New Orleans Howard Johnson Hotel Jan. 7, 1973
Mark Essex’s killing rampage in downtown New Orleans on New Year’s Eve of 1972 represented a viral black rage in the age of “Black Power.”
by Denise Noe
New Year’s Eve 1972: The horror begins
Filled with rage and racist hatred against whites, Mark James “Jimmy” Robert Essex had sworn revenge for both personal and historical wrongs. Residing in New Orleans at the time his determination to exact vengeance reached a boiling point, he chose New Year’s Eve 1972 as his moment.
On that day, Essex parked his car close to the New Orleans Police Department. He hid in a parking lot across from central lock-up. He aimed his Ruger .44 Magnum carbine and shot two men, both of them in the police force. Cadet Alfred Harrell, 19, died from his injuries. Lt. Horace Perez survived.
Ironically, in view of the racist purpose that Essex had stated in writing was the reason for his crimes, Harrell was black. Perhaps Essex viewed the young police cadet as a sell-out to the white system. It is also possible that this one murder was simply a mistake because Essex saw the blue uniform and failed to note the skin color.
If it was a mistake, Essex did not make another. All of the rest of his victims were people of fair skin, either white or, like Perez, Hispanic.
As police began to chase Essex, he set off diversionary firecrackers, jumped a chain link fence and raced across highway I-10.