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As is often true in such tragedies, no one could believe that the man who did the killing was capable of such a deed. "I never thought he was at all unstable," said former Supervisor Terry François. "Just a normal young father," added another acquaintance. Intensely competitive, White had been captain of both the baseball and football teams and a Golden Gloves boxer while attending San Francisco's Woodrow Wilson High School. Son of a San Francisco fireman, he served in Viet Nam, then worked 3½ years as a policeman. He somehow managed to buy first an $8,000 Jaguar, then a $15,000 Porsche, before taking a leave of absence to hitchhike through the U.S. After joining the fire department in 1973, he was cited for heroism for rescuing a mother and her child from the 17th floor of a burning building. He was to have received the medal last week.
Mayor Moscone, whose father had been a guard at San Quentin and once showed his young son the gas chamber, had long opposed the death penalty. Last week the charges lodged against Dan White were carefully crafted to permit a court to decree that he must die for those murderous moments at city hall.