1999 — Amadou Diallo is shot dead

Amadou Diallo was only 23 years old, and had only been in New York City for about two and half years at the time of his death. Stopped by police, he was shot dead in the act of reaching for his wallet, when police believed he was going for a concealed weapon (Diallo was in fact completely unarmed). Four plainclothes policemen: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss, fired a total of 41 shots at Diallo, hitting him with 19 them.

Unsurprisingly, all this overkill in the aid of precisely no useful purpose generated a considerable backlash against the NYPD, especially when the four officers were found innocent of all wrong-doing on appeal – even though one of them had shot and killed a different unarmed man two years previously. Although the unit to which the four officers belonged was disbanded as a result of the controversy, all of the men continued to work for the police force for some years after the incident.

Referenced in:
Contempt Breeds Contamination — Trivium
American Skin (41 Shots) — Bruce Springsteen
I Know You Don’t Care About Me — Ziggy Marley
Shot Into History (Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell…) — Mario Depeine Sr.

1958 — Charles Starkweather’s murder spree begins

On January 21, 1958, 19 year old Charles Starkweather went to the house of his girlfriend, 14 year old Caril Ann Fugate. She wasn’t home, but her parents and sister were. Starkweather killed the three, and when Caril arrived home, she helped him to hide their bodies. Six days later, they took to the road to evade the police.

By the time the couple were arrested on January 29, they had killed another seven people – although exactly which of the pair killed some of them was disputed (they each accused the other). Starkweather was tried and convicted for the murders. He was executed on June 25, 1950, while Fugate served 17 years in prison for her part (as a minor, she was considered to have diminished responsibility).

Referenced in:
Hate So Real — J Church
All I Want — Kenny Brown
Stark Weather — Icky Blossoms
Badlands — Bruce Springsteen
Nebraska — Bruce Springsteen
We Didn’t Start the Fire — Billy Joel
The Story Of Charles Starkweather — Tumblin’ Go Go’s
Badlands (Charles Starkweather & Caril Fugate) — Church of Misery

1959 – Charles Starkweather is executed for murder

One of the earliest modern spree killers, Charles Starkweather was responsible for the deaths of eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming between December 1, 1957 and January 29, 1958, when he and his 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, were captured.

Starkweather tried to shield Fugate from the legal consequences of her participation in some of the killings, but his story changed too many times to be taken seriously. She was sentenced to life in prison, and he got the chair. At one minute past midnight on June 25, 1959, Charles Starkweather, who still showed little remorse, was executed by electrocution in the Nebraska State Penitentiary.

Referenced in:

Nebraska — Bruce Springsteen

1968 – Battle is joined at Khe Sanh

On the evening of January 2, six men were captured outside the fences of the US Marine base at Khe Sanh, in the Quang Tri province of Vietnam, apparently performing reconnaissance for a planned North Vietnamese attack.

A defector carried information about the attacks to the US forces on January 20, and the attacks themselves began the following day. The US and allied forces quickly joined battle, but were surrounded and besieged. For the next two months, the siege went on, until American forces broke through and relieved the base in March.

The American forces recorded a total of 730 soldiers killed in action, with a further 2,642 wounded and
7 more missing in action. Casualties on the North Vietnamese side are estimated as between 10,000 and 15,000.

Referenced in:
Khe Sanh – Cold Chisel
Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen