Symbionese Liberation Army, Part Two
If you missed part one of this crazy, catch up here. Now, for our conclusion. Remember, at this point, Patty Hearst is safe and sound in the Disneyland Resort Area while Donald DeFreeze and company are hiding out in South LA.
The LAPD gets a tip from a woman saying there was a bunch of weirdos with guns staying at her daughter's house at 1466 E. 54th Street. On the 17th, over 400 LAPD officers, plus the FBI, CHP, and LAFD show up at the bungalow in Central Alameda. The neighbors abandoned their homes while officers filled the street. An hour after their arrival, an FBI SWAT member makes an announcement: “Occupants of 1466 East 54th Street! This is the Los Angeles Police Department speaking! Come out with your hands up! Comply immediately and you will not be harmed!” A young boy comes out. After a second announcement, an older man walks out. They are taken over to the SWAT van. The older gentleman denies that anyone else is inside, but the little boy is a snitch, so LAPD knew they had the right house. After several more announcements, a tear gas canister is launched. Then another.
Bedlam and bullets as the Symbionese Liberation Army pours ammunition into the street. Officers positioned on all sides of the house fire back. After about an hour of intermittent gun fights, the LAPD requested more tear gas. In what I'm presuming is a “Hold My Beer” moment, the FBI shot over a dozen tear gas canisters into the bungalow. Residents that had crowded half a block away to watch the scene fled when tear gas fallout blew their way, fighting for bathrooms in the nearby recreation center so they could rinse their eyes. The LAPD continued to shoot into the house. After 25 minutes, officers ceased fire and a woman stumbled out claiming to have been held hostage. It was Christine Johnson, the owner of the house whose mom called the LAPD.
The rear of the house caught fire from a tear gas canister and the SLA starts using a machine gun. Officers kill two women seen by the rear door. As the house burns, ammunition slows. Eventually, they decide there's no way anyone is still alive and the LAFD puts out the fire. Six members of the SLA died that day. The leader, Donald DeFreeze, committed suicide by gunshot to the head. Despite hundreds of officers outside, every single SLA bullet missed and no one was injured. The final investigation found 16 firearms in the ashes of the bungalow and over 9000 rounds of ammunition were exchanged in the hours long shootout making it one of the largest in American history. Patty Hearst watched everything on the news from their hotel room in shadow of The Mouse.
Over the next year, several new people joined the SLA. They moved back up to the Bay Area, probably because, up until fairly recently, the Orange Curtain was one of the most conservative counties in the United States and LA clearly had the means to not put up with their bullshit. In April 1975, several members (not Patty, but one was Kathleen Ann Soliah who we'll discuss shortly) robbed the Crocker National Bank in Sacramento of $15,000. One bank customer was killed when a member accidentally fired her gun. Kathleen had kicked a bank teller in the abdomen, causing her to miscarriage. At the time, officials saw no connection between this robbery and the SLA because the new people were so disorganized. Several months later, the FBI decided there was enough evidence that the SLA might be involved.
After the shootout, Kathleen Ann Soliah held a memorial in the park for the SLA because one of them was her Best Friend Forever. 400 people showed up for plum wine and a jazz band; some wore sweatshirts bearing the SLA slogan “Death To The Fascist Insect Which Preys Upon The Life Of People.” Of course, the FBI was watching her as she shouted her friends were "viciously attacked and murdered by 500 pigs in L.A. while the whole nation watched," and, "Well, I believe that Gelina and her comrades fought until the last minutes, and though I would like to have her with me here right now, I know that she lived happy and she died happy. And in that sense, I'm so very proud of her,” and last not but not least, "SLA soldiers - I know it is not necessary to say. But keep on fighting. I'm with you and we are with you!" Way to get on a watch list, Kathy.
For revenge of her bestie's death, Kathleen placed two giant pipe-bombs full of nails under LAPD squad cars. While two officers were eating at a Hollywood IHOP (on Sunset and Orange; it's still there), she placed a bomb under their car parked in front. The police officers drove away, but whoever assembled it (may or may not have been Patty Hearst) didn't attach the trigger contacts right. Restaurant patrons walked into the parking lot to find a 16-inch galvanized pipe-bomb wrapped in plastic and sealed with a metal clothespin where the squad car was just parked. A four block radius was sealed off while the bomb squad came to defuse it. It was later found that the bomb never would have detonated anyway, but was otherwise very well constructed. This prompted a check on all LAPD vehicles and one more bomb was found under a squad car at an East LA substation. In February 1975, she was indicted for charges related to the near-bombing. Of course, she fled, and for 23 years she lived in Minnesota as Sara Jane Olson, doctor's wife and mother of three. Fun fact: one of her daughters was on American Idol in 2011. She and the other Crocker Bank Robbers were arrested in 1999, sentenced in 2001 to 14 years.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Patty Hearst and another member were arrested by police in September 1975. In her booking papers, she listed her occupation as Urban Guerilla and instructed her attorney to, "Tell everybody that I'm smiling, that I feel free and strong and I send my greetings and love to all the sisters and brothers out there." Several doctors and attorneys pushed for a brainwashing, drugging and coercion defense to get her off the hook. Judge Carter wasn't having any of that and issued a 35-year sentence, pending reduction in a final sentencing. Judge Carter died and the new judge gave her 7 years saying, “rebellious young people who, for whatever reason become revolutionaries, and voluntarily commit criminal acts will be punished." Seems like a light sentence for such conviction. She was released in 1979, after serving just 22 months, when President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence. In 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned her. These days, she's living as a white lady worth $45 million who participates in dog shows and hosts charity galas while the rest of her SLA friends are dead, in prison, or living as felons. Death to the fascist insects, indeed.