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  1. #1
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    8 Arrested in 1971 Killing of San Francisco Police Officer

    SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 23 — Eight men, including seven described as members of the radical Black Liberation Army, were arrested on Tuesday on charges of murdering a police officer here in 1971 and waging a violent five-year battle against the police and federal authorities.

    The arrests, in morning raids in California, Florida and New York capped an investigation by San Francisco police into the murder of Sgt. John V. Young, who was killed by a shotgun at a desk in the Ingleside stationhouse on Aug. 29, 1971.

    A civilian clerk was wounded.

    New York police officials said two of the men arrested were the gunmen, Francisco Torres, 58, who was seized at his home in Queens, and Herman Bell, 59, who was rearrested at a New York prison where he is serving a murder sentence.

    The rest of the aging men were said to have been lookouts, getaway drivers and participants in the assault on the police station and other attacks.

    A statement by the San Francisco police characterized Sergeant Young’s killing as a part of a “conspiracy to kill law enforcement officers” from 1968 to 1973, a plan that included the murders of two New York police officers, four attempted murders of law enforcement personnel, the bombing of a police officers’ funeral at a San Francisco church and the attempted bombing of another San Francisco police station, as well as three bank robberies, two here and one in Georgia.

    In New York, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the arrests dealt a blow to the legacy of the protest group, a violent offshoot of the black nationalist Black Panthers, which operated from the late 1960s until the early 1980s. Mr. Kelly said the arrests testified to the long memory of the police, especially for the killing of one of their own.

    “It is a good day for police officers in New York and San Francisco and everywhere else,” Mr. Kelly said in a telephone interview from Washington. “It underscores the fact that the law enforcement community is never going to forget.”

    Soon after the arrests, current and former defense lawyers for several of the men said they were skeptical of the charges in the nearly 36-year-old case, saying the police had harassed their clients for years.

    Three men were charged with Sergeant Young’s killing in 1975, The Associated Press reported, including one of the men arrested on Tuesday, but that case was dismissed.

    A lawyer who represents Mr. Bell, Stuart Hanlon, said he thought that the case against Mr. Bell was based on a 30-year-old confession by a suspected Black Panther member that a judge threw out in the mid-’70s because it had been physically coerced.

    “I think the police are outraged, and rightfully so, that one of their own was gunned down,” Mr. Hanlon said. “They believe they are right. But the belief does not make it so.”

    Mr. Torres was one of the first arrested, taken from his red-brick home in Jamaica, Queens, before dawn. Also arrested in New York State were Mr. Bell, 59, and Anthony Bottom, 55, who were in prison for the murders in May 1971 of two New York City police officers, Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini.

    All three men were charged with murder and conspiracy.

    In San Francisco, the police arrested Richard Brown, 65, and Richard O’Neal, 57. They were held in $3 million bail with Mr. Brown charged with murder and conspiracy, and Mr. O’Neal, who is not believed to be a member of the so-called army, was charged with conspiracy.

    The Los Angeles County sheriff confirmed the arrests of Ray Michael Boudreaux, 64, and Henry Watson Jones, 71, both of Altadena.

    The police in Panama City, Fla., confirmed that they had taken Harold Taylor, 58, into custody without incident. He was held on $3 million bond.

    The authorities said they were also seeking Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, 62, on charges of murder, conspiracy and assault. Mr. Bridgeforth is thought to be living abroad.

    In their statement, the San Francisco police said that in 1999 they began investigating again several killings of their officers after advances in forensic science had led to the discovery of new evidence in one case.

    In 2005, a grand jury was convened to look into Sergeant Young’s killing. Four of the men arrested on Tuesday were called to testify. They refused, and were briefly jailed.

    A spokesman for the San Francisco police, Sgt. Neville Gittens, said the investigation into Sergeant Young’s case and the other attacks would continue. Sergeant Gittens said the police and state attorney general were confident that enough evidence had been gathered to bring charges.

    Mr. Hanlon said he doubted that the police had any new evidence.

    “The only thing I can think of is the evidence they have from 1971 has been analyzed using a more sophisticated forensic science,” he said. “But that is not the same as having new evidence.”

    Mr. Hanlon suggested that the police had long focused on the Black Panthers and other black power groups.

    “I think there is a hatred of the Panthers,” he said. “Police who were around then hated them, and the animosity was clear.”

    Mr. Torres’s lawyer, Michael W. Warren, said Mr. Torres was innocent.

    “He’s been around in the community in New York for a number of years,” Mr. Warren said. “The F.B.I., as well as the San Francisco police, have known his whereabouts for all these years. He has been an integral part of this community.”

    The police said Mr. Torres tried to ignite dynamite in the Ingleside stationhouse in 1971.

    Outside police headquarters in Manhattan, Mr. Torres said as detectives escorted him, “It’s a frame up.”

    Al Baker contributed reporting from New York, and Carolyn Marshall from San Francisco.

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