Ways to support Ron Bridgeforth's defense
- send money: Checks should be made to "Paul Harris" and sent to him at: 20 Quickstep Lane #1; San Francisco, CA 94115.
- help his wife find a job: She taught African American Literature at Eastern Michigan University, Department of English Language and Literature from 2005-2010
- Attend his sentencing hearing (March 23?), contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Here are excerpts from the SF Chronicle story on November 22, 2011
Ron Bridgeforth was a SNCC organizer in Mississippi in 1964. He moved to SNCC's SF office after Freedom Summer. In 1968,
Police were called to a White Front discount store on El Camino Real in South San Francisco on a report of a customer arguing with store employees. Bridgeforth admits he was trying to buy toys and clothing for kids in the community with a stolen credit card.He was arrested but jumped bail and went into hiding for the next 44 years under an assumed name.
Bridgeforth said he panicked when police arrived. According to prosecutors, he took a handgun out of his pocket and led the store manager and two police officers to the front of the store. He had jumped into a waiting car with two other men when a third police officer arrived and blocked the getaway car's path.
Authorities said Bridgeforth opened fire, hitting the car but none of the officers, who returned fire. Bridgeforth was shot in the foot, his getaway car crashed, and the men were arrested.
"It was incredibly reckless, stupid and dangerous," he said last week. He called the incident "an aberration in my life."
"The politics of the Bay Area were really volatile," he said. "I left because I didn't want to go to jail for the rest of my life."After going to New York, Senegal, Gambia, back to LA and SF and then getting married in Atlanta, Bridgeforth
moved his family north and settled in Michigan. He worked as a welder and custodian while earning his bachelor's degree from Wayne State University. In 1993, he graduated with a master's degree in counseling. In 1998, he joined the faculty at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich....One of his former students, Kelly Mendenhall, said Bridgeforth transformed her life when she met him in 2000. Once a depressed college dropout, she credits Bridgeforth with motivating her to re-enroll and said he guided her through college.
. . . . Bridgeforth said he and [his wife] discussed surrendering to authorities several times over the years. Each time, they decided against it, saying they wanted to give their sons a normal childhood. Now those boys are in their 30s. They never knew about their father's past until recently, when Bridgeforth said he had to address some legal problems in California.
"My sons didn't ever know their families," he said. That included his sons' 81-year-old grandmother, who Bridgeforth discovered was still alive after an Internet search turned up her name on meeting minutes from community organizations.
"I really thought I had lost my mother, and she thought she lost me," he said.