Published August 06, 2010
NEW YORK – Marilyn Buck, a violent leftist incarcerated for 25 years for her role in some of the most notorious radical acts of the 1980s, including the bombing of the U.S. Capitol and a deadly armored car heist, has died in Brooklyn. She was 62.
Buck had been paroled July 15 from a federal prison hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. Her death Tuesday was confirmed by federal probation and parole agencies. Friends and supporters wrote that the cause of death was uterine cancer.
Buck belonged to a clique of anti-war and civil rights activists who took up arms in the 1970s and became involved in a series of politically motivated attacks on government and corporate targets.
On Oct. 20, 1981, she was part of a group of Weather Underground and Black Liberation Army members who ambushed a Brink's armored car carrying $1.6 million at a mall in Nanuet, N.Y.
One guard was killed at the scene. A second was badly wounded. Two police officers were subsequently killed after they pulled over one of the getaway cars.
Buck accidentally shot herself in the leg during the gunbattle with police, but she escaped and remained free for four years.
During that time, she was involved in a series of bombings that included a 1983 nighttime blast at the Capitol that didn't hurt anyone but damaged Senate offices. The bomb was purportedly placed to protest the U.S. invasion of Grenada.
After her 1985 capture in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., she was convicted in the Brink's robbery and a string of other crimes.
Prosecutors said she helped Black Liberation Army leader Joanne Chesimard, who had been convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper, escape from prison and flee to Cuba in 1979. Buck also was implicated in another armored car robbery in 1981 in which a guard was killed.
She pleaded guilty to playing a role in Capitol bombing in 1988, though she later said she only took the deal to spare fellow radicals from lengthy prison terms.
Other bombings covered by her plea agreement included attacks on a federal building, a police union and the South African consulate in New York City and at the National War College and Washington Navy Yard in Washington.
For the rest of her life, Buck insisted she was a victim of state oppression.
"I am a political prisoner, not a terrorist," Buck said at a court appearance in 1988.
In jail, she wrote poetry and continued to enjoy the support of left-wing radicals who occasionally called for her release. Her writings earned recognition several times from the PEN American Center, a literary group that sponsors a prison writing program.
Citing privacy rules, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Parole Commission declined to say why Buck was released from prison. It was clear, however, that she had been gravely ill at the time.
In a brief interview broadcast on KPFA FM Radio in Berkeley, Calif., on July 19, Buck said it was "pretty amazing to walk out into the world," after so long in prison, but "I've been quite ill, so that's the main thing I have to concentrate on: trying to get well, to stay alive."
Buck added that she was uplifted to see that there were still many people interested in rebuilding a world "stifled by imperialism."
Born in 1947, Buck discovered leftist politics as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, then joined the Students for a Democratic Society after transferring to the University of Texas.
By 1973, she was in serious legal trouble for her affiliation with the Black Liberation Army. At age 26, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges that she bought guns and ammunition for the group. Buck was four years into that term in 1977 when she failed to return from a prison furlough and became a fugitive.
She would ultimately be free for eight, crime-filled years before her recapture.