Fugitive pleads no contest to shooting at South City police in 1968

Courtesy photoRonald Stanley Bridgeforth

Courtesy photoRonald Stanley Bridgeforth

A 67-year-old man who fled before he could be sentenced more than four decades ago for shooting at South San Francisco police finally admitted to the crime in court Tuesday morning.

Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth pleaded no contest in San Mateo County Superior Court to one count of assault with a firearm on a police officer, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Under 1969 sentencing guidelines, Bridgeforth could face between one and 15 years in prison, according to Wagstaffe. Prosecutors have yet to decide what penalty they will seek.

“In our book there is a presumption that prison is where that person belongs, but we’ll keep an open mind until we see the pre-sentence report,” Wagstaffe said.

Bridgeforth, who turned himself in two weeks ago, admitted to firing at officers outside a South San Francisco department store in 1968. He and two other men had tried to use false credit cards to buy toys and clothes for youth the group had been organizing in San Francisco’s Fillmore district during the civil rights movement, according to his attorney Paul Harris.

Harris has said his client wanted to correct a one-time “aberration” in his life and be a positive example for his sons.

No officers were hit, and Bridgeforth was arrested trying to escape. But before Bridgeforth could be sentenced in 1969, he disappeared.

According to Harris, Bridgeforth had recently been teaching at a community college in Michigan under an assumed name.

A separate charge against Bridgeforth, for his alleged involvement in the 1971 fatal shooting of a San Francisco police sergeant, was dismissed after Bridgeforth turned himself in on the South San Francisco case.

Bridgeforth is out of custody after posting $25,000 bail. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 3.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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