A man who has been a fugitive for over four decades turned himself in this morning for shooting at South San Francisco police officers.
Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, 67, surrendered this morning at the Redwood City Superior Court for shooting at officers during a 1968 getaway, according to his attorney, Paul Harris. He plans to plead guilty, Harris said.
In 2007, Bridgeforth was also charged, in absentia, with murdering a San Francisco police officer at the Ingleside station in 1971. Charges were also filed against seven other men. But the attorney general won't pursue charges against Bridgeforth in that case, according to Harris, and charges have been dismissed against six of the defendants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Harris said reports that Bridgeforth was a member of the Black Liberation Army or the Black Panthers are untrue, and that he was a civil rights organizer who traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to register blacks to vote.
On Nov. 5, 1968, Det. Doug McCool and Officer Miff Singleton responded to a call at the White Front Store on Spruce Avenue and El Camino Real over a dispute that Brdgeforth had allegedly misused a credit card, District Attorney Stephen M. Wagstaffe said. McCool took Bridgeforth to a back room, and when McCool was momentarily distracted by the store manager banging a door, Bridgeforth withdrew a .38 caliber revolver and held the officers and store manager at gunpoint, Wagstaffe said.
He left the store and jumped into a getaway car with Ray Boudreaux and Henry Jones, who would become his two codefendants in the case. As their car was leaving, Officer George Bautista arrived at the scene and blocked the driveway. Shots were fired at the car, and the officers returned fire. The officers weren't injured, but Bridgeforth was shot in the foot, Harris said.
In 1969, Bridgeforth pleaded guilty to felony assault with a firearm on a police officer, but was out on bail before he was to be sentenced, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti. He didn't appear in court for sentencing and has been a fugitive ever since, Guidotti said.
Harris argues that Bridgeforth never in fact pled guilty in 1969, but says that he will plead guilty at his next court date.
Bridgeforth will be sentenced under 1969 law. Guidotti said that under her reading of the statute, Bridgeforth is eligible for a sentence of five years to life in prison. Harris believes the statute dictates a sentence of one to 15 years.
Bridgeforth has been living in Michigan under the name "Cole Jordan," Harris said. He has earned a master's degree and was working as a counselor and teacher at a college. Harris said his identity hadn't been compromised, but he decided to turn himself in for personal reasons.
"He wanted to be a role model for his sons," Harris said.
Guidotti said the officers who took fire in 1969 are glad Bridgeforth will face justice.
"They think it's about time that he got caught," Guidotti said.
The court ordered Bridgeforth to be held on $25,000 bail, which his family is trying to raise, Harris said. Bridgeforth returns to court at 8:45 a.m. on Nov. 22 to enter his guilty plea.