Suspect in 1971 cop killing will surrender

November 9, 2011 6:16:09 PM PST
A man who says he just wants to do the right thing plans to surrender on Thursday for his role in a 1968 shootout. Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth will admit his part in a department store shooting with South San Francisco police officers in 1968, but he will not admit to having anything to do with a much more serious crime.

Bridgeforth is now 67 years old. His lawyer won't say where he's been hiding for more than four decades, but he has a family and he's been teaching and counseling students at a college. On Monday, his lawyer called the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office and said his client's coming in.

"It's been 42 years. 42 years. Yes, very unusual," said San Mateo Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti.

Guidotti never expected to hear from fugitive Bridgeforth again after he skipped bail in 1969. He was arrested the year before, after a shootout with police at a white front discount store in South San Francisco.

"Mr. Bridgeforth began shooting at the officers. They returned fire and ultimately, I believe, one of the officers shot out a tire. The car crashed and they were taken into custody," said Guidotti.

"He jumped bail and went to Africa for a year, came back and for the last 40 years he's led a constructive, model life," said Bridgeforth's lawyer Paul Smith.

Smith says his client, who's married with two sons, wants to do the right thing.

"He wants to be a model for his sons, of a man who stands up for the wrong he had done. That's why he's turning himself in," said Smith.

But Bridgeforth is also wanted for another, more serious crime -- the murder of San Francisco police Sgt. John Young. Police say he was the driver of the getaway car after Young was shot to death at Ingleside station in 1971. Investigators say the killers were members of the Black Liberation Army, a militant offshoot of the Black Panther Party. Harris says his client is innocent.

"He was not a member of the Black Liberation Army that was involved in that case allegedly," said Smith.

Eight suspects were arrested four years ago, two pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, but both were already serving life sentences for other murders. The charges were dropped against the others. His lawyer says Bridgeforth will plead guilty only to the South San Francisco charges.

"He's innocent of the other case and will fight that case as hard as we can," said Smith.

On the more serious murder charge, the state attorney general's office which prosecuted this case says they are reviewing Bridgeforth's charges. A very good source told ABC7 he doubts they'll prosecute him because his case was apparently the weakest of all.

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