Mark Essex; Walk it like you talk it

  • Mark Essex

    Mark James Robert Essex was born in Emporia, Kansas. After graduating from Emporia Senior High School in 1967 Essex attended Emporia State University, where he dropped out after only one semester. He joined the United States Navy as a dental technician in 1969, stationed in San Diego, California, where he claimed he was subjected to two years of ceaseless racial abuse.[2] His black friends tried to explain to him that racism in the military was just a bitter pill that he had to learn to swallow. Another black friend claimed "he came into the military expecting it to be just like Emporia. He quickly found out that it wasn't". He went absent without leave (AWOL) from October 19 - November 16, 1970. 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.

    It was 10:15 a.m., January 7, 1973, when Essex shot grocer Joe Perniciaro with his .44 Magnum carbine, and next carjacked Marvin Albert as he sat in his 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle outside his house on South White Street. Essex drove Albert's stolen vehicle to the Downtown Howard Johnson's Hotel at 330 Loyola Avenue in New Orleans' Central Business District, across the street from City Hall and the Louisiana Supreme Court. After almost hitting a startled motorist in the hotel's parking garage, Essex began to climb the stairs, only to find the fire doors locked on floor after floor.

    Gaining entry from a fire stairwell on the 18th floor, the top floor of the building, 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, a couple from Virginia enjoying a belated honeymoon. 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 Pan-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. Collins died in the hospital three weeks later 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. A few minutes later, Essex shot and killed NOPD Officers Phillip Coleman and Paul Persigo from his perch on the 18th floor.

    Attempting to rescue trapped officers, Deputy Chief Louis Sirgo was fatally shot in the spine by Essex. Lt. Lewis Townsend, a Tulane medical student, walked into the open field to carry the wounded officer to safety, then returned to class.

    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. By this time, Essex had retreated up to the roof of the building where he and the helicopter exchanged many rounds over many hours. As nightfall came, Essex managed to hole himself up in a concrete cubicle that would protect him in the northwest side of the roof. As he stepped out in the open to fire again on the helicopter, and after hitting the helicopter's transmission, Essex was barraged with fatal gunfire from police sharpshooters on the roofs of adjacent buildings as well as the automatic weapons aboard the helicopter. 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 December 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. New Orleans police later entered the residence of Essex at 2619½ Dryades St. and found the apartment completely covered from floor to ceiling with racist anti-white graffiti.

    Essex is now buried in an unmarked grave in Maplewood Cemetery in Emporia, Kansas.

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