LOS ANGELES (AP) — Newspaper heiress Patricia “Patty” Hearst was kidnapped at gunpoint 50 years ago Sunday by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a little-known armed revolutionary group. The 19-year-old college student’s infamous abduction in Berkeley, California, led to Hearst joining forces with her captors for a 1974 bank robbery that earned her a prison sentence.
Hearst, granddaughter of wealthy newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, will turn 70 on Feb. 20. She is now known as Patricia Hearst Shaw after she married a police officer who guarded her when she was out on bail, the late Bernard Shaw. She has been in the news in recent years for her dogs, mostly French bulldogs, that have won prizes in the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
Hearst’s allegiance to the Symbionese Liberation Army raised questions about Stockholm syndrome, a common term deployed to describe the bond that victims of kidnappings or hostage situations sometimes develop with their captors.
Stockholm syndrome got its name from an August 1973 failed bank robbery in Sweden’s capital. Rather than a diagnosis of a disorder, experts describe it as a psychological coping mechanism used by some hostages to endure being held captive and abused.
Hearst, who went by the name “Tania” in the group, denounced her family and posed for a photograph carrying a weapon in front of their flag. The self-styled radicals viewed aspects of U.S. society as racist and oppressive, and they were accused of killing a California school superintendent.
As a member of a wealthy and powerful family, Hearst was kidnapped to bring attention to the Symbionese Liberation Army, according to the FBI. The group demanded food and money donations for the poor in exchange for Hearst’s release, though she remained a captive even after her family met the ransom through a $2 million food distribution program.
Hearst took part in the group’s robbery of a San Francisco bank on April 15, 1974. Surveillance cameras captured her wielding an assault rifle during the crime.
She wasn’t arrested until the FBI caught up with her on Sept. 18, 1975, in San Francisco, 19 months after her abduction.
Her trial was one of the most sensational of that decade. The prosecutor played a jail cell recording of Hearst talking with a friend in which she was confident, cursing and fully aware of her role with the Symbionese Liberation Army.
While Hearst was sentenced to seven years in prison, President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence in 1979 after she served 22 months behind bars. She later was pardoned by President Bill Clinton.