For Angelenos of a certain age, the SLA—or Symbionese Liberation Army—is a big deal. The May 1974 standoff during which five SLA members died in a fire during a shootout with police is etched on our minds.
It was arguably the first live broadcast of a gun battle in television history . And, we'd already seen the dramatic footage of kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst with a gun.
L.A. law enforcement pros haven't forgotten the SLA either. has just installed a three-room exhibit on the tiny terrorist group.
The SLA committed several bank robberies and two murders during its brief life, using the media extremely effectively along the way.
The exhibit charts the SLA's beginnings in the Bay Area, its move to Los Angeles and the shootout, as well as two attempted LAPD police car bombings and the eventual conviction and incarceration of Kathleen Soliah (a.k.a. Sara Jane Olson).
Soliah was one of several involved in planting bombs on LAPD vehicles in 1975. She was indicted and went into hiding for 23 years, She was found only after she was featured on America’s Most Wanted. Soliah eventually served prison time on charges related to the killing and the bombing.
The SLA Exhibit includes a case of the actual weapons recovered from the group's torched hideout at 54th Street and Compton Avenue. A detailed history of the LAPD's relationship with the SLA and Soliah is also woven into mug shots and other imagery. Check out the accompanying gallery for images.
Judge Larry Paul Fidler, who heard the case, was one of a number of people associated with the Soliah case who showed on Wednesday. Others included now District Attorney Steve Cooley.
Also on hand were current LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and several officers on the LAPD SWAT team that took part in the May 17, 1974 confrontation with the SLA members. You can also watch video of comment by D.A. Cooley and by Al Preciado, an officer on site the day of the shootout, in the accompanying gallery.
The LAPD Historical Society is in a former police station in Highland Park. A monthly deduction from current and retired LAPD officer’s paychecks helps sustain it. The SLA Exhibit joins other permanent exhibits there, including one on LAPD uniforms and on the 1997 North Hollywood shootout at a Bank of America.
For more information about the LAPD Historical Society including exhibit hours, click here.