50 years since hotel sniper Mark Essex terrorized downtown New Orleans in 1973

Published: Jan. 8, 2023 at 9:27 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - 50 years ago, New Orleans made national headlines when a sniper went on a killing spree at a downtown hotel.

Local historian and filmmaker, Royd Anderson takes a look back at how Howard Johnson’s sniper incident changed the course of the city’s history.

23-year-old Mark Essex was a black nationalist who enlisted in the navy and went awol. Essex decided he wanted to go on a killing spree.

“He was 5′4″. He was in the Navy. He got into some trouble there. He was being picked on and bullied. Systemic racism was one of the faults that caused him to do this. Shortly after that at southern university, there was the shooting where two students were killed... they were shot by the Sheriff’s Office, and that made him cross the line,” said filmmaker and Louisiana history teacher, Royd Anderson

“There was a firefighter that lost his arm... there was a newlywed that was in town from Wisconsin, a doctor, that was killed as well.”

Anderson says Essex killed nine, including five officers with the New Orleans Police Department and injured 12 others in this racially-motivated attack.

“It was a planned attack. He had a map of New Orleans, of the Howard Johnson, circled. It actually culminated before on New Year’s. He killed two other officers on New Year’s Eve, and then a week later was the Howard Johnson’s tragedy,” he said.

Essex was finally stopped, thanks to Lt. Col. Charles Pittman, a U.S. Marine.

Anderson says Essex was shot more than 200 times, and this incident changed how police handled these situations, not just in the city, but across the nation.

He says this is a day that should not, and will not be forgotten.

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