“It took 500 cops”

40 years ago I quit a coat-‘n-tie job and hit the road. I arrived in Los Angeles the very day of the infamous “SLA shootout.”

Six Symbionese Liberation Army members, the ‘urban guerrillas’ (media term, not mine) who had kidnapped Patty Hearst, died in a massive gun battle with the LAPD.

[Four of the six burned to death in a fire that was allowed to take its course; two policemen received minor scratches.]

‘Counter-culture’ me snatched the address from the newspaper and rushed down to see what I could see.

sla shootout

On the left are my friends John & Beth surveying the aftermath.  Notice what is scrawled on the wall behind them.

sla shootout

Just recently I discovered some live video of the shootout.

9 Replies to ““It took 500 cops””

  1. Was this memory triggered by the Ukraine coup? I met the elderly Princess Trubetskoi in NYC who collected Russian Blue cats and said she tended the Tzar’s family. She said when the Bolsheviks stormed the palace, they dismembered the officials they got their hands on, literally pulling off their limbs, while still breathing. Have you seen pictures of the Ukranians beating the sniper?

    Glad you went to witness. The whole Patty Hurst thing, fiasco. But not as bad as Waco.
    It was all so badly reported. Back east, I was living upstairs from Black Panthers (who were devoted to overthrowing civilizaton), with my less than year old son. The Weather Underground was blowing up NYC townhouses. When Watts went up in flames, we all stood jaw dropped at the TV images….They had HOUSES AND YARDS?? Oh my God what was their problem. Maybe my calendar’s off, turbulent times. I look at the global news now, the planet’s on fire.
    In ‘Key Largo’, Bogart is defining Chicago fugitive gangster Edward G Robinson’s character, and says, ‘He wants more.’ And he answers, ‘Yeah, that’s right, I want more!!’ They’re out there. And less well-defined. Pick a country.


    1. No, I only sporadically keep up with the news. This memory was triggered by my noticing the pictures in my files. I was amazed that they have survived the years in pretty good shape. I don’t even remember having a camera back then, but I must have.



  2. I read Patty Hearst’s book she wrote about her experience. I was just a kid when it happened and didn’t really understand what was going on. I remembered people taking sides as to whether she was “in” on it or not. It was an interesting read.


    1. It was very riveting at the time. To see that picture of her brandishing a rife in a bank robbery made it difficult to believe that she was being coerced.



  3. Welcome to L.A.! I’m impressed that you had the presence of mind to grab a camera and run to the scene. They are really good shots…the colors, textures are nice, and I like how you captured your two friends standing just barely off to the side. Fast forward…were you still in LA during OJ’s famous Bronco ride?


    1. No, I had long abandoned the “city of angels” by the time of OJ. But that Bronco ride was certainly an emotional roller coaster ride for all of us, eh? Thanks…


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