The Legend Of Mark James Robert Essex
Mark James Robert Essex (1949 â€“ January 7, 1973) killed 10 people and wounded 13 others in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, on January 7, 1973.
Mark James Robert Essex was born in Emporia, Kansas. His friends remembered him as a quiet, happy person, who had talked about becoming a minister. Essex joined the United States Navy, where he was allegedly subjected to racism from white people. He was given a general discharge for unsuitability on 10 February 1971, for “character and behavior disorders.” After his discharge, he became involved with black radicals in San Francisco, California and later joined the New York Black Panthers.
New Year’s Eve, 1972
At the age of 23 and living in New Orleans, Essex began targeting police officers. On New Year’s Eve 1972 Essex parked his car and went down Perdido Street, a block from the New Orleans Police Department. He hid in a parking lot across from the busy central lockup and used a .44 Magnum to kill Cadet Alfred Harrell. Lt. Horace Perez was also wounded in the attack. Interestingly, Harrell was black, although Essex said he was going to kill “just honkies” before beginning his murderous attacks. Essex evaded being taken into custody, and later returned, killing Officer Edwin Hosli Sr.
7 January 1973
It was 10:15am, 7 January 1973, when Essex shot grocer Joe Perniciaro with his Ruger .44 Magnum carbine. Essex was making his way to The Downtown Howard Johnson’s Hotel on 330 Loyola Ave. Gaining entry from a fire stairwell on the 18th floor, Essex told three startled black hotel employees not to worry, as he was only there to kill white people. In the hallway in front of room 1829 Essex found a 27-year-old vacationing Dr. Robert Steagall and his wife Betty. After a struggle with Steagall, Essex shot him in the chest. He then shot the wife of the doctor in the back of the head. In the room, he soaked telephone books with lighter fluid and set them ablaze under the curtains. Essex dropped a red, green, and black African flag onto the floor beside the bodies of the couple as he left. Down on the 11th floor, Essex shot his way into rooms and set more fires. On the 11th floor, he shot and killed Frank Schneider, the hotel assistant manager, and shot Walter Collins, the hotel general manager. Three weeks later, Collins died in the hospital as a result of the gunshot wounds. The police and fire department quickly arrived. Two officers tried to use a fire truck’s ladder to enter the building, but were shot at by Essex. As more police arrived, a crowd started to gather. As the police exchanged fire with Essex, the crowd would cheer after Essex’s shots. Attempting to rescue trapped officers, Deputy Chief Sirgo was shot in the spine by Essex, and died. Seeing the story on TV, Lt. General Chuck Pitman of the United States Marine Corps offered the use of a CH-46 military helicopter to assist the police officers. The helicopter was loaded with armed men and sent up. Essex and the helicopter exchanged many rounds over many hours. Essex managed to hole himself up in a concrete cubicle that would protect him. Right as he hit the helicopter’s transmission, Essex was barraged with fatal gunfire. An autopsy later revealed more than 200 gunshot wounds.
Before the attack, the television station WWL received a handwritten note from Essex. It read:
‘Africa greets you. On Dec. 31, 1972, aprx. 11 p.m., the downtown New Orleans Police Department will be attacked. Reason â€” many, but the death of two innocent brothers will be avenged. And many others.
P.S. Tell pig Giarrusso the felony action squad ain’t shit.
After the smoke had cleared, a tally revealed that Essex had shot 19 people, including 10 police officers.
Body of Mark Essex on roof. In the background is the rooftop cubicle that he used for cover.
“Every kill and hate slogan imaginable was painted on the pale brown walls in thick, crude strokes. All references to whites — and those predominated — were in red paint. The others were painted black.
“….No inch of wall space was spared; lifting their heads, detectives saw in bold red letters, “Only a pig would read shit on the ceiling.”
[Description of Mark Essex’s apartment from Peter Hernon’s A Terrible Thunder: The Story of the New Orleans Sniper.]