New forensics reveal evidence from 1971 San Francisco LODD
By KIM CURTIS
Associated Press Writer
A fingerprint on a cigarette lighter, shotgun shells and an informant helped lead to the arrests this week of eight men accused of killing a police officer in the 1970s, according to court papers released Thursday.
Some of the evidence was recovered using forensic techniques that didn't exist 30 years ago, according to the document, which was used to obtain an arrest warrant in the case.
Prosecutors say members of the Black Liberation Army, a violent offshoot of the Black Panthers, stormed the lobby of a San Francisco police station the night of Aug. 29, 1971, killing Sgt. John V. Young with a shotgun and injuring a civilian clerk with gunfire.
Prosecutors allege that Francisco Torres, Herman Bell and Henry Watson Jones staged the attack; that John Bowman, Richard Brown and Harold Taylor were the lookouts; and that Ray Michael Boudreaux and Ronald Bridgeforth were the getaway drivers.
Anthony Bottom was supposed to be part of the attack team, but he was arrested the night before after attempting to fire a machine gun at a police sergeant, prosecutors say.
Bowman died of liver cancer in December, and Bridgeforth is believed to have fled the country. The seven others were arrested Tuesday on charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. An eighth, Richard O'Neal, was charged with conspiracy.
On the night of the shotgun siege, police recovered items including a ball point pen, a key, a cigarette lighter, shotgun shells and buckshot.
Advances in the recovery of fingerprints helped a forensic investigator in 2003 match the prints on the lighter to Torres, according to the affidavit used to obtain his arrest warrant.
Torres' lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The affidavit also said that in 2004, an FBI investigator matched five of the 15 shotgun shells recovered from the crime scene to spent shells recovered from a shotgun found at Bell's New Orleans home in 1973. Police lost the shotgun in the years after it was recovered.
An unidentified informant, who was provided with immunity from prosecution and financial assistance for housing relocation, identified the men responsible for the attack in 2005, the affidavit said. The informant also told investigators that Bell criticized Torres for "dropping some item at the scene."
Police also said Bottom confessed to police in 1971 that he organized the police station attack.
Bell's lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, said he was excited for all the defendants.
"To say, 'Whoops, we lost the record. We lost the shotgun.' None of this is admissible," he said. "It's unbelievable."
Hanlon and others have said they suspected investigators had DNA evidence, something not available in 1971.
Gareth Lacy, spokesman for state Attorney General Jerry Brown, refused to respond but referred to the affidavit, which said it "does not represent the entire universe of information" about the crimes.
The Young case was reopened in 1999 and in 2005, but several suspects called to testify at grand jury hearings refused to testify both times.
Two years after the killing, Taylor and Bowman were arrested in New Orleans, but a judge dismissed the charges in 1976 because of allegations the men had been tortured by police officers during an interrogation. The duo became anti-torture advocates and vowed not to testify before a grand jury until the officers they accused of beating them were brought to justice.
Two defense lawyers said Wednesday they believe the new charges are retaliation for the former Panthers' torture allegations.
- CSI / Forensics