Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Zebra Killers


On the evening of December 13, 1973, future San Francisco mayor Arthur Agnos, 35, was attending a meeting in Potrero Hill. A member of the California Commission on Aging, Agnos was in the largely black neighborhood to discuss building a government-funded health clinic in the area.

            The Zebra Killers were also in the neighborhood, hunting whites. After the meeting let out, Agnos stopped on the sidewalk to chat with two women. A man walked up behind him and shot him twice in the back, ripping apart his lungs, spleen and kidneys. He barely survived.

            "The women saw this man come over to us on the sidewalk and assumed he was going to ask directions," Agnos later told the Chronicle. "They saw him pull the gun and fire. I didn't. I thought firecrackers were going off.

            "I felt a dull punch in the chest, but thought one of the firecrackers had hit me. The women pulled away, screaming, and I started after them to reassure them I wasn't hurt. They said 'He's trying to kill you,' and at that point I wheeled around.

            "I was about ten yards from this man who was trying to kill me. I had never seen him before. He was standing there with the gun in his hand.  He didn't blink, he looked at me blankly. There was no sneer or ugly expression. He looked to be in some kind of a state."   

            After the man ran off into the night, Agnos was taken into a black household across the street, where someone called an ambulance.

            Determined not to be cowed by the attack, Agnos returned to the same neighborhood a month later to attend another meeting about the health clinic. That time, however, he was escorted to and from his car by four police officers and four large black men, and there was no trouble.

            Marietta DiGirolamo, 31, was attacked the same night as Agnos.

            The 5'1, 125 lb.-woman had grown tired of waiting for her boyfriend in her apartment, Howard writes, so she donned her coat and went to look for him in the street a little after 9 p.m. She walked up Divisadero, a lively street lined with bars and boutiques.

            As she walked up the street, a black man suddenly shoved her into the doorway of a barbershop, pulled out a gun, and shot her twice in the chest. She spun around to face the barbershop door, and the man shot her again, in the back.

            She crashed backwards onto the sidewalk, and died surrounded by strangers.

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