By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
Panthers accused the tac squad of subjecting them to perpetual coercion: illegal raids on homes and party offices, false arrests, jailhouse beatings. Tired of the bullying, Bowman left San Francisco for Los Angeles in 1971. But the change of ocean views aside, he again wound up in handcuffs, along with fellow Panther organizers Boudreaux and Taylor.
In September 1971, only days after the Ingleside shooting, Los Angeles police stopped a car carrying the threesome. The precise motive for pulling them over remains unclear. Regardless, moments later, officers pumped dozens of rounds into the vehicle, injuring the men.
For returning fire, the men faced charges of assault with intent to kill. But the case against them appeared as full of holes as the bullet-riddled car: A judge tossed the charges against Bowman and Boudreaux, while a jury acquitted Taylor.
Three years passed between their arrests and respective legal victories, a delay that resulted, in part, from the men skipping bail, police records indicate. Georgia authorities caught up with Boudreaux outside Atlanta in 1973, arresting him and Hank Jones, a one-time Panther coordinator in the Bay Area, on a bank robbery rap.
The same year in New Orleans, Bowman and Taylor were among 15 purported members of the Black Liberation Army collared on a panoply of murder, robbery, and drug charges. In directing the sting, the FBI alerted homicide detectives in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, cities with recent cop killings allegedly carried out by the BLA. Erdelatz and McCoy hopped a flight to the Big Easy.
New Orleans police shuttled Bowman and Taylor to jail and placed them in separate holding cells. Taylor recognized one of the men in his cage as Ruben Scott, a BLA member and former Panther. He lay trembling in the fetal position, his clothes soaked and reeking.
"They'd urinated on him and they'd beaten him," Taylor said during a public forum earlier this year.* (See footnote.) Officers soon fetched Taylor from the cell and walked him toward an interview room. "They told me if I didn't cooperate with them, I was going to get what Ruben got."
Taylor asserts that officers forced him to strip, then cuffed his hands and ankles to a chair. Using their fists and blunt objects a lead pipe wrapped in leather, a massive police ledger they began hitting him in the neck, shoulders, stomach, and legs. They spared his face to avoid inflicting bruises or cuts that could arouse suspicion of abuse in court.
Taylor lost sense of time. When the cops finally relented, they told him to dress and left the room. Erdelatz and McCoy entered.
The public file on the Young case, thinned by records gone missing over the years, offers scant clues about why the detectives considered Taylor or anyone else a suspect in the murder before the BLA roundup in New Orleans. But he contends that, as they grilled him about the details of the Ingleside attack and the identities of those involved, he refused to talk. After 15 minutes of questions and no answers, Erdelatz and McCoy walked out, giving way to the New Orleans officers and another beating, Taylor claims.
The brutality intensified over the next three days, according to Taylor and Bowman, who also faced questions about Young's murder. Both accuse police of a litany of sadistic acts: kicking them unconscious, draping thick blankets drenched in boiling water over their heads, shocking their genitals with cattle prods.
Taylor and Bowman, along with Scott, whom authorities suspected of taking part in the Ingleside attack and a double police slaying in New York earlier in the year, claim they heard each other's screams. Between the episodes of violence, Erdelatz and McCoy persisted with their interrogations.
The two detectives were renowned within the SFPD for an ability to crack tough cases. In 1972, their work on a Chinatown slaying netted a murder conviction against a 19-year-old man, a verdict that police officials called crucial in quelling the district's gang wars.
(Four years later, however, the Examiner ran a three-part series on the case that suggested the investigators fabricated evidence and threatened a key witness to secure his testimony. Erdelatz and McCoy sued the paper for libel and won a $4.56 million award; the California Supreme Court later voided the judgment.)
Deprived of water, food, and sleep for 72 hours, Taylor alleged, he finally succumbed, his willpower collapsing. "Whatever you want me to say," he recalled telling Erdelatz and McCoy, "I will say it." Likewise, Bowman and Scott acquiesced, and the trio's statements supplied the detectives with their story line of the Ingleside attack.
In a memo sent to the FBI, the investigators, relying on "admissions obtained from Scott, Taylor, and Bowman," fingered BLA member Herman Bell as the man who gunned down Young. Bell was a fugitive at the time, wanted in connection with the slayings of two New York cops in May 1971, three months before Young's murder. (Captured in 1973 and convicted in the New York killings, Bell received a term of 25 years to life.)
The report states that Bowman acted as a lookout during the siege while Scott, Richard Brown, Hank Jones, and a fourth man entered the station with Bell. Taylor cut the chain-link fence that allowed the men access to the station property, according to the document, and Ray Boudreaux and another man drove the getaway cars. The memo also names two women who could be the blond-wigged brunette who visited the station an hour before the attack, and identifies a suspect in the "diversionary" bank bombing that emptied the squad room a short time later.