Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Essex, the Howard Johnson Sniper

The Second Attack

At about 11:10 p.m. on New Year's Eve, a K-9 unit, car 270, with officers Edwin Hosli and Kenneth Blappert, along with Hosli's German Shepard, King, pulled away from the chaotic shooting scene at Central Lockup and rolled toward the alarm call across the expressway at the Burkhart building. Neither officer imagined the routine alarm call had any connection to the attack at police headquarters.

Officer Hosli, killed
Officer Hosli, killed
At 11:15, Hosli, a 10-year veteran of the department, turned down the narrow section of South Gayoso that dead-ended between the Burkart building and the warehouse across the street. He turned the car around and stopped his cruiser approximately 30 feet from the door to the Burkart business office. The driver's side of his police car faced the Burkart building.

Crouched inside the business office, Mark Essex waited with the muzzle of his Magnum carbine resting on the ledge of the busted window.

As Officer Hosli stepped out of his patrol car and turned to let his dog out, Essex shot him in the back. The distance of the shot was 37 feet, less than 12½ yards. Hosli crumpled next to the rear tire. His partner dove across the seat to check on him as bullets shattered the windshield. Blappert snatched up the radio microphone. "270 to headquarters. Shots fired, officer down. Euphrosine at South Gayoso." As another shot thundered over the roof of the patrol car, Blappert spotted the gunman's firing position and snapped off four shots from his .38 revolver. Then he dragged his partner's bloody body into the relative protection of the front seat of their patrol car.

By the time back up cars arrived at the warehouse, the shootout was over. A swarm of police officers surrounded the Burkart building and used shotguns to blast open the office door. They sent in two dogs; then after giving the dogs a couple of minutes to locate the shooter, the enraged officers flooded into the building. They wanted blood. Inside the dark manufacturing plant and warehouse, they found blood but no suspect. For the second time in less than an hour, the sniper had escaped.

Officer Edwin Hosli never recovered from his wound. He died in the hospital two months later.

During a search of the Burkart building, police found several spent .44-caliber shells inside the office. Scattered throughout the building were fresh drops of blood. There were also several bloody handprints. The cops theorized that the shooter had either cut himself on the broken window when he climbed into the office, or Officer Blappert had shot him. In the warehouse, the police found a tan corduroy shirt, a screw-on filter canister for a gas mask, a bag of fifty .38-caliber rounds of ammunition, a pair of cloth work gloves, and a flashlight. They also discovered how the shooter had escaped. On the side of the building opposite where the shootout had occurred, the police noticed a blood-smeared open window. Just outside the window, they found three unfired .44 Magnum cartridges.

The ammunition outside the window was the start of a trail of bullets. By the end of that Monday morning, January 1, the police picked up a total of 10 unfired cartridges. The path led straight into the heart of Gert Town.

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