Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA)
Patty Hearst Kidnapping
250 pages of FBI files dealing with the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the kidnapping of Patty Hearst.
The files date from February 5, 1974 to February 11, 1974. The files cover: Details of the kidnapping; Crank calls received after the kidnapping; Summaries of interviews with friends, family, and associates of Patty Hearst; Details of the murder of Dr. Marcus Foster; Copy of SLA communiques; Background information on the SLA; Information about Donald DeFreeze, AKA Cinque Mtune.
The Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA, was a 1970's multi-racial militant group with the broad slogan, "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people." The group was founded in the Berkeley California area in 1973, by Donald DeFreeze, who escaped from San Quentin Prison in1973, and changed his name to Cinque Mtune. The group said the name Symbionese referred to different people living in harmony. They choose as their symbol the naga, a seven headed cobra.
Their first significant act was the November 6, 1973 murder of Dr. Marcus Foster, the superintendent of Oakland's public schools. Foster was the first African-American to hold the post of superintendent of Schools in Oakland, California. In a claim of responsibility for the murder issued to the press, The SLA claimed that Foster was assassinated for his support of photo identification cards for Oakland high school students. The Symbionese Liberation Army claimed that Foster was a CIA agent and the ID program was intended to be a method of surveillance. Foster had actually previously withdrawn his support for the ID program.
On February 4, 1974, the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnapped 19 year old Berkeley history major and newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. Angela Atwood, Donald DeFreeze, and Bill Harris broke into an apartment where Patty Hearst and her fiancee Steven Wood lived. Wood was assaulted and Patty Hearst was thrown into the trunk of a car. On April 3, 1974, the SLA released an audio recording, in which Patty Hearst said she was joining the forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army. She further announced that she was changing her name to Tania. Along with the tape was a picture of Hearst holding a machine gun in front of a SLA banner.. On April 15, 1974, a security camera at a Hibernia Bank branch in San Francisco captured the image of a machine gun totting Hearst shouting orders to customers during an SLA robbery.
On May 16, 1974, Bill Harris and his wife Emily were caught shoplifting ammunition at a sporting goods store. The two got into an altercation with a security guard outside the store. Hearst emerged from a van the three drove to the store in and fired a machine gun, effecting the escape of the Harrises. A parking ticket found in the abandoned van eventually lead to authorities tracking the whereabouts of SLA members. DeFreeze and five other members of the SLA were killed during a battle with police in a Los Angeles area SLA safe house. Hearst and the Harrises at the time were in a motel room near Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
On February 25, 1975, the surviving members of the SLA along with new recruits robed a Crocker National Bank branch in Carmichael, California. During the robbery a bank customer was killed. Over the next several months, the SLA committed a series of robberies and pipe bombings of police cars. Through surveillance, the FBI was able to track down the Harrises and Patty Hearst. After her arrest, Patty Hearst maintained her allegiance to the SLA. During her trial, Hearst's defense was that she was brainwashed by the SLA. A jury convicted Hearst and she received a seven year sentence. Two years later she received a pardon from President Jimmy Carter.