutional, and the program was suspended.

Arrests, Trial, and Aftermath

Once a $300.000 reward was offered in exchange for information leading to the arrest of the killers, a break finally came to the case on April 22, 1974. Anthony Harris, who had recognized himself in one of the composite sketches released to the public, telephoned the Zebra task force hotline and accepted to implicate himself and his accomplices in the killings in exchange for protection, immunity, and the reward money. On May 1, police raids resulted in the arrest of Manuel Moore, Larry Green, J.C.X. Simon, Thomas Manney and three other Black Self-Help employees: Dwight Stallings, Edgar Burton, and Clarence Jamerson. Although Manney, Stallings, Burton, and Jamerson were released because of lack of evidence, the others were all charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon. Green and Jessie Lee Cooks, who was already serving time for the murder of Frances Rose, were also charged with kidnapping and robbery for their roles in the Hague attack. Harris, who had initially denied killing any of the victims, eventually admitted shooting John Bambic "under pressure" from the others. Regardless, Harris' testimony was not the only evidence investigators had against the group: a Beretta Model 70, recovered by two young boys not far from the Shields crime scene, was found to be a match with bullets from ten of the 1974 Zebra attacks. A fence later testified that he had sold that gun to Thomas Manney.

The trial, one of the longest in American history, began on March 3, 1975, and ended March 9, 1976, with guilty verdicts for all the defendants, despite attempts by the defense to discredit Harris as a witness. Moore, Green, Cooks, and Simon were all sentenced to life imprisonment. Harris was given a new identity to start a new life with his family, away from San Francisco. The crimes were recounted in detail in a 1979 book by Clark Howard: Zebra. On March 12, 2015, Simon was found dead from unknown causes in his cell at San Quentin. In 2017, Moore died at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton, aged 75. Cooks and Green are currently incarcerated at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility and California State Prison, Solano, respectively. The Zebra Murders inspired a 2007 copycat killing perpetrated by a Black Muslim in Santa Barbara.

Modus Operandi

A 7.65 mm (.32 ACP) Beretta Model 70 pistol, similar to the one employed by the Zebra Killers.

The very first attack perpetrated by the Zebra Killers involved the abduction of a Caucasian couple. While the woman was fondled and her throat slashed with a machete, the man was beaten, his face butchered, and he was left for dead. From then on, the group's M.O. switched to close-range random shootings of white people (though, on one occasion, they tied up and shot an Arab man): they would approach their victims, shot them point-blank with a .32 Beretta Model 70 semi-automatic pistol, and flee. The gun employed by Jessie Lee Cooks to shoot the very first victim of the Zebra shootings was a .22 pistol. According to Anthony Harris, while the victims of the shootings were random-selected, the locations were not, and members usually made some scouting before taking action.

The group briefly reverted to its original modus operandi of abduction and attack with bladed weapons, when they kidnapped a still unidentified homeless man in his twenties, tied him up, and hacked him to death. His remains were later dropped into the San Francisco Bay.

Known Members

Confirmed

Manuel Moore.

  • Manuel Leonard Moore (? - 2017):
    • Nicknamed "Rims" in Clark Howard's book
    • 29 at the time of his arrest for the Zebra Killings
    • Born in Southern California, raised in San Bernardino County
    • Was in trouble for petty thefts from his early teens, and was either expelled or suspended from schools on a regular basis
    • Despite having a speech impediment, was able to reach tenth grade
    • Was regularly beaten by his father and eventually ran away from home
    • Had a long rap sheet consisting of robbery, battery, burglary, rape, drug possession, and other minor violations
    • Ended up in San Quentin for second-degree burglary. Was paroled after two years and three months
    • Was jailed once more for burglary thirteen months after his release. During this one-year-sentence he met Anthony Harris and Jessie Lee Cooks, and embraced Muslimism
    • Employed at the Black Self-Help Moving and Storage Company
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Attacked seven/eight (if he shot Thomas Bates) people in total
    • Found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon. Sentenced to life imprisonment
    • Died in 2017 (aged 75) at the California Health Care Facility in Stockton

Larry Green.

  • Larry Craig Green (1953):
    • Also known as "Larry 9X"
    • Nicknamed "Yellow" in Clark Howard's book for his complexion
    • 22 at the time of his arrest for the Zebra Killings
    • Born and raised in Berkeley. Came from a decent home and family
    • Was a high-school basketball star
    • Dropped out of college and joined the Nation of Islam
    • Employed at the Black Self-Help Moving and Storage Company from 1972
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Was never incarcerated before the murders
    • Responsible for five of the attacks, including the hacking of Quita Hague, which he captured with a Polaroid camera
    • Found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon. Sentenced to life imprisonment

Jessie Lee Cooks.

  • Jessie Lee Cooks (?-June 30, 2021):
    • Nicknamed "Head" in Clark Howard's book
    • 30 at the time of the guilty verdicts
    • Raised in East St. Louis, the older of four siblings
    • Was committed to the Illinois State Training School for delinquent boys after he attempted to smother his mother with a pillow
    • After his release, his family moved to Omaha, where he was enrolled in Technical Junior High School. He eventually dropped out in ninth grade
    • Married in 1963, at eighteen, and fathered four children. Later moved to Los Angeles
    • Briefly worked as a parking-lot attendant but soon turned to robberies as a means to support his family.
    • After he was caught robbing banks, he was relocated to several federal correctional facilities before he was paroled out
    • Discovered his wife had born two illegitimate children while he was inside. Refused to live with her and moved to Omaha, New Orleans, and Chicago
    • Was again arrested for violating parole. Spent six months at San Quentin, where he met Anthony Harris, Manuel Moore, and embraced Muslimism
    • After his release, in June 1973, he was employed at the Shabazz Bakery
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Responsible for the rape of Linda Lou Enger, on October 21, 1973
    • Participated in the Hague attack and only personally killed one victim, Frances Rose, on October 29. Was caught immediately thereafter
    • Pled guilty to first-degree murder in December 1973. Sentenced to life imprisonment
    • The Nation of Islam refused to provide him with a defense attorney because of the deal he had struck, which was "against NOI rules"
    • Received another life imprisonment sentence, in March 1976, for his role in the Hague attack

J.C.X. Simon.

  • J.C.X. Simon (May 5, 1945 - March 12, 2015):
    • Nicknamed "Skullcap" in Clark Howard's book
    • Born J.C. Simon on May 5, 1945, in Opelousas, Louisiana. His family then moved to Beaumont, Texas
    • Was the fourth of eight siblings
    • His parents separated when he was ten
    • Worked as a busboy and attended Lincoln High School
    • Was accepted at Texas College, in Tyler, but dropped out after three years of irregular attendance
    • Married and fathered a daughter in 1970. Relocated to Houston and worked as a food selector in a grocery supply store for a while
    • Embraced Muslimism in the 1970s. Left his wife because of his newfound faith, and returned to Beaumont
    • Moved to San Francisco on advice of an older fellow member of the Nation of Islam. Was arrested for possession of a stolen gun shortly after his arrival
    • Found employment at the Black Self-Help Moving and Storage Company in January 1971
    • Eventually remarried
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Committed six/seven (if he shot Thomas Bates) attacks in total
    • Found guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon. Was sentenced to life imprisonment
    • Found dead in his cell on March 12, 2015. The cause of death remains unknown

Anthony Harris.

  • Anthony Cornelius Harris (1946):
    • Nicknamed "Judo" in Clark Howard's book
    • 28 when he turned himself in
    • Born and raised in Southern California
    • The eldest of a large, poor family
    • At 14, he was declared mentally defective and committed to an institution
    • Dropped out of school in ninth grade
    • Once married to a white girl, had two children
    • Judo expert
    • Served two and a half years at San Quentin for beating up a police officer in Long Beach
    • Was again sent to San Quentin for burglarizing a Long Beach realty company. During this sentence, he met Manuel Moore and Jessie Lee Cooks, embraced Muslimism, and began teaching judo
    • Found employment at the Black Self-Help Moving and Storage Company in August 1973, was fired on February 1, 1974
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Held a grudge against Simon because he thought him to be involved in the death of his brother, Pinky Harris, who allegedly died at the hands of Southern California muslims
    • Turned himself in on April 22, 1974, and implicated his accomplices to "stop a lot of senseless killing". Some argued he did it in order to get the reward and to get even with the muslims
    • Initially denied involvement in the murders, but later admitted shooting John Bambic "under pressure"
    • Was granted immunity and witness protection. Started a new life away from San Francisco with his girlfriend, Deborah Turner, and his newborn son
  • Leroy Doctor:
    • Also known as Leroy Double X
    • 35 when he was arrested for assaulting Robert Stoeckamnn. The latter survived, but was left slightly wounded
    • Caught hours after the shooting. He was out on parole at the time
    • Served time for assault with a deadly weapon

Alleged

From left to right: Edgar Burton, Thomas Manney, Clarence Jamerson, and Dwight Stallings.

  • Thomas Manney:
    • 31 when he was arrested in relation to the Zebra Killings. He was married with six children
    • Attended St. Ignatius High School and San Francisco University
    • Former football star. Was drafted in 1963 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but never played
    • Manager and owner of the Black Self-Help Moving and Storage Company from 1967. The Black Self-Help was allegedly a cover-up for a burglary operation
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Allegedly provided the killers with the Cadillac they drove during some of the shootings, as well as one of the two murder weapons
    • Was released due to lack of evidence
  • Dwight Stallings:
    • 28 when he was arrested in relation to the Zebra Killings
    • Black Self-Help Storage and Moving Company employee
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Was released due to lack of evidence
  • Edgar Burton:
    • Also known as "Douglas Burton"
    • Nicknamed "Jasper Childs" in Clark Howard's book
    • 22 when he was arrested in relation to the Zebra Killings
    • Grew up in Mississippi
    • Served in the U.S. Navy, moved to California, and got a job as an employee at Black Self-Help, in November 1973
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Was released due to lack of evidence
  • Clarence Jamerson:
    • 27 when he was arrested in relation to the Zebra Killings
    • Married with two children
    • Was convicted in 1970 of receiving stolen property in Santa Clara County, and served prison time at Susanville
    • In July 1972, he started working at Black Self-Help as a mechanic
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Was released due to lack of evidence
  • Edward Land:
    • Served two prison terms, met Moore while behind bars
    • Came to San Francisco from Los Angeles in 1973, and worked at Black Self-Help until the end of October 1973
    • Became a salesman for the Nation of Islam but continued visiting his old workplace
    • Attended Death Angels meetings
    • Implicated by Harris in the robbery-murder of Saleem Erakat, along with Simon
    • Denied involvement and was never prosecuted

Known Victims

With the exception of the Bates attack, all of the following occurred in San Francisco, California. For what concerns kidnapped victims, locations refer to where they were abducted.

Richard and Quita Hague.

Robert Stoeckmann.

Art Agnos.

Nelson T. Shields IV.

  • 1973:
    • October 20:
      • Francis Street: (all attempted to abduct by Harris, Cooks, and Green; all fled and survived)
        • Michele Denise Carrasco, 11
        • Marie Stewart, 12
        • Frank Stewart, 15
      • Chestnut Street: Richard and Quita Haugue (both were abducted, tied up, robbed, and attacked with machetes)
        • Quita Hague, 28 (was fondled by Cooks and Harris; her throat was hacked by Green)
        • Richard Hague, 30 (Quita's husband; attempted, but survived; was beaten by Harris and Cooks, and his face was butchered by Cooks)
    • October 23, Waller Street: Linda Lou Enger, 27 (raped and threatened by Cooks; survived)
    • October 29, 55 Laguna Street: Frances Rose, 28 (shot repeatedly in the face and chest by Cooks)
    • November 9, Army Street: Robert Wayne Stoeckmann, 27 (survived, was grazed in the neck by a shot fired by Doctor)
    • November 25, 452 Larkin Street: Saleem Erakat, 53 (tied up, shot execution-style by Simon, and robbed)
    • December 11, Haight Street: Paul Roman Dancik, 26 (shot three times by Moore)
    • December 13:
      • Wisconsin Street: Art Agnos, 35 (attempted, but survived; was shot twice in the back by Simon and left wounded in the insides)
      • Divisadero Street: Marietta DiGirolamo, 31 (thrown into a doorway and shot three times in the chest and back by Moore)
    • December 20:
      • Bancroft Street: Ilario Bertuccio, 81 (shot four times in the chest by Moore)
      • Central Avenue: Theresa de Martini, 20 (attempted, but survived; was shot three times by Simon)
    • December 22:
      • 12th Street: Neal Moynihan, 19 (shot in the face, neck, and heart by Green)
      • Gough Street: Mildred Hosler, 50 (shot four times in the chest by Green)
    • December 24: North Point Street: "John Doe #169", 18-30 (abducted and hacked while he was alive; his remains were dropped into the San Francisco Bay)
  • 1974:
    • January 28:
      • Geary Boulevard: Tana Smith, 32 (shot twice in the back by Simon)
      • Scott Street: Vincent Wollin, 69 (shot twice in the back by Moore)
      • Howard and Ninth Street: John Bambic, 84 (shot twice by Harris)
      • 1440 Silver Avenue: Jane Holly, 45 (shot twice in the back by Moore)
      • 102 Edinburgh Street: Roxanne McMillan, 23 (attempted, but survived; was shot twice by Simon, and left paralyzed from the waist down)
      • Emeryville: Thomas Bates, 26 (attempted, but survived; was shot three times by either Simon or Moore)
    • April 1: Geary Street:
      • Thomas Rainwater, 19 (shot twice in the back by Green)
      • Linda Story, 21 (attempted, but survived; was shot twice in the back by Green, and left with nerve damage)
    • April 14: Hayes and Filmore Street:
      • Ward Anderson, 18 (attempted, but survived; shot at a bus stop by Moore)
      • Terry White, 15 (attempted, but survived; shot at a bus stop by Moore like the previous victim)
    • April 16: Vernon Street: Nelson T. Shields IV (shot three times in the back by Simon)
  • The Zebra Killers were believed by some, including former mayor of San Francisco Joseph Alioto and author Clark Howard, to have been responsible for at least 73 attacks in total, others believe possibly more.

On Criminal Minds

While the Zebra Killers were never directly mentioned or referenced on the show, they appear to have been an inspiration for the following killing teams:

  • Season Three
    • 23rd Street Killers ("True Night") - Both were murderous groups who operated in California, targeted random victims (presumably in TSK's case), attacked a man and woman, and in both attacks the woman died and the man was grievously injured with a bladed weapon and left for dead, but was found and saved in time.
    • New York Terrorist Cell ("Lo-Fi" and "Mayhem") - Both were teams of extremists who selected random victims (though the Zebra Killers' victims were almost exclusively whites), shot them with small Beretta pistols at close range, and fled on foot. Also, in both cases the shootings were committed by individuals belonging to ethnic minorities, and were meant to be an initiation for members of the two groups. The Cell also appeared in Season Four.

Sources

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