Former officers note eerie similarities between Dallas shootings, '73 New Orleans standoff

Eerie similarities between Dallas shootings, '73 New Orleans standoff

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The Dallas shootings were hard to take for former New Orleans police officers who were involved in an eerily similar incident in the early 1970s.

Like Dallas, five NOPD officers were killed in a standoff with a militant who held downtown hostage for several days.

"When you lose one of them, that band of brothers thing - it hurts," said former NOPD officer Antoine Saacks.

The Dallas tragedy brought back memories of an event more than 43 years ago in New Orleans, which resulted in the deaths of nine people.

"There are many similarities between that incident and what we saw in Dallas," said New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison.

A former Army reservist has been arrested for the Dallas shooting. In New Orleans, it was a former sailor-turned-Black Panther named Mark Essex who went on an eight-day rampage, eventually winding up on the roof of the former Howard Johnson hotel on Loyola Avenue.

"It was a mess. We were outgunned and undermanned," said former NOPD officer Willie Trepagnier.

The Howard Johnson's incident was especially tragic because back in 1973, New Orleans and most major cities didn't have a SWAT team to respond to such emergencies.

"Certain people, I was one of them, had a weapon," said Saacks, a former Marine and NOPD sharpshooter who boarded a helicopter to take out Essex.

"We used the M16 and cut a hole in the cinder block," said Saacks.

Essex was killed after Saacks realized that he was firing at the chopper as it pulled away. He instructed the chopper pilot to act like he was pulling away, then back up.

"When he pulled out and dropped back in, Essex was running toward the helicopter shooting," Saacks said. "I hit him, spun him, and he went down."

Saacks, who lost fellow officers in the ordeal, knows how surviving Dallas officers feel.

"It sticks in your craw for a little while," he said.

The NOPD developed a SWAT team shortly after the standoff.

"Absolutely we have been training to deal with the HoJo-type incident since it happened," Harrison said.

All involved are in disbelief that such a similar tragedy has occurred 43 years later in Dallas.

Deputy Chief Louis Sirgo was among the five officers killed by Essex. The plaza in front of police headquarters is named in his honor.

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