Year
1975
Month Day
September 18

Patty Hearst captured by police

Newspaper heiress and wanted fugitive Patty Hearst is captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery.

On February 4, 1974, Patricia Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California, by two black men and a white woman, all three of whom were armed. Her fiancé, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to help. Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she was put in the trunk of a car. Neighbors who came out into the street were forced to take cover after the kidnappers fired their guns to cover their escape.

Three days later, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a small U.S. leftist group, announced in a letter to a Berkeley radio station that it was holding Hearst as a “prisoner of war.” Four days later, the SLA demanded that the Hearst family give $70 in foodstuffs to every needy person from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles. This done, said the SLA, negotiations would begin for the return of Patricia Hearst. Randolph Hearst hesitantly gave away some $2 million worth of food. The SLA then called this inadequate and asked for $4 million more. The Hearst Corporation said it would donate the additional sum if the girl was released unharmed.

In April, however, the situation changed dramatically when Patty Hearst declared, in a tape sent to the authorities, that she was joining the SLA of her own free will. Later that month, a surveillance camera took a photo of her participating in an armed robbery of a San Francisco bank, and she was also spotted during the robbery of a Los Angeles store.

On May 17, police raided the SLA’s secret headquarters in Los Angeles, killing six of the group’s nine known members. Among the dead was the SLA’s leader, Donald DeFreeze, an African American ex-convict who called himself General Field Marshal Cinque. Patty Hearst and two other SLA members wanted for the April bank robbery were not on the premises.

Finally, on September 18, 1975, after crisscrossing the country with her captors—or conspirators—for more than a year, Hearst, or “Tania,” as she called herself, was captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery. Despite her later claim that she had been brainwashed by the SLA, she was convicted on March 20, 1976, and sentenced to seven years in prison. Her prison sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter and she was released in February 1979. She later married her bodyguard. In 2001, she received a full pardon from President Bill Clinton.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

One million people attend funeral of Mao Zedong

More than one million people gather at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for the funeral of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and chairman of the People’s Republic of China since 1949. Mao, who died on September 9, 1976, at the age of 82, was born on ...read more

Anne Hutchinson arrives in the New World

Anne Hutchinson, an Englishwoman who would become an outspoken religious thinker in the American colonies, arrives at the Massachusetts Bay Colony with her family. She settled in Cambridge and began organizing meetings of Boston women in her home, leading them in discussions of ...read more

On This Day in History, learn about events that occurred on September 18, including the surrender of Quebec to Britain by the French, and the debut of the phonograph. Also, Roger Clemens strikes out 20 batters, CBS makes its debut, and the placing of the cornerstone for the U.S. Capital building.

Capitol cornerstone is laid

On September 18, 1793, George Washington lays the cornerstone to the United States Capitol building, the home of the legislative branch of American government. The building would take nearly a century to complete, as architects came and went, the British set fire to it and it was ...read more

GettyImages-1205331570

Jimmy Carter files report on UFO sighting

Future President Jimmy Carter files a report with the International UFO Bureau on September 18, 1973, claiming he had seen an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) in October 1969. During the presidential campaign of 1976, Democratic challenger Carter was forthcoming about his belief ...read more

The struggling Donner Party sends ahead to California for food

Weeks behind schedule and the massive Sierra Nevada mountains still to be crossed, on September 18, 1846, the members of the ill-fated Donner Party realize they are running short of supplies and send two men ahead to California to bring back food. The group of 89 emigrants had ...read more

Doris Day wins lawsuit

On September 18, 1974, actress Doris Day wins a $22.8 million malpractice suit against her former lawyer. Day, one of the biggest box office draws of the 1950s and ’60s, had allowed her third husband, Martin Melcher, to handle her finances. After his death in 1968, she discovered ...read more

Hundreds are accidentally poisoned in Brazil

On September 18, 1987, cesium-137 is removed from an abandoned cancer-therapy machine in Brazil. Hundreds of people were eventually poisoned by radiation from the substance, highlighting the danger that even relatively small amounts of radiation can pose. In 1985, the ...read more

Serial killer Harvey Glatman is executed

Serial killer Harvey Glatman is executed in a California gas chamber for murdering three young women in Los Angeles. Resisting all appeals to save his life, Glatman even wrote to the appeals board to say, “I only want to die.” Glatman had been a smart kid. As a Boy Scout, he ...read more

Castro arrives in New York

Fidel Castro arrives in New York City as the head of the Cuban delegation to the United Nations. Castro’s visit stirred indignation and admiration from various sectors of American society, and was climaxed by his speech to the United Nations on September 26. By the time Castro ...read more

Union General George B. McClellan lets Confederates retreat from Antietam

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army pulls away from Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and heads back to Virginia. The day before, at the Battle of Antietam, Lee’s force had engaged in the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War against the army of General George ...read more

Canada mall sets parking-lot record

On September 18, 1981, the 20,000-car parking lot at Canada’s West Edmonton Mall makes the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest parking lot in the world. The mall has held other records, too: At one time or another it’s been the World’s Largest Shopping Mall (5.2 million ...read more