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Racism, guns a deadly mix December 10, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in Anti-White, Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Police, Racism, Racist.

Terror gripped the streets of San Francisco in late 1973 and early 1974.

Black men affiliated with the Nation of Islam were shooting whites, at random and out in the open. In less than six months, 15 people were killed and seven were injured, including a future mayor, Art Agnos.

At the time, Prentice Earl Sanders was one of two black homicide inspectors in a department already fractured internally over race. Suddenly, because of the so-called “Zebra Murders,” police officials found themselves needing black officers they didn’t have.

“The same thing that sparked the killing was getting in the way of solving it,” Sanders writes in his recently published memoir, “The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights” (Arcade Publishing, $26).

“As hateful as the killers were, it was racism that lit the fire that burned inside them,” he says. “And it was racism that kept the department so white we didn’t have enough black officers to infiltrate a group like the one we were after.”

In a distinguished, nearly 40-year career, Sanders later became the city’s first black police chief. But he chose to write his first book about this episode in his career because the havoc the killers unleashed on the city seemed to symbolize the social instability of the time.

Even within the San Francisco Police Department, a group of black officers had sued alleging racial discrimination.

“A lot of things were going on in the early ’70s all at once — guys at war with the Police Department, unrest in the Police Department,” Sanders said in an interview at his daughter’s home in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco.

Sanders, 69, was born in 1937 in Nacogdoches, Texas. His mother moved the family to Los Angeles when he was 10. After she died, he went to live with an uncle in San Francisco. He went to college, joined the U.S. Army Reserve and considered a career in the military. But after attending Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., he changed his mind.

His brother-in-law wanted to become a police officer, so Sanders helped him study. Then he took the test himself and scored third out of 800 applicants.

That was in 1964, and Sanders was one of a handful of black police officers in the predominantly Irish-American department. He says they faced daily prejudices, including fewer promotions.

When the Zebra shootings began in October 1973, they appeared to be random.

“It wasn’t just whites who were frozen by fear,” writes Sanders’ co-author, Bennett Cohen, who acts as narrator and quotes Sanders extensively throughout the book. “Nonwhites felt it, too.”

A profile of the shooters began to emerge. All were black men who used .32-caliber handguns and appeared to be connected to the Nation of Islam, a religious and sociopolitical organization.

The attacks became known as the Zebra killings because the Z channel on police radios — “Z for Zebra” — was dedicated to the manhunt.

City leaders got so desperate to stanch the bloodshed that, for a time, cops were told to stop and search every black man they met on the streets at night.

Investigators finally got a break when Anthony Harris, a 28-year-old accomplice to the killers, became an informant.

On May 1, 1974, more than 100 officers descended on the suspects at their homes in separate raids, and the killings stopped.

A year later, three men went on trial for multiple counts of murder, conspiracy and assault. A fourth man already had confessed to one of the killings. All four men, who have maintained their innocence in the string of shootings, remain in prison serving life sentences.

Sanders continued to rise through the ranks and became chief in 2002.

A year later, though, he took early retirement after suffering a heart attack brought on by the stress of “fajitagate.” Off-duty police officers got involved in a street fight over a bag of takeout food. Sanders and his top brass were indicted and later cleared of conspiracy charges.

Sanders now lives in Folsom, east of Sac-ramento, with his wife of nearly 50 years.

C.a.r.d {Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination} Source: Azstarnet.com

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