Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Essex, the Howard Johnson Sniper

The Escape

After firing his sixth and final shot at Central Lockup, Essex fled toward the expressway. He set off a string of firecrackers to cover his escape. The first set of train tracks were about 50 feet from where he'd let loose his second burst of gunfire. At the tracks Essex must have stumbled because he dropped his gas mask and some unfired Winchester .44-caliber Magnum cartridges.

Just past the third set of tracks, Essex hit the chain link fence that ran beside the expressway. He scaled the fence, then ran through some soft earth, leaving a trail of boot prints on both sides of the interstate as he sprinted across it. He also dropped a couple more live rounds of ammo on the far side of the expressway.

Central Lockup, sniper route.
Central Lockup, sniper route.
Beyond the expressway lay Gert Town, a neighborhood seething with crime and one notoriously hostile to the police.  By clambering over the railroad tracks, climbing the fence, and running across the interstate, Essex all but eliminated the threat of pursuit.  And Gert Town was a place where he could disappear.  Practically no one was going to report a black man running from the police.  Essex couldn't have picked a better escape route - if escape was his intention.  Within minutes of crossing the expressway, Essex tried to break into a warehouse at the corner of Euphrosine Street and South Gayoso. He fired three blasts from his .44 Magnum into the lock of a door facing Gayoso, but the lock held firm.

Directly across the street stood the Burkart building, a sprawling, single-story warehouse and manufacturing plant. Essex hustled across the street. At the front corner of the building was a heavy wooden door that led to the business office. Beside the door was a window. Essex smashed the glass out with the butt of his rifle and climbed through the broken window.

The building was wired with a monitored alarm system. As soon as they received the signal for a perimeter breech, the alarm company notified the police department of a possible break-in.

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