Today I’d like to dedicate my post to the cops of New Orleans. In 1972 they faced down Mark James Robert Essex, a racist spree shooter who wreaked havoc on both cops and civilians for nearly a week before he was finally taken down. On that day they made their country proud. They made the police force proud. They made the Three Stooges proud.
Yeah, the Three Stooges. Did I mention the cops completely fucked up?
Pictured: The New Orleans Police Force, circa 1972.
Let’s begin with a little background information. Mark Essex killed nine people and wounded thirteen more, all because he believed that ‘racist’ white people had prevented him from becoming anything in life. While there WAS quite a bit of racism in his time, that’s no reason to go around shooting people. So this guy pretty much deserved die.
Anyways, after several firefights with police patrols Essex ended up in the Howard Johnson Hotel, a 18-something story building filled with windows and unarmed civilians. The police arrived a short time later. At this point in time there was no SWAT. There was no procedure to handling insane snipers. The cops were making stuff up as they went.
Still, how badly could they mess things up? All they had to do was evacuate the civilians, pull out from the building and wait for Essex to do something stupid.
Or they could be the ones to do something stupid. A lot of somethings.
Rather than evacuate anybody, the police decided to engage Essex in a massive firefight. They put men on ever inch of surface around the hotel and told them to shoot at anything inside the place that so much as moved. Picture several hundred men standing on apartment rooftops blindly firing rifles at another apartment. Also, add another few hundred cops on the ground. Seems a little crazy, yeah, but it’s not like there are still civilians in the building.
Except there were. They were firing into a building filled with fucking civilians! Essex, meanwhile, was having the time of his life. See, for some reason Police Chief Clarence Giarrusso decided to set up his command post inside the hotel lobby. Which meant that every time someone needed to speak to him they had to run across the hotel parking lot through a hail of gunfire, all the while hoping Essex didn’t get a lucky shot.
Still, things were looking up. Bit by bit the police forced Essex up the hotel and onto its rooftop. Here they faced a new problem.
See that rather large concrete bunker in the middle of the roof? Essex hid in that thing. He had amazing cover, while any cop who went onto the rooftop was as good as dead.
The police chief’s response? Send in a fucking attack chopper, of course. But please, don’t tell it what to shoot at. Otherwise it won’t do things like accidentally fire on your own men. Yeah, the chopper started doing strafing runs on policemen hanging out by the rooftop stairs. Then it punctured a water pipe, which promptly exploded. The resulting four-foot high tidal wave swept every single policeman off the roof and back into the hotel.
It took until nightime for Essex to die. He stepped out of his bunker and was promptly hit by a barrage of bullets from the helicopter. Then the cops started shooting him too, because why the fuck not? In the end Essex had over two hundred bullets in his corpse.
At last, it was over. Or at last, it would be, if the police had thought Essex acted alone. See, in their minds, the reason Essex held out for so long wasn’t because of their incompetence. It was because there was a *gasp!* second sniper!
After Essex died… things got a little crazy. Cops started to wander the rooftops, taunting Essex’s non-existent accomplice into revealing himself. Then one guy saw a silhouette in the building across from him. He started shooting at it. Police spotters saw his bullets impact the building and wrongly assumed the second sniper was returning fire. Cue more than fifty cops opening fire on an empty building, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
Then, for some reason, they pumped the roof full of teargas and sent their attack chopper to pour thousands of rounds into Essex’s bunker. Because that was easier than simply checking whether the damned thing was empty.
So at this point the cops still hadn’t found any sign of a second sniper. They were sure one existed though. After all, those hundreds of policemen blindly firing at the surrounding buildings couldn’t possibly be wrong. Their solution? Send for some sniffer dogs to catch the killer’s scent.
Except the roof was still filled with teargas. The first dog they brought up died on the spot. The second and third wouldn’t so much as set foot on the stairs. Even when offered Scooby Snacks.
Now, while this was going on the police were also searching the insides of the Howard Johnson Hotel, on the off chance their invisible sniper was hiding under a bed or something. Reinforcements came to join the task force sent to kill Essex… nobody bothered to tell the task force about them, though.
So what happened when the two groups of policemen ran into each other in the hotel’s boiler room? Both sides didn’t know the other was there. Both were nervous about finding the sniper. The instant they caught sight of each other all hell broke loose.
Yeah, the cops began shooting at each other.
By the end of the night three more men had died. Another ten were injured, some seriously. Like I said. These guys would have made the Three Stooges proud.
And what happened to the Howard Johnson? Well, eventually it became a Holiday Inn. You can book a room in it today, because nothing says ‘happy vacation’ like sleeping at the site of a spree shooting.