From October 20, 1973 to April 20, 1974, San Francisco was rocked by a series of random, brutal attacks against whites. The assailant was at first thought to be a lone black gunman.
The toll finally reached 16 murders, five woundings, one rape, and the attempted kidnapping of three children.
The rampage, however, was not limited to San Francisco. Throughout California–from Bakersfield to San Diego–at least 93 other whites were murdered, according to later police investigations.
To end the San Francisco slaughter, teams of police decoys roamed the streets, posing as hitchhikers, a favorite target of the supposed lone gunman.
To prevent ham radio operators from honing in on their operation, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD)used a special high-frequency “zebra” radio band.
When the use of this became known, the slaughters were dubbed “the Zebra case” by the media. Most people assumed the term referred to black-on-white crime.
But the killer failed to blunder into any of these ambushes.
On April 20, 1974, then-Mayor Joseph Alioto–desperate to end the slaughter–authorized a massive, city-wide dragnet.
Over 600 young black males were stopped and questioned by police who were armed with only a vague description of the killer, as given by surviving victims. Some blacks were stopped so many times they were given special ID cards to prevent future stops.
Civil libertarians and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) protested vigorously. The NAACP filed a complaint with U.S. District Judge Alfonso J. Zirpoli in San Francisco.
Just six days after the dragnets began, Zirpoli declared the stops illegal.
In San Francisco, the tourist trade fell off. Many whites stopped going outside after dark. Some whites began talking about forming vigilante committees and spreading similar terror among blacks.
Then, on April 22, 1974, a break finally came in the case.
Anthony Cornelius Harris, a tall, thin, handsome member of the Nation of Islam–otherwise known as the Black Muslims–came forward as a police witness.
At 28, he was a fifth-dan kung-fu expert who always dressed well and spoke softly. He also had firsthand knowledge of the “Zebra murders.”
Tne killings, said Harris, weren’t the work of a crazed loner. They were being carried out by a group of militant Black Muslims who made use of elaborate security precautions.
Harris’ intimate knowledge of the killers stemmed from their having been among his closest friends for over six months.
According to Harris, the killers had repeatedly tried to enlist him as an accomplice. But Harris–so he later claimed–could not bring himself to commit cold-blooded murder. This led his friends to suspect that Harris might be a police informer or agent.
Harris began fearing for his life. He also wanted the $30,000 reward being offered for the capture of the still-supposed lone gunman.
On May 1, 1974, police–acting on Harris’ information–arrested seven suspects.
Chief Assistant District Attorney W.H. Guibbini asked for high bail for three of the suspects after their indictment. Presiding Superior Court Judge Clayton V. Horn raised it to $300,000 each.
The accused killers remained in jail before and during their trial.
Four of these were tried and convicted. On March 29, 1976, they were sentenced to prison for life.
They were Larry Craig Green, 22; Manuel Moore, 29; Jessie Lee Cooks, 29; and J.C. Simon, 29. They appealed their convictions to the California Supreme Court–which affirmed them.
Jessie Cooks, Manuel Moore, J.C. Simon and Larry Craig Green
During his testimony as a prosecution witness, Harris was guarded constantly by San Francisco police.
When the SFPD’s resources began to be strained, Harris was placed on the Witness Security Program, operated by the U.S. Marshals Service for the Justice Department.
Also known as WITSEC, it offers protection, relocation and new identities to those who testify against organized crime groups.
Harris was eventually given a new name and relocated to a series of different states. He received a portion of the $30,000 reward he was seeking. Then he vanished altogether.
What follows is an inside account of the “Zebra” death cult, as depicted through the grand jury testimony of the star witness against the killers: Anthony C. Harris.
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Born in Long Beach, California, in 1946, Anthony Cornelius Harris got as far as the sixth grade. He clashed often with police and, on January 3, 1969, he was convicted for assaulting a policeman.
He was released from prison in May, 1970, when he won a reversal of his sentence at the California Supreme Court.
But he was once again arrested and convicted, in 1971, of second-degree burglary in Los Angeles. For this, he drew a sentence at San Quentin prison.
And he also met two of the future “Zebra” killers: Manuel Moore and Jessie Lee Cooks.
Cooks had been convicted of robbery; Moore had been sent to prison for burglary. Both wanted Harris, a fifth-dan kung-fu expert, to teach them the martial arts.
According to Harris, Cooks wanted to learn kung-fu so he could kill whites “because they had castrated and killed our ancestors and stomped our babies’ heads in.”