The 'Button' letter was mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on June 26th 1970, with the Zodiac stating he was not pleased that the citizens of San Francisco had not adorned "some nice" Zodiac buttons, and promised to punish them by annihilating a school bus. However, because school was out for the summer, he had instead "shot a man sitting in a parked car with a .38".
The only event that tallied with the Zodiac's claim was the murder of police officer Sgt Richard P. Radetich (25), on June 19th at 5.25 am, who was gunned down by three shots from a .38 caliber revolver at point blank range through the driver side window of his vehicle while in the process of serving a parking ticket. He was sat in his police car near 643 Waller Street, San Francisco in the Lower Haight District and subsequently died 15 hours later. Local residents heard a vehicle speeding away from the scene, but the number of assailants involved is unknown. Not far from the crime scene a gas station attendant recalled seeing a white Cadillac racing down Oak Street and entering Divisadero Street only 0.3 miles from the murder scene. His murder shocked the community, as he left behind a wife, Nancy, and an eight month old daughter Janine. See crime bulletin below right.
This appeared to be the murder that the Zodiac was referring to in his correspondence, although newspaper reports of the crime had already been released, so without supplying any extra detail in the letter, it is believed by many observers that the Zodiac was simply laying claim to a crime he never committed. However, this was the immediate letter after claiming: "But there is more glory in killing a cop than a cid because a cop can shoot back," just two months earlier, when the Zodiac mailed the '13 Symbol' cipher on April 20th 1970.
Other crimes around that time bore hallmarks of the Radetich slaying, notably that of Sgt John Young killed in 1971, who was shot while tending the reception desk at Ingleside Station - a crime linked to the Black Liberation Army - a group violently anchored away from the ideological Black Power movement. This group also employed the use of bombs in their arsenal to create terror on the streets of US cites between 1970 and 1981, culminating with the Brink's Robbery. In total, in the years 1970-1971, there were six police homicides in San Francisco, in what was to ultimately become the most violent decade in US history.
In 2007, the San Francisco Office of the Mayor offered a $100,000 reward for any information leading to a successful arrest in the Richard Radetich murder.
The 'Button' letter also contained a cipher, the fourth and final cipher by the killer, that still remains unsolved to this day. The Zodiac also included a map of 'San Francisco and Vicinity', both of which allied together were to reveal a bomb buried at a specific location. However, no bomb was never found, if indeed it was ever laid. Phillips 66 Road Map of the San Francisco Bay Area
Extra reading on the 'Button' letter.
The Dragon Card, was the immediate correspondence before the Button Letter above (pictured on the right) and mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle on April 28th 1970 .
It contained a picture and on the reverse side it said:
"If you dont want me to have this blast you must do two things. Tell everyone about the bus bomb with all the details. I would like to see some nice Zodiac buttons wandering about town. Everyone else has these buttons like, black power, melvin eats bluber, etc. Well it would cheer me up considerably if I saw a lot of people wearing my buton. Please no nasty ones like melvin's. Thank you."
The Card itself was a Jolly Roger brand greetings card of a prospector riding on the back of a dragon. A similar card can be viewed on archive news footage of Bryan Hartnell during his recovery in hospital, as one of the many greetings cards displayed on the wall of his room. It can be seen on the extreme right of image at 3 minutes and 32 seconds by following this link.
The reference to "melvin eats bluber" is based on the creation of buttons in the mid to late 1960s by Irwin Weisfeld, in the form of a counter culture expressionism. The actual pin button says 'Melville Eats Blubber', which is in fact referring to Herman Melville, the creator of Moby Dick published in 1851.
In this correspondence it appears the Zodiac is poking fun towards Melvin Belli, who himself received correspondence from the killer in the form of a letter approximately four months prior to this card on December 20th 1969, which contained a third piece of shirt taken from the murdered taxicab driver Paul Stine at Presidio Heights on October 11th 1969.
It has been suggested the Dragon Card was depicting elements of the book Don Quixote, a novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
At the beginning of the novel Alonso Quijana, a prolific reader of books, became so mesmerized by the chivalry contained within them, he sets out under the assumed name of Don Quixote, recruiting Sancho Panza as his squire in his quest to revive chivalry. Don Quixote sets off on his mission bedecked in an old suit of armor, in the form of a knight upon his horse Rocinante, while Sancho Panza makes do with a nameless donkey, sometimes referred to as el rucio on account of its color.
It is thought the Dragon Card is depicting these two central characters, the dragon element being part of heraldic folklore.
A statue of Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza can be found in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. See above.
Extra reading on the 'Dragon' card.
The murder of taxi driver Larry Hargis June 25th 1970
Larry Hargis (27), was on duty on June 25th 1970, when he informed the taxi company dispatcher of a client asking to be driven to the Spring Valley area from downtown San Diego, California.
San Diego is situated near the coast in Southern California, about a two hour drive, south of Los Angeles and Riverside County.
These words, in the early hours of the 25th June, unfortunately, were some of the last spoken by taxi driver Larry Hargis, his body was later discovered in a field near Galopago Street, he had been shot and his wallet had been taken. His cab, presumably commandeered by the murderer(s), was later discovered back in downtown San Diego, which by car is approximately 20 minutes traveling time.
No suspect or suspects have ever been identified and the case remains unsolved to this day.
This murder took place the day before the Button Letter was received at the San Francisco Chronicle on 26th June 1970, but the location and traveling distance makes any connection to the Button Letter, as well as the Zodiac Killer unlikely. But nevertheless provides a significant timeline between the murder of Larry Hargis and the mailing of the Button Letter to the San Francisco Chronicle the following day.
This case has been placed here for consideration, although any link to the Zodiac case remains small. However, if you can help authorities with any detail that may lead to the identification of any suspect in this case or any other cases in the San Diego region, please use the contact details on the San Diego County Sheriff's Department website here.