Horror at City Hall

City Hall Killings
Chronicle Front Page: 11/29/78

from Reporter’s Note Book by Duffy Jennings.


November 27, 1978 ⏤ It’s 11 a.m. I’ve been sitting at my desk for more than an hour, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, reading the late edition, and waiting for a story assignment like a fireman pacing anxiously near the alarm bell on the stationhouse wall. 

This morning’s paper carries more follow-up pieces on the Jonestown tragedy, news of a two-alarm fire that gutted the Dance Your Ass Off disco in North Beach, and a report of six people arrested for smoking pot and drinking under the Coliseum bleachers during the Raiders football game.

Man-about-town columnist Herb Caen has an item about Supervisor Feinstein’s trip to the Himalayas with Dick Blum and a rumor of their engagement. “Untrue,” she told Caen. “I had a wonderful husband and I still miss him terribly. But one can’t live in the past and Dick is a great friend. However, no change in our relationship is imminent.”

I pour myself a coffee refill and grab the early edition of the afternoon Examiner off a stack of papers on the mailboxes at the front of the room. Walking back to my desk, I hear assignment editor Richard Hemp talking on the phone with Bob Popp, our police beat reporter stationed at the Hall of Justice six blocks away. Even before hanging up, Hemp is beckoning me.

“Duffy, police activity at city hall,” Hemp says. “Report of a shooting. Units responding Code Three.”

“On the way, Dick,” I answer, grabbing my coat and notebook. “What else do we know?”

“Gunfire in the building is all. Bob’s trying to get more. Call me from the car.”


© 2019 by Duffy Jennings. All Rights Reserved.

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Even before hanging up, Hemp is beckoning me. "Duffy, police activity at city hall," Hemp says. "Report of a shooting. Units responding Code Three."