By Peter Hernon

On New Year's Eve in New Orleans, 1972, Mark James Essex begun the most violent and lethal sniper assaults on policemen that any American urban had ever seen.

It was once another tragic trip down the line of hatred, and sooner than it ended one week later, enormous quantities of seriously armed police and a Marine Corps attack helicopter will be known as to a burning downtown inn to conflict phantom gunmen who refused to give up or to be killed.

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Extra info for A Terrible Thunder. The Story of the New Orleans Sniper

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The crowds there swarm in almost continual frenzy. The pace is somewhat slower on Royal, Chartres, and the cross streets of Orleans and St. Ann, where the display windows of the antique shops and art galleries glitter in the light of gas lamps. Police foot patrols are highly visible in the area, less so on the Quarter’s darker edges, where the pimps and junkies operate in the shadows of obscure doorways. Despite the relative safety of Bourbon and the few other well-traveled streets, the Quarter, as any cop in the Eighth District will testify, has its share of murders, rapes, and muggings, some occurring within earshot of the jazz musicians.

At one point I got disillusioned with him, and I probably got on him a bit about really being a crybaby and letting things get to him and that it was time for him to shape up and shake it off and get back into his personality and not let people influence him. During that first year all our conversations had been happy ones. But then they became very short. He was kind of defensive, belligerent sometimes. ” Then there was a girl. Imperial Beach is a short drive from Tijuana and on weekends Essex and a few friends would often cross the Mexican border to take in the greyhound races and spend the night drinking beer in a succession of dimly lit bodegas.

B. Wilson, a petty officer third class, had met Essex at Imperial Beach after serving a six-month tour of duty on a carrier. “All the young blacks around the base were being hassled,” Wilson said. “Essex felt that he was getting a particularly rough deal and that he wasn’t going to take it lying down. ’ They would sit, a group of Negroes at one table, Filipinos or Chicanos at another, and whites by themselves. Then before you knew it some white boy would call a black a ‘spade’ and like a firecracker it would touch off an explosion.

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A Terrible Thunder. The Story of the New Orleans Sniper by Peter Hernon
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