October 21, 1985: Dan White, the man who murdered both Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, commits suicide.
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay individual to be elected to office in California. White a fellow San Francisco supervisor assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Milk, on Monday, November 27, 1978, at San Francisco’s City Hall. In a controversial verdict that led to the coining of the legal slang the”Twinkie Defense,” White was convicted of manslaughter rather than murder. White served five years of an only seven-year prison sentence.
White’s release was carried out with great secrecy. The afternoon before his scheduled release, he was transferred 200 miles south to a facility in the Tehachapi mountains north of Los Angeles. The next morning, he was handed over to the Los Angeles Parole Department which had arranged for an apartment for him somewhere in LA. He was given $200 in cash, the standard amount given to released prisoners. The press was given no information other than that White had been secretly released and his parole was not to exceed one year. White remained in hiding for a period of nine months During that period, he contacted his old friend, San Francisco Detective Frank Falzon, whom he had not talked to since the trial. White invited Falzon to join him in L.A., saying that he wanted to explain the whole thing.
Falzon claimed that at that meeting, White confessed that not only was his killing of Moscone and Milk premeditated, but that he had actually planned to kill Carol Silver and Willie Brown as well. Falzon quoted White as having said, “I was on a mission. I wanted the four of them. Carol Ruth Silver, she was the biggest snake … and Willie Brown, he was masterminding the whole thing. (Meaning his not being to withdraw his resignation from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.)
Less than two years after his release, Dan White returned to San Francisco, methodically taped a garden hose to the tailpipe of his car , stuck the other end through a car window, turned on the ignition and died. In his hands, he clutched photographs of his three children and his wife.
Dan White did not kill himself out of guilt. He did it because his killing Harvey Milk was going to follow him for the rest of his entire life.
Scott Smith, Milk’s lover and business partner, said he was “stunned” by White’s death but not upset. “He got away with murder,” Smith said. “I suppose what goes around comes around.”
Many refer to Dan White even today as ” The most hated man in San Francisco’s history.”
And rightfully so.
Please take a few minutes to read Dan White’s confession to the murder of Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk. Also watch the video below: Dan White News Footage Of Arrest, Trial & The White Night Riots.
Transcript of Dan White’s Taped Confession (Milk and Moscone Murders) (November 27, 1978)
People’s Exhibit 54 in the Trial of Dan White
“Today’s date is Monday, November 27th, 1978. The time is presently 12:05. We’re inside the Homicide Detail, room 454, at the, Hall of Justice. Present is Inspector Edward Erdelatz, Inspector Frank Falzon and for the record, sir, your full name?
“A Daniel James White.
“Q Now, Dan, before I go any further I have to advise you of the Miranda rights. Number 1 you have the right to remain silent. Number 2 Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Three- You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned. 4. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you wish one. Do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you?
“A I do.
“Q And having these rights in mind, do you wish to ah. . .tell us about the incident involving Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at this time?
“A I do.
“Q Would you, normally in a situation like this ah. . .we ask questions, I’m aware of your past history as a police officer and also as a San Francisco fireman. I would prefer, I’ll let you do it in a narrative form as to what happened this morning if you can lead up to the events of the shooting and then backtrack as to why these events took place.
“A Well, it’s just that I’ve been under an awful lot of pressure lately, financial pressure, because of my job situation, family pressure because of ah. . . .not being able to have the time with my family. It’s just that I wanted to serve the people of San Francisco well an I did that. Then when the pressures got too great, I decided to leave. After I left, my family and friends offered their support and said whatever it would take to allow me to go back in to office-well they would be willing to make that effort. So since I felt the responsibility for the people that elected me I went to Mayor Moscone and told him that my situation had changed because of the support of family and friends and I’d like to be, retain my seat, to be appointed to my seat. Initially he told me that he felt that I was an elected representative of District 8, that I was doing an outstanding job, people of District 8 were lucky to have me, and that if it came to a legal ruling that he would appoint me, reappoint me, because of the type of person I was. So with that in mind I tried to set my personal affairs in order, preparing to take my seat. And then it came out that Supervisor Milk and some others were working against me to get my seat back on the board. I learned of this I was in the City Attorney’s office, when Supervisor Milk called, stating that he, he was of that mind. He didn’t speak to me, he spoke to the City Attorney but I was in the office and I heard the conversation and that he was going to try to prevent me from taking my seat again. I went back to the Mayor and he told me that he had had some comments made to him that he felt that some of the people in District 8 didn’t want me to, to serve, and I told him that these were people that had opposed me in my election, had traumatized my family by taking me, taking, pressing charges against me at the District Attorney’s office twice on false charges. They put a lot of pressure on me and my family.
“Q Can you relate these pressures you’ve been under, Dan, at this time? Can you explain it to the Inspector Erdelatz and myself?
“A Well, it’s just that some of these people have charged me with taking money from big corporations and not recording it but I never did that. I never took money from anybody but the papers print it. Like, my constituents believe it. They, they asked me about it. These people that are irresponsible and bring these charges. Two months later the District Attorney said they’re unfounded but no one hears about it, that the charges are false. But my family suffers and I suffer for it, phone cans we get.
“Q These meetings that you were having with the Mayor, were they an occurring last week or, or were they going into the weekend, this past weekend?
“A No, I, I hadn’t spoke to the Mayor since last Saturday. This would be Saturday a week ago and he told me that I would have to show some support from the people of District 8 if I was going to be reappointed. I could see the game that was being played, they were going to use me as a scapegoat, whether I was a good supervisor or not, was not the point. This was a political opportunity and they were going to degrade me and my family and the job that I had tried to do and, and more or less hang me out to dry. And I saw more and more evidence of this during the week when papers reported that ah. . .someone else was going to reappointed. I couldn’t get through to the Mayor. The Mayor never called me. He told me he was going to call me before he made any decision, he never did that. An it was only on my, my own initiative when I went down today to speak with him. I was troubled, the pressure, my family again, my, my son’s out to a babysitter. My wife’s got to work, long hours, 50 and 60 hours, never see my family.
“Q Dan can you tell Inspector Erdelatz and myself, what was your plan this morning? What did you have in mind?
“A I didn’t have any, any devised plan or anything, it’s, I was leaving the house to talk, to see the Mayor and I went downstairs, to, to make a phone can and I had my gun down there.
“Q Is this your police service revolver, Dan?
“A This is the gun I had when I was a policeman. It’s in my room an ah. . .I don’t know, I just put it on. I, I don’t know why I put it on, it’s just. . .
“Q Where is this gun now, Dan?
“A I turned it in to Officer ah. . .Paul Chignell who I turned myself in to at Northern Station. I, I. . . . . . . .
“Q You turned yourself in, I wasn’t aware of that.
“A I turned myself in at Northern Station to Officer Paul Chignell who, who I could trust and I, I know would do things properly. An then, an then I, I went to the, to the Mayor’s office.
“Q You went directly from your residence to the Mayor’s office this morning?
“A Yes, my, my aide picked me up but she didn’t have any idea ah. . .you know that 1 had a gun on me or, you know, I just was going to the Mayor to, to see if he was going to reappoint me and if not, the reasons why. And I went in to see him an, an he told me he wasn’t going to reappoint me and he, and he wasn’t going to, intending to tell me about it. He had some, he told me he had a press conference scheduled and he was going to announce it at the press conference. Didn’t even have the courtesy to call me or tell me that I wasn’t going to be reappointed. Then ah. . .I got kind of fuzzy and then just my head didn’t feel right and I, then he said, Let’s go into the, the back room an, an have a drink and talk about it. An ah. . . .
“Q Was this before any threats on your part, Dan?
“A I, I never made any threats.
“Q There were no threats at all?
“A I, I. . . .oh no.
“Q When were you, how, what was the conversation, can you explain to inspector Erdelatz and myself the conversation that existed between the two of you at this time?
“A It was pretty much just, you know, I asked, was I going to be reappointed. He said, no I am not, no you’re not. And I said, why. He said, he said well I’ve had people in your district say they don’t want you and I, I reiterated that I told him before that these were people that had brought false charges against me and had been dogging me since I’ve been in office and that he had been in politics and he understood that there are going to be people that dislike you, you, not everybody as a 100% supporter but I told him that oh, you know, an overwhelming majority of the people in my district wanted me as their supervisor and I told him how a person told me last night that they had on their own gone out with neighbors and gathered over a thousand signatures in one day, my constituents, to keep me in office. He knew that and he told me, it’s a political decision and that’s the end of it, and that’s it.
“Q Is this when you were having a drink in the back room?
“A No, no, it’s before I went to the back room and then he could obviously see, see I was obviously distraught and upset and then he said, let’s go in the back room and and, and have a drink and I, I’m not even a drinker, you know I don’t, once in a while, but I’m not even a drinker. But I just kinda stumbled in the back, went, went, went in the back room and he sat down and he was all, he was talking and nothing was getting through to me. It was just like a roaring in my ears an, and then em. . . . .it just came to me, you know, he.
. . . .
“Q You couldn’t hear what he was saying Dan?
“A Just small talk that, you know it just wasn’t registering. What I was going to do now, you know, and how this would affect my family you know an, an just, just all the time knowing he’s going to go out an, an lie to the press an, an tell ’em, you know, that I, I wasn’t a good supervisor and that people didn’t want me an then that was it. Then I, I just shot him, that was it, it was over.
“Q Was he, was he using the telephone at the time or going to use the phone?
“Q Not any time. . . .
“A I, I don’t even know if there’s a phone in that back room.
“Q What happened after you left there, Dan?
“A Well, I, I left his office by one of the back doors an, an I started, I was going to go down the stairs and then I saw Harvey Milk’s aide across the hall at the Supervisors an then it struck me about what Harvey had tried to do an I said, well I’ll go talk to him. I said, you know, at least maybe he’ll be honest with me, you know, because he didn’t know I had, I had heard his conversation and he was all smiles and stuff and I went in and, like I say, I, I was still upset an ah. . . .then I said, I wanted to talk to him an, an, an just try to explain to him, you know, I, I didn’t agree with him on a lot of things but I was always honest, you know, and here they were devious and then he started kind of smirking cause he knew, he knew that I wasn’t going to be reappointed. And ah, . . . .it just didn’t make any impression on him. I started to say you know how hard I worked for it and what it meant to me and my family an then my reputation as, as a hard worker, good honest person and he just kind of smirked at me as if to say, too bad an then an then I just got all flushed an, an hot an I shot him.
“Q How long a conversation did you have with Mr. Milk?
”A It wasn’t very long, I, I, he was in his office when I came in to the supervisors’ area and I said, Harvey can I talk to you? He got up or he was standing up, I can’t remember an he, and he walked into the room and I shut my door and he and I were in there, then. . . .
“Q This occurred inside your room, Dan?
”A Yeah, in my office, yeah.
“Q And when you left there where did you go?
”A Well let’s see. When I left there I went into my aide’s room and I, an I took her keys to her car, an, an I ran out and went in the back to where her car is parked in, in the well and I took her car and I drove over to the, where did I drive to? I didn’t even know what I was doing an I. . . .
“Q Did you go back home?
“A No, no, no I drove to the, the Doggie Diner on, on Van Ness and I called my wife and she, she didn’t know, she. . . .
“Q Did you tell her Dan?
”A I called up, I didn’t tell her on the phone. I just said she was work. . . .see, she was working, son’s at a babysitter, shit. I just told her to meet me at the cathedral.
“Q Did she meet you?
”A Yeah. She. . . .
“Q St. Mary’s?
”A She took a cab, yeah. She didn’t know. She had knew I’d been upset and I wasn’t even talking to her at home because I just couldn’t explain how I felt and she had no, nothing to blame about it, she was, she always has been great to me but it was, I couldn’t tell anybody I didn’t, there was just, just the pressure hitting at me an just my head’s all flushed and expected that my skull’s going to crack. Then when she came to the church I, I told her and she kind of slumped an just she, she couldn’t say anything.
“Q How is she now do you, do you know is she, do you know where she is?
”A I don’t know now. She, she came to Northern Station with me. She asked me not to do anything about myself, you know that she, she loved me an she’d stick by me and not to hurt myself an then we just walked to Northern Station and went an talked to Officer Chignell and that’s it.
“Q Is there anything else you’d like to add at this time?
“A Just that I’ve always been honest and worked hard, never cheated anybody or, you know, I’m not a crook or anything an I wanted to do a good job, I’m trying to do a good job an I saw this city as it’s going, kind of downhill an I was always just a lonely vote on the board and try to be honest an, an I just couldn’t take it any more an that’s it.
“Q Inspector Erdelatz?
[Inspector Erdelatz]: “Q Dan, when you went to Northern Station, what did you tell Officer Chignell?
“A I didn’t say anything, the police obviously knew. They all knew and I know most of them, I’ve worked with most of them, and sh. . . .they just, you know, checked me out, frisked me and I had the gun and took out my wallet and everything, an ah. . .that’s it, I told them I, I, I wasn’t going to say anything.
“Q Dan, right now are you under a doctor’s care?
“Q Are you under any medication at all?
“Q Have you. .have you carried a gun with you in the past, Dan, since you’ve been ah. . . .a Supervisor say?
“A I have, because there were some threats on my life you know from people that I dealt with before the board. I never told my wife about it, I never told anybody cause it, you know, that’s something you don’t want to hurt anybody else, you know, bring anybody else but. . . .
“Q When is the last time you had your gun with you prior to today?
”A I guess it was a few months ago. I, I was afraid of some of the threats that were made and I had a committee hearing coming up where some of these people were going to appear and I, and I know they had a history of violence an I, I just wanted to make sure protect myself you know this, this city isn’t safe you know and there’s a lot of people running around an well I don’t have to tell you fellows, you guys know that.
“Q When you left the Mayor’s office, Dan, you proceeded you say to Harvey Milk’s office?
”A I, I didn’t even know if he was there. Like I said, I, I saw his aide come out of the door and I said, well I’m going to go over and talk to Harvey and kind of explain to him you know, he, I worked hard for that job and we disagreed on things but hell, I never was devious and I never lied, just tried to do my best.
“Q To your knowledge was anybody aware of the fact that the shooting had occurred in the Mayor’s office?
”A I, I have no idea. I don’t even know.
“Q Was there anybody running about at that time or was any excitement?
”A There wasn’t anybody in the hall ah. . .across the hall, like I say, was his aide an, an I, and then I passed two people in the hall that were walking an, an by the Mayor’s office, and they didn’t seem excited or anything.
“Q How long did you converse with Supervisor Milk prior to the shooting?
”A Oh it’s, maybe a minute or so, a minute and a half maybe.
I, I don’t know, it was a short time.
“Q Was there anybody else present at that time?
”A No, no I wanted to talk to Harvey and see, make him understand but he kind of smirked at me, he knew I wasn’t getting the job back,
“Q And this, when Inspector Falzon asked you about what had transpired when, when you were with the Mayor, you mentioned that there was a roaring in your ears, is that right?
”A Yeah, it’s just like my head was going to burst, you know, I just. . .
“Q Had that ever happened to you in the past, Dan?
”A Yeah, it had, it had when I was under this pressure at home an at night I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sleep last night. I wasn’t even with my wife in bed, I was on the couch cause I didn’t want to bother her. I couldn’t sleep, I never even slept. It’s just, I don’t know I, it felt like my head was going to burst.
“Q When you left your home this morning Dan, and was it your intention to confront the Mayor, Supervisor Milk or anyone else with that gun?
”A No, I, I, what I wanted to do was just, talk to him, you know, I, I ah, I didn’t even know if I was going to be reappointed or not be reappointed. Like I say, they didn’t contact me, they didn’t tell me ah. . .I just was going down there to talk to him, you know, an ah. . .why do we do things, you know, why did I, it, I don’t know, No, I, I just wanted to talk to him that’s all an at least have him be honest with me an tell me why he was doing it, not because I was a bad Supervisor or anything but, you know, I never killed anybody before, I never shot anybody. . . .
“Q What did. . . .
“A . . . . . . . . .I didn’t even, I didn’t even know if I wanted to kill him. I just shot him, I don’t know.
“Q What type of gun is that you were carrying, Dan?
“A It’s a 38, a 2 inch 38.
“Q And do you know how many shots you fired?
”A Uh. . . .no I don’t, I don’t. I, out of instinct when I, I reloaded the gun ah. . .you know, it’s just the training I guess I had, you know.
“Q Where did you reload?
“A I reloaded in my office when, when I was I couldn’t out in the hall.
“Q When you say you reloaded, are you speaking of following the shooting in the Mayor’s office?
“Q What or where were you carrying that gun when you left your house this morning?
”A I was carrying it in the holster on my hip, you know. . . .ah. . .ah. . . .under my vest.
“Q And how many bullets did you have with you?
”A I, I, I don’t know, I ah. . .the gun was loaded an, an I had some ah. .extra shots you know, I just, I, cause, I keep the gun with, with a box of shells and I just grabbed some.
“Q Are you referring to some loose. . . .
“A Yeah. . . .
“Q . . . . . . . . .bullets?
“A Yeah, yes.
“Q Inspector Falzon?
[Inspector Falzon]: “No, questions. Is there anything you’d like to add Dan before we close this statement?
”A Well it’s just that, I never really intended to hurt anybody. It’s just this past several months, it got to the point I couldn’t take it and I never wanted the job for ego or you know, perpetuate myself or anything like that. I was just trying to do a good job for the city.
“Q Inspector Erdelatz and I ah. . .appreciate your cooperation and the truthfulness in your statement. At this time, we’ll close this statement, it’s now 12:30 in the afternoon. Thank you.”
[End of Tape]
4 thoughts on “Gay History Month- October 21, 1985: Dan White The Man Who Murdered Harvey Milk Commits Suicide – Read His Full Confession”
White also knew that it was just a matter of time before a gay man had the opportunity to kill him and took it. He was an evil man, he had committed premeditated murder according to all the facts in the case, he’d been protected by the anti-gay San Francisco police department, who coached him before his long delayed and poorly run interrogation, and then was ineptly or intentionally badly prosecuted by the anti-gay public prosecutors office. He got away with murder, and he undid years of progress towards equal rights in San Francisco, leaving the city government in the conservative hands of Diane Feinstein, who was on record with her anti-gay beliefs and actions.
There were lots of gay men who would not have gone out of their way to kill White, but if the occasion offered itself would have happily pushed him in front of a bus or hit him with their car in a crosswalk, and would have willingly taken the consequences. I am a normally peaceful and non-violent man, but I was one of them; I would not have hesitated if the opportunity had come up. His suicide was just choosing the date and method of his death, he knew it was inevitable and probably soon.
I’m 20 years old and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this site. I learn so much from it. I already knew a lot about gay history, but there’s always more out there to learn. (I had never seen this confession, for example.) Anyway, thanks so much for all your work in creating and maintaining this site. Also, thank you for keeping the focus on gay or LGB history and not conflating it with transgenderism.