BERKELEY, Calif. – Two men, one of them a retired teacher, were arrested in the 1970 death of a Berkeley police officer that authorities have linked to the Black Panthers (search).
Berkeley police alleged that Styles Price (search), 56, of Oakland, was the person who shot rookie officer Ronald Tsukamoto (search) when he stopped a motorcycle for a traffic violation. He was arrested Wednesday and booked on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The second suspect, Don Juan Graphenreed (search), 56, was arrested Wednesday at Corcoran State Prison (search) where he is serving time on a drug charge. He allegedly drove the car that Price used to get away. He had been detained in the case last year, but was released after the Alameda County district attorney decided there was not enough evidence to charge him.
Berkeley police spokesman Joe Okies said Wednesday that new leads and technology helped build the case against Graphenreed and Price this time. Investigators have "more than enough to establish probable cause needed for the arrests," Okie said.
The district attorney could decide as early as Friday whether to file charges. Police are still looking for a third suspect they say served as a lookout during the ambush and is believed to be out of the country, Okies said.
Police have said Tsukamoto's slaying was prompted by the suspects' desire to raise their stature within the Black Panthers, but a former Panther denied any knowledge of Graphenreed when he was named as a suspect in the case last year.
Price's 36-year-old son, Sandor Price, scoffed at the idea that his father, who taught social studies and history at high schools in Oakland and Fremont before retiring several years ago, killed a police officer.
"This is completely ludicrous," Sandor Price said. "My father has never done anything (wrong) in his life."
Tsukamoto, 28, was the first Japanese-American police officer hired in Berkeley and the first city officer killed in the line of duty. He had been on the force less than a year when he was gunned down on Aug. 20, 1970. The killing was the third targeting of an officer in the San Francisco Bay area within a two-month span.