July 9, 1979: 5 Times The Investigators Got Attacked

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A Brief History

On July 9, 1979, the Renault automobile of “Nazi hunters” Serge and Beate Klarsfeld blew up outside their home in France, an unsuccessful assassination attempt by someone who did not want their Nazi hunting to be successful. Every so often, the hunters become the hunted, and today we will examine 5 times investigators or police officers were targeted by the miscreants being investigated. What other famous or egregious examples of cop hunting come to your mind? (For the purposes of this article, we will include judges, prosecutors and other investigators or people involved in bringing criminals to justice.) It must be noted that so many (thousands and thousands) of Mexican and Latin American cops, prosecutors, judges, and politicians that dared to investigate or prosecute the drug cartels have been killed that including them in this list would create hundreds of pages of stories of murder, torture and assassination.

Digging Deeper

1. Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, 1979.

Many criminal Nazi’s and Nazi collaborationists escaped prosecution after World War II, some by fleeing to South America and some by hiding under assumed names in their native country or other countries. Some people have made it their life’s work to be “Nazi Hunters,” people who track down these war criminals and bring them to justice. Serge (born 1935 in Romania, a French citizen) and Beate (born in Germany in 1939) Klarsfeld are a husband and wife team that have pursued Nazi’s that have so far escaped justice for their crimes. Serge, of Jewish origin, met Beate in France in 1960. Beate did not come from a Jewish family and in fact her father had been in the German army during World War II. When the automobile owned by the Klarsfelds was blown up in 1979 in a failed assassination attempt, no one was killed, but a group claiming to be “ODESSA,” the legendary post-World War II Nazi organization, claimed responsibility for the attempted murders. The Klarsfelds have also been activists against anti-Semitism as well as Nazi Hunters, and the most famous of their quarry was Klaus Barbie, “The Butcher of Lyon,” finally convicted in 1987.

2. Giovanni Falcone, 2017.

On May 23, 1992, the Sicilian Mafia dealt a severe blow to law enforcement attempts to rein in the gangsters’ stranglehold on crime and corruption on Sicily when a car operated by Italian prosecutor Giovanni Falcone was blown up, killing Falcone plus Falcone’s wife and 3 members of Falcone’s security detail. A remotely initiated detonation of a half ton of explosives in a pre-positioned car near the Falcone car blew up and killed the prosecutor and his entourage. Known as “The Capaci Massacre,” the murders were not the first or last battle in the war between the Mafia (Cosa Nostra) and Italian law enforcement, but the incident triggered a new phase in the war on the mob. Although the Mafia had killed numerous other police officers, police executives, judges, politicians and prosecutors before, this particular incident gave “proof” of the existence of the Mafia and legitimized efforts to crack down on the pervasive crime organization. The Falcone bombers and their co-conspirators were convicted and jailed, but other, higher ranking Mafiosi avoided prosecution. The war between Italian law enforcement and the Mafia continues today.

3. 5 Dallas Police Officers, 2016.

The situation in Dallas around El Centro College was tense on July 7, 2016, with masses of people protesting perceived police brutality toward Blacks. Large numbers of police were present to control the crowds, and among the protestors were 3 dozen or so “open carry” advocates that were carrying firearms, some of whom were dressed in body armor and gas masks. In this environment Micah Xavier Johnson, African American man age 25, also wore body armor and carried a Russian AK pattern rifle, a Glock semi-automatic pistol, and a small .25 caliber pistol. Johnson engaged some officers in conversation before opening fire, killing 3 officers in the initial barrage. Other cops and civilians were hit with gunfire, and while 11 police officers returned fire at Johnson, other officers were confused as to where the shots were coming from and took positions that left them vulnerable to direct fire from Johnson. Johnson killed another officer as he made his way toward the college buildings and was met with 2 campus officers when he tried to enter the building. Johnson, by now wounded himself, wounded the 2 college cops. A gunfight inside the college building between Johnson and the police ensued with over 200 shots being fired. A total of 5 police officers had been killed and 11 other officers (9) and civilians (2) injured. Johnson was trapped and would not surrender, prompting police to send in a bomb equipped bomb disposal robot to end the incident, the robot carrying a charge of about a pound of C-4 explosive which went off on command, killing Johnson, the first ever use of a robot by police to kill a suspect. Johnson, a US Army veteran of the Afghanistan War, had previously had disciplinary and legal problems in the Army, perhaps making him inclined toward being anti-government. He used the police shootings of Black men in the news as his excuse to target White police officers for assassination. Other American police officers have been murdered in cold blood by African Americans claiming “retaliation” for police shootings of African Americans deemed unlawful or unwarranted by the shooters, often with sensationalized media reports about those police shootings that are incomplete or inaccurate, and as has recently been revealed, tensions between police and African Americans purposely aggravated by Russian internet and social media trolls.

4. Sheriff Buford Pusser, 1974.

Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee from 1964 until 1970, Pusser became nationally famous when the 1973 movie, Walking Tall, was released. Pusser was the subject of biographical books as well as the feature film and a remake of the film by the same name in 2004, starring ever popular Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the embattled sheriff. (A pair of sequels to the first film were also released, as was a direct to video sequel to the 2004 version. A made for television film was also aired.) Pusser was a reform oriented cop that took on the job as sheriff in attempt to clean up vice and corruption in his county. After his wife was murdered in a drive by assassination attempt on Pusser’s life in 1967, the enraged sheriff went on a serious vendetta against local crime once he recovered from his wounds. Pusser had been a marked man by local criminals, the so called “Dixie Mafia” and the “State Line Mob,” with other attempts on his life resulting in him shooting and killing an attacker in one incident and being shot 3 times himself in another attempt on his life. Incredibly, Pusser survived 7 stabbings and 8 shootings during his harrowing law enforcement career! When Pusser died of injuries in a single car “accident” in 1974, many people attributed the death to an assassination, including his family. No autopsy was performed, and speculation centered on the car’s steering linkage having been tampered with. We tend to agree with conspiracy theorists, that Sheriff Pusser was indeed murdered.

5. Judge John Wood, Jr., 1979.

Judge Wood was a US Federal Judge targeted for assassination by drug dealer Jamiel Chagra of El Paso, Texas, who hired Charles Harrelson to murder the judge on the same day Chagra was scheduled to appear before Wood in court on drug charges. Harrelson gunned down the judge in the parking lot outside Wood’s home before court. Harrelson was convicted of the murder and sentenced to 2 life terms. It turns out Harrelson is the (estranged) father of famous actor Woody Harrelson! Not only that, but Charles Harrelson had been involved in other murders for which he was acquitted and in one case convicted, serving only 5 years before being released for “good behavior.” Charles Harrelson is also a subject of speculation as having been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, including testimony by Chagra that Harrelson had bragged of actually doing the Kennedy shooting personally. Chagra pled guilty to hiring Harrelson to kill Judge Wood and attempting to kill a US Prosecutor. Chagra died of cancer in 2008 having been released from prison due to ill health in 2003. Woody Harrelson has unsuccessfully attempted to have his father given a re-trial for the Wood murder.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Attwood, Shaun. War On Drugs Box Set. Gadfly Press, 2017.

Cawthrone, Nigel.  Mafia: The History of the Mob. Arcturus, 2012.

Dolci, Danilo. The Man Who Plays Alone the Story of One Man’s Fight Against the Sicilian Mafia.  Anchor, 1970.

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.