Mark Essex joined the Navy in January 1969 with aspirations of one day becoming a Dentist. Two years later he would gun down 19 people, including 10 police officers in what become one of the bloodiest shootouts in New Orleans history and the deadliest day ever for it’s police department.
Upon joining the Navy Mark Essex experienced his first bout with racism getting into fights with white sailors whom he felt directly harrassed and offended him. Because of these constant battles he received disciplinary action. Shortly afterwards he was befriended by a Rodney Franks, a fellow disenfranchised sailor from New Orleans and a wannabe militant. Franks introduced Essex to Black Panther literature, instantly a change occurred in his personality.
Fed up with the Navy after less than two years, Mark Essex went AWOL at the end of 1970. Hate become his motivation and that hate was for all white people. He was discharged from the Navy in Febuary 1971. After a 3 month stint in New York, immersing himself in the literature of the Black Panther Party, further supplying the hate that was brewing deep inside of him. The party’s publications taught tactics for urban guerrilla warfare, referred to police officers as “pigs”, suggested the best weapon for the urban guerrilla – one of their weapons of choice was the .44 Magnum carbine rifle – and stressed head shots for quick kills.
Essex called Franks in New Orleans, who also was discharged from the Navy, and told him he was leaving Kansas and had his sights on the Crescent City. In August 1972, Mark Essex packed up his hatred, his rage, and a .44 rifle and made his way to New Orleans.
Black Panther Mark Essex
Mark James Robert Essex killed 10 people and wounded 13 others in the 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 Navy, where he was subjected to racism from whites. 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 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 the Howard Johnson attacks. Essex evaded 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. It was on the 11th floor he shot and killed Frank Schneider, the hotel assistant manager, and shot Walter Collins, the hotel general manager (who died from his wounds in hospital three weeks later).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, Marine Lt. Gen. Chuck Pitman offered the use of a Coast Guard helicopter to assist the 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 — 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.
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