Domestic Terrorism: The Nation of Islam and the Zebra Murders
By Nicholas Stix
October 22, 2006
The three men went out hunting that night. But their prey was human. White humans, to be exact. Only they didn’t consider whites human, but rather “grafted snakes,” “white devils,” and “blue-eyed devils.”
They grabbed three children, and tried to get them into their van, but the resourceful kids ran away.
The children were Michele Denise Carrasco, 11, Marie Stewart, 12, and Marie’s 15-year-old brother, Frank.
The angry, frustrated hunters went back to their van, and sought after new quarry. They found it in the form of a happy married couple, out for an after-dinner walk near their home on Telegraph Hill. The wife ran away, but when one of the hunters put a gun to her husband’s chest and said he’d kill him, she stopped and returned. Her devotion cost her her life.
In the van, the hunters brutally assaulted the husband and wife, and two of the hunters (Cooks and Green) robbed the husband and wife, and two (Cooks and Harris) sexually molested the wife. Parking near some deserted railroad tracks in the Potrero District, the hunters had at husband and wife alike, taking turns hacking their faces with a machete, and nearly decapitating the wife, before leaving them for dead.
The couple was named Quita and Richard Hague. The date was October 20, 1973.
Quita Hague was dead, but a hideously mutilated Richard Hague miraculously survived.
The hunters that night were Jesse Lee Cooks, Larry Green, and Anthony Cornelius Harris. Cooks, Green, and Harris were members of the Black Muslims (now known as the Nation of Islam), who had been recruited, along with dozens of other Black Muslims, to randomly murder whites.
That was the official beginning of the “Zebra” Killings, which would be carried out on the streets of San Francisco, and would hold the city by the bay – one of the most beautiful in the world – in a state of terrified siege for the next six months. Or rather, would hold white San Franciscans in a state of terror. As black residents told reporters, they felt just fine, thank you.
The Zebra Killings were so called because the San Francisco Police Department reserved radio frequency “Z” (“Zebra” in military and police parlance) for all dispatches that might be related to the serial killings.
It would be months before the SFPD would connect the Quita Hague killing to the Zebra case. That is because although the Hague case had in common with the San Francisco killings and attempted murders to come, that it was a random black-on-white murder by youngish black men who stood out for being conservatively dressed and groomed, the cases that formed the profile that stood out to the detectives in the SFPD Homicide Detail were all carried out with a .32 pistol, and did not involve robbery or sexual molestation. (Youngish black men who were conservatively dressed and groomed were and are hallmarks of the Nation of Islam (NOI).)
Killers and Suspects
Between October 20, 1973 and April 16, 1974, Jesse Lee Cooks, Larry Green, and Anthony Cornelius Harris, as well as J.C. (aka J.C.X.) Simon and Manuel Moore, murdered at least 15 whites and grievously wounded at least another nine whites in failed murder attempts. In at least one case (“John Doe #169”), the devils kidnapped a homeless white man, took him to Black Self-Help Moving and Storage, the NOI-owned business where all of the above-named killers but Cooks worked, bound and gagged their victim, and began chopping off his body parts while he was still alive. (Cooks worked at the NOI-owned Shabazz Bakery; according to Anthony Harris, the NOI assassins had butchered at least one other white victim at Black Self-Help.)
One of the detectives who worked the Zebra detail told me that one of the cases in which the dismembered white murder victim could not be identified was known as “the turkey case,” since the victim, who was found on Ocean Beach minus his feet and hands (and head?), was trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Jesse Lee Cooks also raped twice and sodomized (at least) one white woman, whom he had planned on murdering, as well, but who succeeded in maneuvering him, much to his consternation, into letting her live.
Black Self-Help was managed by Tom Manney, an NOI member who, according to a different detectives from the case was a former St. Ignatius High School and City College football star. According to Clark Howard, the author of the definitive work on the Zebra killings, Zebra: The true account of the 179 days of terror in San Francisco (1979), Manney lent his black Cadillac to the murderers, who used it in several of the killings. According to Howard, an illegal .32 pistol that Manney owned was the murder weapon in several of the killings. Manney was arrested for the Zebra Killings, but released for – in the DA’s opinion – lack of evidence.
One of the detectives who worked the case told me that more recently, Manney was charged with insurance fraud. The detective recalled that in addition to serial murder, Black Self-Help was a burglary operation. So much for the NOI’s self-image as a clean-cut, racial supremacist religion preaching racial annihilation while refraining from common crimes such as robbery, burglary, and rape.
In addition to Manney, Clarence Jamerson, Dwight Stallings and a fourth man whose identity I could not determine, were also arrested in the Zebra Killings, but released for lack of evidence. The fourth man was inexplicably given the pseudonym “Jasper Childs” by Zebra author Clark Howard.
Stallings was arrested by Inspector Rotea Gilford, who was the first black promoted to the SFPD Homicide Bureau. Gilford, who had grown up with Stallings, was certain that the latter had blood on his hands, but was unable to prove it. Later, while working as a longshoreman, Stallings died in a work accident.
After Gilford retired from the SFPD, he became a close political advisor to his old friend, former California State Assembly speaker and then-San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. Gilford has since unfortunately died from diabetes. Last year, Gus Coreris remembered Gilford as “a good policeman,” the highest praise one cop will give another.
Nation of Cut-Throats
As one of the inspectors from the SFPD Homicide Detail team that ran the case told me on Thursday, investigators at the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of CII and the FBI had been quietly compiling material on similar murders up and down the state of California and the East Coast, respectively, since 1970. (A detective from the Zebra case called CII “Criminal Intelligence and Investigation,” Clark Howard called it “Criminal Investigation and Identification,” and a timeline of the California Department of Justice identifies CII as “Criminal Identification and Information.”)
One such East Coast murder was the April 14, 1972 ambush murder of Patrolman Philip W. Cardillo in Harlem’s NOI Mosque #6, by mosque members, following a false “officer in need of assistance” call one member had made.
That was Min. Louis Farrakhan’s mosque at the time, and if historian Vincent J. Cannato’s recounting of the murder in The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and the Struggle to Save New York (2001) holds up, Farrakhan was at least guilty of obstruction of justice, if not conspiracy to murder a police officer.
Retired NYPD Lt. Randy Jurgenson, who responded to the mosque ambush 34 years ago, has just finished a book on the case, Circle of Six. Two weeks ago, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who also responded to the mosque ambush that fateful day, announced that he is reopening the case. At the time, suspect Lewis 17X Dupree, was acquitted of murder charges.
Getting back to the West Coast, the retired SFPD inspector told me that the San Francisco operation was run through the NOI’s local Mosque #26.
The killers all sought membership in an elite NOI group called the “Death Angels,” which had recruiting meetings and pep rallies in the attic at Black Self-Help. In order to become a Death Angel, one had to murder four white children, five white women, or nine white men. In the NOI, cowardice is a virtue.
According to Clark Howard, the NOI had gangs of assassins up and down the state of California:
At that time, there were fifteen accredited Death Angels in California. To achieve their collective membership, they had already quietly killed throughout the state 135 white men, 75 white women, 60 white children – or enough of a combination thereof to give each of them his required four, five, or nine credits. This was October of 1973. The California attorney general’s office had already secretly compiled a list of forty-five of those killings which had taken place in the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Long Beach, Signal Hill, Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, Pacifica, San Diego, and Los Angeles; and in the counties of San Mateo, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Contra Costa, Ventura, and Alameda. All of the victims were white. All the known suspects in the killings had been associated with the Black Muslim movement. The killings were even then continuing throughout the state.
The operation came down from the highest reaches of the NOI, making the NOI the bloodiest domestic terrorist group in American history.
During the same period, murdering whites had become quite a sport for black San Francisco criminals, a sport that did not bother black San Francisco civilians at all, who were of little help to police in solving the Zebra killings. On the bloodiest night of the killings, January 28, 1974, the NOI murderers shot five whites within two hours, leaving four dead and one crippled. In one case that night, the killers shot to death a white woman, Jane Holly, in front of eight black women in a well-lighted laundromat. Yet none of the black women would give police a useful description of the killer.
Had blacks helped police, the NOI killers could have been caught months earlier, and several of their victims spared.
As retired SFPD assistant chief and historian Kevin J. Mullen, who at the time was a veteran of over 20 years on the force, recently wrote,
By the late 1970s, San Francisco’s homicide rate was 18.5 per 100,000 population, up from 5.9 in an equivalent period in the early 1960s. Much of the increase was driven by a rise in black on white killings. It was in this climate that the Zebra killings occurred.
Note that at 13.4 percent, blacks then comprised barely more than one-eighth of the city’s population.
We still do not know how many whites the Nation of Islam murdered during the period of 1970-75, let alone how many it has since murdered, not to mention how many copycat black-on-white murders it may have inspired.
CII’s Richard Walley, who until his unfortunate death from cancer in 1974, ran the California Department of Justice’s Intelligence Analysis Unit (IAU), was convinced that during the 1970-early 1974 period alone, the NOI was responsible for 71 black-on-white racial murders in California. In Zebra, however, author Clark Howard estimated that the NOI was guilty of “just under 270” black-on-white murders in California during the same period.
Bending the Rules
What broke the seemingly hopeless case was an inspiration by Gus Coreris that went under the rubric of “bending the rules.”
Coreris sat down with SFPD sketch artist Hobart “Hoby” Nelson, and as Coreris told me last year, dictated generic sketches of two 20-something black males. Those sketches were then distributed to local newspapers, who published them on their front pages; to TV news operations, who led with them on the 6 O’Clock News; and to officers in the street, who pulled over every young black man who resembled one of the drawings.
In order to avoid constantly harassing the same innocent black men, the police gave out a special “Zebra Check” card to each black man who had already been stopped and questioned, with the time, date, and place of the stop, the driver’s license and social security numbers of the black civilian, and the name, badge number, and signature of the officer who had made the stop. If an innocent black man had already been stopped, he needed only to produce his Zebra Check card and valid ID showing that he was the card holder.
Note that a few years earlier, hundreds of young white men had been stopped and questioned in connection with the Nob Hill rapist, in which the suspect had been identified as white. Only in the Nob Hill case, no cards were issued to white men who had been stopped, and no one protested or went to court to get the practice stopped.
But this time, black San Franciscans were mad as hell! How dare the police inconvenience and “harass” them. What was the big deal, after all? And why the “Zebra” appellation? This was surely a racist dig at blacks! (You can’t make this stuff up.) Blacks of all social classes were particularly outraged that in a murder spree in which all of the suspects were black, police were stopping and questioning only black potential suspects. The term “racial profiling” had yet to be coined, but the mentality of shielding black criminals was already prevalent among blacks.
As Howard wrote, “The black organizations … were determined to interfere with the police effort in any way they could.” Some were definitely seeking, via political means, to aid and abet mass murderers. One activist preacher, the Reverend Cecil Williams, threatened a race war, if police didn’t back down. As if the race war were not already underway.
I know of only one black San Franciscan from the time, prominent or otherwise, who showed any support for the SFPD. Dr. Washington Garner, a prominent local physician and civic leader, called on the black community to cooperate with police, even emphasizing the tactics used in the Nob Hill rapist case. Unfortunately, Dr. Garner’s alternate pleading and scolding fell on deaf ears.
The NAACP went to court to handcuff the police, and won. It was supported by, among other groups, a racist, black-dominated, counter-police organization called Officers for Justice, whose president was an SFPD officer named Jesse Byrd (spelled “Bird” in some accounts). Jesse Byrd was a Black Muslim.
(A counter-police organization is one which seeks to handcuff and destroy a police agency from within. Contemporary American counter-police organizations are typically formed by blacks or Hispanics, which, while demanding jobs, promotions, and power for unqualified and morally unfit members of their groups, often seek at the same time to aid and abet minority criminals. In addition to Officers for Justice, prominent counter-police organizations include The Black Sentinels in Cincinnati, and The Guardians, 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and the Latino Officers Association in New York. When such groups succeed at getting unfit officer candidates from their respective groups hired, they follow up with frivolous lawsuits, charging that the incompetent minority hires suffer discrimination in promotions, no matter how rapidly those members were promoted, in order to gain them millions of dollars in extortion money.)
Gus Coreris’ bluff saved the day, in spite of Jesse Byrd and the NAACP.
One of the NOI killers was an ex-con named Anthony Harris who, as Gus Coreris told me last year, had wild imagination. Although neither of the police sketches resembled Harris in the slightest, Harris projected himself onto one of them, and convinced himself that he had been identified.
Harris came forward to gain $30,000 in reward money, immunity from prosecution, and new identities for himself, his girlfriend Debra, and her baby.
The SFPD initially secreted the family in either a Holiday Inn motel (according to Howard) or the Del Webb Hotel (as one of the detectives told me). The family was with Inspectors Gus Coreris and John Fotinos, the partners who were the SFPD’s top homicide inspectors, and who were the lead detectives in the case. However, one day while Anthony Harris was taking a shower, Debra called Sister Sarah, the wife of an NOI minister, and told her where the family was hiding.
Within minutes, an NOI assassin had appeared in the lobby, spoken with Harris on the house telephone, and called from a pay phone for reinforcements. Insp. Coreris called his partner, Insp. John Fotinos, from the house phone, to warn him of the impending arrival of the killers, and to get him to prepare Harris, his family, and attorney to escape.
Shortly thereafter, a car pulled up with four more NOI assassins. (Howard’s description of the five suggested they were from the Fruit of Islam, the NOI’s palace guard, as the FOI were much more disciplined than the Zebra killers.)
Feigning indifference to the assassins and to his witness, Inspector Coreris left the motel. The assassins then proceeded to undertake a floor-by-floor search for their prey. Presumably, they would have killed everyone present – including family, inspectors, and attorney.
Once on the street, Insp. Coreris hurried to his SFPD car, and peeling rubber, drove it up to the motel’s rooftop parking lot, where Fotinos, Harris’ lawyer, Laurence Kaufman, and Harris and family were waiting. Once everybody was in, Coreris again peeled rubber, only seconds ahead of the NOI assassins. (This story was told by Clark Howard in Zebra; Gus Coreris corroborated it to me during his telephone interview last year.)
As Howard recounts, when a San Francisco Examiner team of reporter Dexter Waugh and photographer Walt Lynott, and a later Examiner team that included reporter Hollis Wagstaff scoured the city, talking to people how they felt about the killings, not only were blacks not at all fearful – after all, they weren’t being targeted by the killers – not a single black the respective teams interviewed expressed any sympathy for the white victims.
The tenacious, brilliant, and resourceful team of Gus Coreris and John Fotinos are the heroes of the Zebra saga. They had two able younger detectives – Jeff Brosch and Carl Klotz from Robbery Detail – assisting them full-time, with every other member of the Homicide Detail working on the case on a rotating basis.
In Zebra, Clark Howard recounts an incident from a few hours after the assassination attempt at the motel. Gus Coreris returned to his office, where a message from a young black SFPD patrolman awaited him. When Coreris returned the man’s call, the latter did not want to discuss the matter over the phone. In person, the patrolman asked Coreris point blank where he was hiding Anthony Harris. Coreris asked the officer if he was acting on behalf of the NOI. As reported in Zebra, when the young officer answered in the affirmative, Coreris responded that the SFPD would protect Harris and the information he had “at any risk,” that Coreris was going to report the officer to SFPD Chief Donald Scott, Chief of Inspectors Charles Barca, and the Intelligence Division, and that the patrol officer had better stop inquiring after Harris’ whereabouts. (363)
In a telephone interview last year, Gus Coreris confirmed for me that the foregoing incident had occurred just as Clark Howard reported it. When I asked Coreris what had happened to the black officer working for the NOI, he replied, “Nothing.”
We are talking here about a police officer who, based on Coreris’ story, was guilty of conspiring to murder a government witness, conspiring to obstruct justice, and who was an accomplice after the fact in at least 15 murders, at least nine attempted murders, and various and sundry other felonies.
Last year, one of my SFPD sources who had been on the job at the time of the Zebra murders told me that the black officer who had tried to get Anthony Harris’ location for the NOI was none other than Jesse Byrd. Although one SFPD source would have been more than enough for a New York Times reporter, I wanted a source from the inner circle of detectives who ran the case.
I spoke to everyone from the Zebra team, save one, but no one could remember the identity of the black patrolman.
The one inspector I didn’t reach was John Fotinos. He was the guy that got away.
The other day, Fotinos’ widow told me of the massive stroke her eighty-year-old husband had suffered on April 16 of this year, and which took him eleven days later.
John Fotinos was born on November 1, 1925. He served his nation honorably in World War II (as did his friend and partner, Gus Coreris). John Fotinos was an old-school cop who never took the job home with him. He and his wife had four children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. One of their sons, one son-in-law, and two of their grandsons proudly wear the uniform of the San Francisco Police Department.
I never had any contact with John Fotinos, and never so much as saw his photograph. And yet, when I first read Zebra four years ago, he and Gus Coreris immediately became heroes of mine. John Fotinos will be missed anywhere people care about upholding the thin blue line that separates civilization from anarchy.
In the Zebra case, Inspectors Coreris and Fotinos were ably assisted by Inspectors Jeff Brosch and Carl Klotz, whom Coreris and Fotinos had brought over from the Robbery Detail.
So, where would I get my secondary corroboration? Hiding in plain sight, as it turned out. Hollywood screenwriter Bennett Cohen, with the assistance of retired SFPD Chief Earl Sanders, who gave Cohen’s researchers boxes and boxes of the old SFPD Zebra paper work Sanders had taken with him, wrote a just-released book on the case, The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights. Cohen, who must have found Gus Coreris’ old report complaining about Jesse Byrd’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the NOI assassins, writes that Byrd was, indeed, the NOI mole in the SFPD. Oddly enough, however, Chief Sanders argues that “all they wanted to do was ‘talk’ to [Anthony Harris].”
As crime historian and retired SFPD deputy chief Kevin J. Mullen, a peer of Gus Coreris and John Fotinos, quipped in his review of Bennett Cohen’s book, “Yes. And John Gotti had someone ask the FBI for Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano’s address in the Federal Witness Protection Program so that he could update his Christmas card list.”
It is impossible to overstate Jesse Byrd’s significance. We have many instances over the years of black activists and groups seeking indirectly to aid and abet black criminals and terrorists, through say, handcuffing police (e.g., prohibiting them from surveilling mosques that are known terrorist meeting places, such as San Francisco’s NOI Mosque #26). However, in all the other cases, there was always at least one degree of separation between the terrorists or criminals and their public supporters. Jesse Byrd is the only case I know of, in which there were zero degrees of separation.
Zebra Memorial Service
The 10th Annual Zebra Victims Memorial Services was held Friday at 12 noon on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. Organizers had announced that SFPD Commissioner Petra DeJesus had agreed to attend.
“New” Zebra Victims and the Zebra Project
The person who has helped me the most in studying the Zebra case is Lou Calabro, a retired SFPD lieutenant, who was a sergeant at the time of the NOI murders. Calabro encouraged me to undertake a Zebra Project, in order to determine and name all of the white victims of the NOI’s genocidal campaign. Calabro convincingly argued that the project must necessarily be a team effort, due to the massive workload, in seeking after official records and newspaper accounts from those pre-computer and pre-Internet days. Not to mention that with witnesses, survivors, and lawmen dying off, time is of the essence. I ask that anyone with information about any possible NOI racial attacks please write me at Add1dda@aol.com. All correspondence will be kept confidential.
In re-reading passages from Clark Howard’s book, I came up with one surviving non-San Francisco victim, Massachusetts native Thomas Bates, a hitchhiker who was shot three times near Emeryville. (Clark Howard cited several fatal and non-fatal non-San Francisco NOI attacks; however, Bates was the only such victim whom he named.) Howard has so far not responded to e-mails from me seeking information on his claim that “just under 270” California whites were murdered by the NOI at the time.
Since my Zebra article last year, two people have sent me information about other possible Zebra victims. In January, one reader wrote,
And two months ago, I learned of Steve Conachy and yet another unidentified victim.
Four of the NOI murderers were tried and convicted for the San Francisco killings. They remain in prison today, but they come up periodically for parole:
Jesse Lee Cooks, J.C. Simon (aka J.C.X. Simon), Larry Green and Manuel Moore.
According to crime writer Julia Scheeres, Leroy Doctor was also an NOI assassin. Doctor’s intended victim, Robert Stoeckmann, turned the tables on him, and ended up shooting Doctor three times. Doctor, who lived, was ultimately imprisoned for assault with a deadly weapon. Scheeres is, to my knowledge, the only crime writer so far to list Doctor as an NOI assassin.
Known and Possible Zebra Victims
A partial list of the wounded follows, in Clark Howard’s words:
Richard Hague [Quita’s husband], his face butchered.
And courtesy of Julia Scheeres, at Court TV’s crimelibrary.com,
Robert Stoeckmann, grazed in the neck by a shot fired by Leroy Doctor.
A partial list of white NOI murder victims follows, as described by Clark Howard:
Quita Hague, hacked to death….
John Doe (killed with Conachy)
Richard Asbury (?)
I wish to thank all of the retired SFPD officers who so generously helped me in the writing of this article, as well as Mrs. John Fotinos. The majority of my material came from Clark Howard’s 1979 work, Zebra: The true account of the 179 days of terror in San Francisco.
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