Jennings, Duffy: Zebra murders in the 1970s


Duffy Jennings


Jennings: [The] Zebra murders were a series of killings, random killings on the streets of San Francisco over the winter of nineteen seventy three to nineteen seventy four in which I believe eleven people were killed and several others were wounded or injured. Almost always, you know, on the street, on a sidewalk, on an open area and at night, and a couple cases I think a couple was kidnapped and taken away in a van. These murders were particularly troublesome because they were random. In fact, one of the victims was Art Agnos, who was coming out of a political meeting in Potrero Hill I believe one night. He was a community worker at the time, he wasn't mayor, you know, this is before, long before he was mayor. Over time police developed a case against four men who were kind of an extreme group of black Muslims who were gaining entry into some higher level of their organization by random killing of white people. The controversy over the Zebra case was that the police department used a radio channel designation of the letter Z. and phonetically it's always Z. as in zebra to identify suspects and incidents in the case. So whenever there was a radio report of a potential zebra suspect, zebra incident of course it just inflame the city in a black/white kind of way. And mayor Alioto was extremely defensive obviously about this and it created a lot more anger and protesting in the city. Along with the shootings obviously and eventually four men went to prison for life for those killings. But it was a terrifying time in San Francisco because we were, because it was random, because they didn’t know where and when it would occur next. We were just coming out of a period of time when Zodiac had killed a cab driver a couple years earlier and there was a lot of, again attacks on police officers. Not just here, but all over the country that the rise of anti-authoritarian thought manifests itself in hundreds of police murders around the country in the early seventies. So there was a very tense relationship obviously between the police and the community and the black community in particular.


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The Moscone oral history interviews are part of the George Moscone Collection, MSS 328.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections and Archives, University of the Pacific Library

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