On This Day: Patty Hearst Kidnapped By The SLA

On this day in history, Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the SLA. Hearst, who was just 19 at the time, was taken from her upscale apartment in Berkeley, California, by one white woman and two black men, all armed. Both her fiancé, Steven Weed, and her neighbor, who tried to stop the kidnapping, were severely beaten.

Patty Hearst was struggled as she was blindfolded and pushed into the trunk of a car, according to witnesses.

Neighbors of the heiress to the Hearst publishing fortune ducked and ran for cover as the SLA kidnappers fired rounds in their directions as they sped away, History notes. Three days after Patty was kidnapped, members of the left-wing group sent a letter to a local radio station announcing that the young woman was now a “prisoner of war.”

The SLA demanded that the Randolph Hearst, Patty’s father, give $70 in groceries to nearly every Californian on welfare once a week for a month. After the free food event, the Symbionese Liberation Army would then negotiate with the family for the release of Patty Hearst. The elder Hearst gave away about $2 million worth of food to the poor in the state. The SLA decided that the newspaper baron had not spend enough money and told him to spent another $6 million more on food. If Patty was released unharmed, the Hearst Corporation agreed to donate the additional millions in food.

Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst


The nation kept up with every new SLA announcement in the Patty Hearst kidnapping in the newspaper and on the nightly news. In April, the sympathy for Patty appeared to begin evaporating when bank surveillance camera footage showed her armed with a rifle during a San Francisco robbery. She was also spotted during an armed robbery at a store in Los Angeles. A tape sent to law enforcement officials after the spottings featured Hearst’s voice declaring that she had decided to join the SLA — of her own free will, Biography notes.

Patty Hearst Kidnapping — February 4, 1974 News Coverage


In May, police officers in Los Angeles raided the SLA headquarters and killed six of the nine known members of the radical group. Donald DeFreeze, a black ex-convict who referred to himself as General Field Marshal Cinque, was among the dead. Patty Hearst and two other SLA militants were not at the apartment during the raid. All three were wanted of armed robbery charges.

It was not until September 18, 1975, that Patty Hearst was caught. She and her alleged captors had criss-crossed the country on a robbery spree for over a year. The Hearst heiress was now calling herself “Tania.” After being arrested, she claimed that she had been brainwashed by her kidnappers. The jury didn’t buy the argument, and she was convicted in the spring of 1976. Patty was sentenced to spent seven years behind bars for her role in the armed robberies committed by the SLA.

Patty Hearst Interview With Larry King

Patty Hearst only served 21 months in prison before President Jimmy Carter commuted the sentence handed down to the heiress. After she was let out of her prison cell, she appeared to resume a normal life and ultimately married her bodyguard. She served 21 months before her sentence was commuted by President Carter. After leaving prison, she returned to a more routine existence and later married her bodyguard. In 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned Patty Hearst.

What do you think about the Patty Hearst kidnapping and brainwashing claims?

[Image via Kai Hecker/Shutterstock]

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