Fugitive for 40 years surrenders in Redwood City

November 10, 2011 7:49:26 PM PST
A fugitive turned himself in Thursday morning after more than 40 years on the run.

Ronald Bridgeforth, who was wanted in connection with a shootout with police in South San Francisco back in 1968, surrendered Thursday morning at the Hall of Justice in Redwood City.

Bridgeforth's attorney called the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office on Monday and said his client would surrender. Bridgeforth was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer 40 years ago.

All those years, Bridgeforth has been living a respectful life in another state under another name -- but all of that changed on Thursday when he began the uncertain process of repentance.

"This seems to be the right thing to do," Bridgeforth said to a crowd of reporters. "In the end, it's always about family."

Bridgeforth lived in Ann Arbor, Mich. under the pseudonym "Cole Jordan." While in Ann Arbor, Bridgeforth married a wife and had two sons, got a Master's degree and taught at a community college.

Some of the college students where Bridgeforth worked said they were surprised, describing Bridgeforth as a man who was highly regarded and well liked.

Bridgeforth skipped bail in 1969 after pleading guilty on charges stemming from a shootout at a Whitefront discount store in South San Francisco.

Bridgeforth gave a brief statement when he appeared in court on Thursday.

"I guess I've come back to face the consequences of my action in 1968," Bridgeforth said.

His attorney, Paul Harris, argued for his client's release without bail, saying Bridgeforth had "surrendered, left his job and told his family he's going to plead guilty."

Prosecutor Karen Guidotti asked for $100,000 bail. In the end, the judge set bail at $25,000.

Bridgeforth was also wanted for a more-serious crime involving the murder of San Francisco police officer Sgt. John Young. Police say Bridgeforth was the driver of a getaway car after Young was shot to death in 1971.

Eight suspects were arrested for Young's murder four years ago. Two entered guilty pleas for manslaughter while charges were dropped against the others.

Harris received a call Wednesday evening from the California Attorney General's office who said the office would drop the murder charge against Bridgeforth.


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