---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2002 15:13:27 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: SLA Radicals to Account for Robbery
SLA Radicals to Account for Robbery
By JIM WASSERMAN Associated Press Writer
Friday, Jan. 18, 2002
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The bank robber in a ski mask pressed a shotgun
to Myrna Opsahl's side and killed her with a single blast, the result of a
holdup by a 1970s group known for its revolutionary rhetoric.
According to a later account, the alleged killer claimed the shooting was
an accident but that it didn't matter because the victim "was a bourgeois
This week, police and prosecutors moved on homes of quiet middle-aged
residents allegedly linked to the 1975 robbery, triggering a court fight
sure to revive memories of the revolutionary passions and rhetoric from a
The Symbionese Liberation Army emerged from the ashes of the 1960s anti-war
movement and was blamed for several violent acts in the 1970s.
Merging black ex-convicts and middle-class college graduates, the group
achieved notoriety for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst and
forcing her wealthy parents to donate millions of dollars of food to the
needy. The SLA's actions were fed by the rhetoric of militant
revolutionaries, together with a passion for minorities and the poor.
Opsahl's routine, dropping off a church collection at the bank, had
collided head-on with the radical SLA. Four armed robbers burst into the
bank in Carmichael, Calif., shot Opsahl and escaped with $15,000, dropping
as much cash as they kept.
Opsahl's son, physician Jon Opsahl, has dedicated much of his adult life to
bringing his mother's killers to justice.
"This is very therapeutic, that it did matter," he said after the charges
were filed against the former SLA members. "That it matters to a lot of
Police in Los Angeles, Oakland and Portland, Ore., arrested former SLA
members Emily Harris, William Harris and Michael Bortin on Wednesday
morning. Sara Jane Olson, already facing sentencing Friday for a failed
1975 plot to bomb a Los Angeles police car, surrendered to police after she
was charged in the robbery. Also charged was former SLA member James
Kilgore, a fugitive since the 1970s who remains at large.
One of Olson's lawyers, Shawn Snider Chapman, said prosecutors have built a
weak case. "All these people have been snatched from their homes for
nothing," he said this week.
Olson went by her given name, Kathleen Soliah, in the 1970s before
disappearing and resurfacing in Minnesota. She faces 20 years to life in
prison for the bombing attempt, which she said was to avenge the death of
six colleagues in a 1974 shootout with police in Los Angeles.
Her brother, Steven Soliah, was acquitted in a 1976 federal trial for the
Hearst, at the center of a kidnapping drama that consumed the world's
attention, is expected to be the prosecution's leading witness in the
In a 1982 book called "Every Secret Thing," Hearst said Emily Harris shot
Opsahl. She also named the robbers and lookouts and detailed her own role
as a getaway driver.
Hearst wrote that Harris answered a colleague's question about Opsahl's
condition by saying, "Oh, she's dead. But it really doesn't matter. She was
a bourgeois pig anyway. Her husband is a doctor. He was at the hospital
where they brought her."
She explained in the book, "Emily told us the shotgun had gone off by
accident. She had told the woman to get down on the floor, but the woman
had not moved fast enough to suit Emily. So Emily thrust the shotgun
forward to threaten her, and the gun had gone off."
Hearst, Steven Soliah and Wendy Yoshimura were granted immunity for their
involvement in the robbery in exchange for their testimony before a 1991
grand jury, Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully said.
The long-dormant case has gathered legal momentum since Olson was arrested
in 1999 after two decades on the run.
Scully said there was new information in the case, "which we believe
establishes additional corroborating evidence linking those named by Patty
Hearst to the Crocker Bank robbery and murder."
Affidavits filed in Sacramento Superior Court for Wednesday's arrests said
bullets, drawings of banks, robbery instructions and a Sacramento street
map had been found at the SLA's San Francisco safe house. The FBI also
linked shotgun pellets found in Myrna Opsahl to ammunition from the SLA house.
The files also say Olson's palm print matches prints on the door of a
Sacramento garage where the group stored a getaway car.
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