In San Francisco, eight men linked to the Black Panthers have been arrested in connection with the 1971 murder of a police sergeant. The officer was killed during a shotgun attack on a police station in San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood. Police say the suspects had ties to the Black Liberation Army, which was an offshoot of the Panthers.

From San Francisco, NPR's Richard Gonzales reports.

RICHARD GONZALES: The arrests culminate a 36-year-old investigation into an audacious attack on a San Francisco police station by a splinter group of the Black Panther party. It happened on August 29, 1971, a time when the Black Liberation Army was allegedly waging a campaign to kill police officers in San Francisco and New York.

Today, San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong described how the attack happened.

Ms. HEATHER FONG (San Francisco Chief of Police): In this carefully thought out plan, four of them entered Ingleside Police Station and cold-bloodedly open fired through the partition glass in the station's lobby.

GONZALES: The gunshots killed 51-year-old Sergeant John V. Young and wounded a civilian clerk. Seven men are charged with murder and conspiracy to murder police officers. An eighth man is charged with conspiracy, but not with active participation in the murder of Sergeant Young. And a ninth suspect is still at large, his whereabouts unknown.

Today, police offered few details about the new break in this cold case, except to say that it was reenergized by advances in forensic science. Deputy Police Chief Morris Tabak says that the attack on the police station was just one of many bloody events which included the bombing of a police officer's funeral.

Lieutenant MORRIS TABAK (San Francisco Deputy Police Chief): Any group that targets law enforcement for assassination, these are cold-blooded assassinations, really strikes the core of any civilized society. So there's a great sense of relief. I think it's a victory for law enforcement and for all of the United States, quite frankly.

GONZALES: But Stewart Hanlin, an attorney for one of the men arrested today, says prosecutors are out for revenge, not justice.

Mr. STEWART HANLIN (Defense Legal Counsel): I think the law enforcement, especially the older people who were around hated the Panthers. The Panthers are gone, you know, these people are old men. The point is cops don't get to decide who's guilty. Juries do.

GONZALES: Three of the men arrested today had been charged with murder in 1975, but a San Francisco judge dismissed the case because of a Louisiana court ruling that their statements were coerced through torture.

Richard Gonzales, NPR News, San Francisco.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from