Some people believe their denial of stopping and talking to the white male stems from the embarrassment of letting a killer on his way, whereas some people believe Donald Fouke, a respected police officer, over a merciless killer. Is there anyway to find a definitive answer nearly 50 years later? The short answer is no - but by reading through the detail and listening to the accounts of Armond Pelissetti, the first responding officer that night, and Donald Fouke being interviewed on 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' (2007) and the 'Crimes of the Century' (1989) documentaries, we can say it is extremely likely a conversation between the police and the killer did occur. Of course, memories get blurred over time and this is understandable, however, there are definite red flags of such inconsistency, one finds it difficult to explain away
Armond Pelissetti was close by and reacted by traveling west on Washington Street, parking on the intersection of Washington and Cherry Streets. He exited his vehicle and noticed three teenagers in the vicinity of the intersection, so he ushered the kids back across the street to the alcove of their residence. At this point he was of the understanding he was looking for an adult negro male suspect. He went over to the taxicab and observed Paul Stine lying slumped over the front passenger seat with his head resting on the floorboard of the passenger side and was 99.9% certain he was dead. It is then he retook the description of the suspect. In the 2007 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' documentary he stated "it was then I was told it was a white male, I couldn't get to the radio fast enough at that point to let everybody else know. The kids had told me whoever had done this crime had left the cab, went out the door and seemed to be wiping the cab down and reaching into the cab and ambling or walking down Cherry Street in a northerly direction, kind of towards the Presidio. I walked that way myself, I did not run because there are innumerable alcoves and parked cars, so I went down following every technique I knew so I didn't get my head blown off".
Officer Donald Fouke, on the other hand, was at the same time (9:55 pm) making his approach to the crime scene - he had just passed Washington Street by Presidio Avenue - so his quickest and most direct route was north to Jackson Street, west along Jackson Street to Cherry Street and then south to the crime scene, which is exactly what he did. En route, he noticed a white male on the north side of Jackson Street as he approached Maple Street, however, believing he was looking for a black negro adult he slowed down as he passed the man, but failed to stop or question him, and then sped off up Jackson Street before turning southbound into Cherry. This is where he stated in the 2007 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' documentary that he bumped into Armond Pelissetti, who was cautiously scanning the alcoves and vehicles traveling up Cherry Street. It is then, crucially, that Donald Fouke said "He stopped us and said that he was looking for the white male that had just gone down the street. There was a little conversation about what the initial description was and he said no he was a white male, I then used a slang term and said oh that was the suspect". Clearly, Donald Fouke was still under the impression he was on the lookout for a black male until he was corrected.
He stated "We proceeded on Jackson Street towards Arguello continuing our search, as we arrived at Arguello Street the description of the suspect was changed to a white male adult, believing this suspect was possibly the one involved in the shooting we entered the Presidio of San Francisco and conducted a search on West Pacific Avenue, the opposite side of the wall and the last direction we observed the suspect going, we did not find the suspect". Clearly, this account differs markedly from the 2007 version, and from the standpoint of common sense, because turning southbound on Cherry seemed the correct course of action - after all, he was responding to the crime scene at Washington and Cherry, unaware at this point in time that Armond Pelissetti has responded to the crime scene before him. So what was he doing as he claimed in the 'Crimes of the Century' documentary, heading towards Arguello Boulevard and West Pacific Avenue, away from the crime scene. Remember what the Zodiac claimed in the 'Bus Bomb' letter on November 9th 1969: "p.s. 2 cops pulled a goof abot 3 min after I left the cab. I was walking down the hill to the park when this cop car pulled up + one of them called me over + asked if I saw anyone acting suspicious or strange in the last 5 to 10 min + I said yes there was this man who was runnig by waveing a gun & the cops peeled rubber + went around the corner as I directed them." In other words, the only reason for Donald Fouke and Eric Zelms to have been heading towards Arguello Boulevard and around the corner into West Pacific Avenue, away from the crime scene, is if Zodiac directed them there - and they were looking for a man 'running and waving a gun'.
The detailed description by Donald Fouke of the white male suspect, right down to his tan engineering boots and elasticated waistband and cuffs, bearing in mind he was still looking for a black male at this point, seems to point to the fact that a greater interaction occurred between killer and police officer than we were being led to believe. There is one other crucial factor in the timeline that indicates Donald Fouke's account is nearer the mark in the 'Crimes of the Century' documentary than his 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' recollection - and that is concerning his meeting with Armond Pelissetti along Cherry Street, which they both concur.
Both Donald Fouke and Armond Pelissetti received the initial police broadcast at 9:55 pm - it was more likely 9:58 pm - but the important thing to remember here, is they both received it at the same time. So let us examine what Donald Fouke said in the 2007 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' documentary concerning his speed, "Before I saw him (the white male on Jackson St) I was traveling probably about 35-40 mph, slowed down as we passed him, saw it was a white male, step on the gas, 5,10,15 seconds tops". The journey from the Presidio Avenue and Washington Street intersection, where he took the initial broadcast, is approximately 0.6 miles to the upper reaches of Cherry Street, where he bumped into Armond Pelissetti. Erring on the side of caution, which backs up the following argument even more, we have averaged his speed down to 30 mph. Therefore, traveling 0.6 miles at 30 mph, it would take Officer Donald Fouke approximately 1 minute 30 seconds to meet up with Armond Pelissetti at the top of Cherry Street.
So, the question to ask is, what was Donald Fouke doing with all this extra time, of which there could be at least two minutes?
If he turned straight into Cherry Street as he claimed in the 2007 'This is the Zodiac Speaking' documentary, then he would had to have stopped and talked to the white male suspect in Jackson Street for possibly 2 minutes to allow for him to meet Armond Pelissetti directly - and based on the dialogue given by Zodiac in the 'Bus Bomb' letter, it was more likely a matter of seconds rather than minutes. So this scenario is unlikely. However, if he had briefly talked to the Zodiac Killer and had been directed to Arguello Boulevard and then had conducted a brief sweep of West Pacific Avenue, before returning to Cherry Street to meet Armond Pelissetti, then this 2+ minutes are accounted for easily. This indicates that his account in the 'Crimes of the Century' documentary is truer to the unfolding events of October 11th 1969 and not his later account in the 2007 documentary, which does not conform to the timeline. In fact, it simply is not possible whichever way you twist it.
A big thanks to Alex Lewis for all his help on this subject.