Season of the Assassins

Remembering the deaths of George Moscone and Harvey Milk.


If you thought all those assassination anniversary posts would end after November 22 was over, think again: We're just moving on to another assassination. Look what happened 35 years ago today:

Moscone dead, Milk dead, Feinstein in power—a triple tragedy.

On November 27, 1978, the ninth day after Jonestown, Daniel James White, ex-cop, former paratrooper, and superjock, an All-American Boy from everybody's favorite city, strapped on his police special .38, loaded his pockets with extra hollow-point bullets that explode upon impact, and went to San Francisco City Hall to settle some political differences.

That's from Warren Hinckle's great piece "Dan White's San Francisco," published in the libertarian magazine Inquiry in the wake of White's murder of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk. The double assassination would be followed by one of the most infamous psychiatric legal arguments of recent history—the "Twinkie defense," in Paul Krassner's famous phrase—and by a verdict of voluntary manslaughter rather than murder. And then there came the White Night riots, when the city's gay community reacted to the jury's decision.

The whole Hinckle article is worth a read. If you need a soundtrack while you peruse it, here is the Dead Kennedys' (*) response to the White verdict:

(* You just can't escape the JFK references.)

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  1. Where were you when you learned that Feinstein had become mayor?

  2. loaded his pockets with extra hollow-point bullets that explode upon impact,

    Fuck, Jesse, my eyes have rolled back so far in my head from that ridiculous bit that I may not be able to drive to Thanksgiving dinner.


    1. Did the Brady Campaign hijack Jessee’s account?

      1. Marsha, Marsha, MARSHA!!

    2. My hollow points always “EXPLODE” upon impact.

      You mean yours don’t? You sure there’s not something wrong with them?

      1. I know a guy (an idiot) who shot himself in the thigh accidentally with a .45 Hydra-Shok. It went straight through the meat, touched no bone, and never expanded.

        1. Did it happen at FrontSight a few years ago?

    3. Jesse didn’t write that, it’s a quote.

      1. I am more disappointed that he refers to it as “great piece.”

        That quote certainly didn’t make me want to read more of it.

  3. In 1998, Frank Falzon, the homicide inspector with the San Francisco police to whom White had turned himself in after the killings, said that he met White in 1984, and that at this meeting White had confessed that he had the intention to kill not only Moscone and Milk, but another supervisor, Carol Ruth Silver, and then-member of the California State Assembly (and future San Francisco Mayor) Willie Brown. Falzon quoted White as having said, “I was on a mission. I wanted four of them. Carol Ruth Silver, she was the biggest snake … and Willie Brown, he was masterminding the whole thing.” Falzon indicated that he believed White, stating, “I felt like I had been hit by a sledge-hammer … I found out it was a premeditated murder.”

    From Dan White’s wikipedia article. If only he had gotten Willie Brown, maybe things might have turned out better for California.

  4. This is why only people like trained police officers should be allowed to have guns…oh wait…uh

  5. No one needs more than 2 assault Twinkies.

  6. Ex-cop, former paratrooper, and superjock. The warning signs were all there.

  7. when the city’s gay community reacted to the assassin’s acquittal.

    What acquittal? He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

    1. You’re right. The jury rejected the murder charges that had been brought against him, but “acquittal” isn’t the right word for the verdict. I’ll rephrase it.

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