[News] No charges in 1970 killing of Berkeley officer
News at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 12 13:41:09 EDT 2005
charges in 1970 killing of Berkeley officer
- By BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writer
Friday, August 12, 2005
(08-12) 09:00 PDT Berkeley, Calif. (AP) --
A retired teacher and a state prison inmate arrested in the 1970 killing of
a Berkeley police officer that was linked to the Black Panthers will not be
charged, authorities said.
Police said they don't have enough evidence to charge former teacher Styles
Price, 56, as the triggerman and Don Juan Graphenreed, serving time in
state prison on drug charges, as the getaway driver.
Berkeley police spokesman Joe Okies said the Alameda County district
attorney declined to bring charges because of a "lack of corroborating
evidence," according to the Oakland Tribune.
The duo were arrested Wednesday after police said they had discovered
additional evidence using new technology.
Price's lawyer, William Du Bois, told The Associated Press on Friday that a
prosecutor called him Thursday and said charges would not be brought and
that his client would be released.
"This is consistent with my client's position from the beginning that he is
categorically not responsible or in any way connected to this crime," Du
In a jailhouse interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, the former high
school social studies teacher described himself as being politically active
in 1970 but denied any involvement in killing rookie officer Ronald Tsukamoto.
He said he had been framed by Graphenreed, a longtime friend whom he called
"a notorious fabricator."
"I am innocent, OK?" Price, a married father who taught history only a few
miles from where the brazen slaying took place, said during an interview
from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. "I am not a monster. I am not a cop killer."
Tsukamoto, 28, was the first Berkeley officer killed in the line of duty.
The arrests marked the second effort by police to bring charges in a
killing authorities have said in the past was carried out by Black Panthers
hoping to raise their stature in the militant group.
Graphenreed, 56, was also arrested in the case last year, but Alameda
County District Attorney Tom Orloff did not file charges because
prosecutors didn't have enough evidence.
Tsukamoto was shot in the head at close range while he was chatting with a
motorcyclist he had pulled over. Born in an internment camp during World
War II, he had been on the force less than a year when he was gunned down
on August 20, 1970.
The case was reopened three years ago after authorities received new leads.
During his interview with the Chronicle, Price repeated that he never was a
member of the Black Panthers and described himself as a libertarian socialist.
"I was militant but I was nonviolent," said Price. "I swear on the souls of
my mother and father."
David Hilliard, who was the Black Panthers' chief of staff, said the
suspects weren't members of the movement and that his group had nothing to
do with the killing.
Price said he has known Graphenreed since they were teenagers. In early
1970, he and Graphenreed went to Cuba as part of the Venceremos (We Shall
Overcome) Brigade to challenge U.S. policies toward Cuba.
Berkeley police served a search warrant at Price's home several months ago,
taking with them numerous boxes of items, including photographs, all of
which were returned, Du Bois said.
"He's been living a very peaceful, calm, law-abiding life," Du Bois said,
noting that police have made numerous arrests in recent years but no one
has been prosecuted in the case.
Associated Press Writer Garance Burke contributed to this report.
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