1968 Fugitive Back Behind Bars

His lawyer says he will plead guilty.

Thursday, Nov 10, 2011  |  Updated 2:53 PM PDT
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A 67-year old man who disappeared after he was convicted of  shooting at a South San Francisco police officer in 1968 surrendered in San  Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City. Ronald Stanley Bridgefort stood between his lawyers and briefly addressed the court before being placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.

NBC Bay Area

A 67-year old man who disappeared after he was convicted of shooting at a South San Francisco police officer in 1968 surrendered in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City. Ronald Stanley Bridgefort stood between his lawyers and briefly addressed the court before being placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.

A 67-year old man who disappeared after he was convicted of shooting at a South San Francisco police officer in 1968 surrendered in San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City today.

Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, a tall man who now has a gray beard, stood between his lawyers and briefly addressed the court before being placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.

"I guess I've come back to face the consequences of my actions," Bridgeforth said.

He returned to the Bay Area from where he was living in Ann Arbor, Mich., to face his punishment for a felony conviction for assault with a firearm on a police officer, a charge that stemmed from a shootout outside a White Front appliance store on El Camino Real on Nov. 5, 1968.

Officers were called to the store on a report of a disagreement with a customer -- Bridgeforth -- over a $29 credit card transaction, according to the district attorney's office.

Bridgeforth had been taken to a back room by a store manager, and when police arrived, he took out .38-caliber handgun and led the store manager and two police officers back to the front of the store.

As he neared the entrance, Bridgeforth ran and jumped into a car with two other men, according to the district attorney's office. As they were about to drive away, Officer George Bautista arrived at the scene and blocked  the store's driveway with his patrol car.

Shots were fired at Bautista from the getaway car, and he fired back, according to the district attorney's office.

Bridgeforth was shot in the foot, the getaway car crashed and the three men were taken into custody.

Bautista was not injured.

Bridgeforth pleaded no contest to one felony charge of assault  with a deadly weapon on an officer on March 17, 1969.

Out of custody on bail, Bridgeforth did not appear at his sentencing hearing in April 1969, and was not seen again by San Mateo County authorities until today.

Defense Attorney Paul Harris said Bridgeforth was responding to  "his own sense of justice" when he decided to return to San Mateo County from Ann Arbor, where -- under an assumed name -- he had married, raised two boys, and eventually joined the faculty of a community college as a counselor.

"He felt he wanted to stand up and take responsibility for that one day, that one aberration in the arc of his life," Harris said.

There were allegations that Bridgeforth had been the getaway driver in the 1971 fatal shooting of San Francisco police Sgt. John Young at Ingleside Station, but Harris said an arrest warrant issued for Bridgeforth  in connection with the case has been revoked and all charges against him in San Francisco were dropped.

In addressing the court this morning, Harris said Bridgeforth had resigned from his job, discussed his intentions to face justice with his family and presents no flight risk.

Harris asked the court to release his client on his own recognizance until a Nov. 22 hearing.

Judge Lisa Novak denied the request, calling Bridgeforth's crime "a very serious felony" and his lengthy 42-year avoidance of justice "problematic."

Novak ordered Bridgeforth into custody, and set bail at $25,000.

Harris said he expects his client to make bail and be out of custody within a matter of days.

Bay City News

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