A time when ideals turned deadly Power's return recalls '60s tumult

THE BALTIMORE SUN

BOSTON -- Early on the morning of Sept. 15, Katherine Ann Power was back in Boston.

Almost 23 years before, as a college student and would-be revolutionary, she had helped rob a Boston bank.

A police officer was killed, and Kathy Power went underground.

Now, at 44, she had surfaced to cut a deal. At 6:50 a.m., the 4-foot-11, stocky woman with a strong chin, shoulder-length brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses surrendered to authorities on a Boston College parking lot.

Power -- the fugitive who had become Alice Louise Metzinger, raised a 14-year-old son, opened an Oregon restaurant, married a bookkeeper and suffered from depression -- agreed to plead guilty to state manslaughter and armed robbery charges.

She faces the likelihood of spending five years in prison in order to put her revolutionary past behind her. Sentencing is set for Wednesday.

In closing the book on her crime, Kathy Power reopened old wounds for two big, close Catholic families -- hers and that of Officer Walter A. Schroeder, the slain patrolman.

The families might have had much in common were it not for the brutal events of Sept. 23, 1970.

Power's surrender lifted the lid anew on 1970, the most politically polarized year of the Vietnam era.

It revived a lingering question: How could the youthful idealism of a straight-A student at Brandeis University turn to violence?

Those who know me now,and those who reflect on my two decades of life as an apparently exemplary citizen will wonder how someone such as myself could commit such outrageously illegal acts," Power said in a statement issued the day of her

surrender.

"The answer lies in the deep and violent crisis that the Vietnam War created in our land."

*

The submachine-gun bullet tore into Walter Schroeder's left lower back, ripped through his body and exited at mid-abdomen. The impact slammed the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Boston policeman to the pavement of the bank parking lot, fracturing his skull. He never had a chance.

Twenty-four hours and 77 futile blood transfusions later, Officer Schroeder was dead at 42.

Flags flew at half-staff all over Boston. He was a police hero, decorated for bravery. Two years before, he had single-handedly captured three armed robbers of this same Brighton bank. He was also the father of nine children, from 11 months to 17 years old.

The morning that Officer Schroeder died, Boston's police commissioner announced this was no ordinary bank robbery. There were "revolutionary undertones."

The Bonnie and Clyde-style gang of five that escaped from the bank with $26,585 in a hail of 18 bullets included two young women from nearby Brandeis University and three paroled convicts, one of them a special student at Brandeis.

News of the sensational shootout angered Boston and shook Brandeis. Thousands mourned Walter Schroeder. The university's acting president immediately offered the policeman's children full scholarships. The Boston Herald Traveler demanded: "Who has been taking these bright kids from middle-class families and turning them into revolutionaries?"

By the time of Officer Schroeder's funeral, the three parolees were captured. One was sentenced to life for shooting the patrolman. Another turned state's evidence and got 25 years. The third, Stanley R. Bond, the ringleader, was reported killed in a Massachusetts prison 18 months later when a bomb he was making exploded, blowing his arms off.

By 1975, when Susan E. Saxe, one of the Brandeis women, was caught in Philadelphia, the bank robbery had become an asterisk in the annals of radical politics, a sour note in the largely peaceful movement against the Vietnam War.

It was remembered mainly because Kathy Power, the second Brandeis student and getaway driver, a fixture on the FBI's "most wanted" list, continued to elude capture.

Kathy Power, achiever

Kathy Power grew up in a modest stucco house in an integrated Denver neighborhood. She was the third of seven children born to a credit manager and a registered nurse.

Like all the Power children, Kathy went to a nearby Catholic elementary school. But she alone had the grades to qualify for the selective Marycrest High, a small girls' school run by the Sisters of St. Francis.

The Power family was in awe of Kathy's abilities.

"I think she would have been brilliant at anything she put her mind to," said her oldest brother, John. "She would get the textbook the first week of class and read it from cover to cover. She could read almost as fast as President Kennedy, and she had a photographic memory with total recall. Nobody in the family knows where she got that ability."

Kathy excelled at Marycrest. She was named valedictorian of the Class of 1967 and a National Merit scholar. She racked up awards in math, science, history and Latin, and wrote the blue-ribbon essay in a statewide United Nations contest. A student columnist for the Denver Post, she tutored underprivileged youth and even won the Betty Crocker homemaker award.

"She was very unpresumptuous, very humble in her abilities," said Sister Sheila Carroll, then principal of Marycrest. "She came from a family with strong moral values. She had a strong sense of what it meant to be a Christian, in the sense of being and doing."

Young and disenchanted

Brandeis University, a predominantly Jewish, elite private college far-away Waltham, Mass., was an unusual choice for a Catholic girl from Denver. But Brandeis offered a full scholarship, and it posed a challenge -- and no challenge seemed too great for Kathy Power.

She arrived at Brandeis in the fall of 1967. About 450,000 U.S. troops were in Vietnam. Blacks rioted that summer in Detroit, and hippies tripped in San Francisco. President Lyndon B. Johnson pursued a "guns and butter" policy of social reform at home and war abroad. More people began to ask, as the song went, "What are we fighting for?"

Brandeis had a history of activism -- the revolutionary Marxist Herbert Marcuse had taught there and activists Abbie Hoffman and Angela Davis had studied there. But Kathy Power's political transformation was apparently slow.

"My most vivid memory of Kathy Power was her decorating for some kind of freshman mixer, a short, stocky kid with big glasses and her hair up in these humongous rollers," said Carole Hirsch, a fellow member of the Class of 1971.

Power got involved politically in her sophomore year. She played active role when Brandeis students gave an AWOL soldier sanctuary in December 1968.

The tumultuous events of 1968 galvanized students everywhere: the Vietcong's Tet Offensive in January, President Johnson's decision not to seek re-election in March, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. in April and Robert F. Kennedy in June, Eugene McCarthy's anti-war presidential campaign, clashes between Chicago police and students outside the Democratic National Convention in August, and the election of Richard M. Nixon as president in November.

Many students came to view traditional electoral politics as a farce, and some scorned nonviolent protest as a failure. Critics targeted not just the Vietnam War, but the very political and economic system -- indeed, the whole of American culture.

Separatist black power advocates pushed aside the moderate voices of the civil rights movement. The Black Panther Party, a rare black group open to alliances with whites, inspired radicals with swagger and tough talk of battling the police: "Off the pig!" Could the Panthers be the vanguard of a coming revolution?

Young Americans who had most to gain from the system -- the upper-middle-class children of unprecedented postwar prosperity -- had become society's harshest critics. They were just the kind of young people who enrolled at the best colleges, such as Brandeis.

"Never before have so many who had so much been so deeply disenchanted with their inheritance," psychologist Kenneth Keniston wrote.

"You have to grow up in Scarsdale to know how bad things really are," one student told Dr. Keniston, referring to the affluent suburb of New York without a hint of irony.

In the late 1960s, being a National Merit scholar with a streak of idealism had not insulated Kathy Power from campus protest. It had made her a prime candidate for activism.

Birth of an activist

The record of Kathy Power's radicalization is sketchy, and those who may know the story best are silent.

Susan Saxe, the 1970 magna cum laude Brandeis graduate who entered the Boston bank with a .30-caliber carbine, now works for the Alliance for Jewish Renewal in Philadelphia. She refused to comment, replying through a co-worker.

Michael S. Fleisher, a Brandeis graduate who was charged but never prosecuted as an accessory before the fact in the robbery, is now a Chicago social worker. A woman who answered the phone at his house said he had nothing to say.

For now, Power stands by her statement that her crimes "arose . . . from a deep philosophical and spiritual commitment that if a wrong exists, one must take active steps to stop it" -- actions she now regards, with understatement, as "naive and unthinking."

Others who knew Kathy Power at Brandeis remember her as intensely political and feminist, but not especially radical. Some say she was "straight" -- a sociology major bound for law school and not particularly in tune with the counterculture's drug-laced "freakiness."

Power's activism came to the fore in the spring of 1970. On the day that the president of Brandeis suddenly resigned, she disseminated a false bulletin, on stolen Student Council stationery, canceling classes. The student judiciary censured her.

Later that spring she ran for Student Council president on the slogan "Power for the People." She lost to Barry S. Elkin, now a Lexington, Mass., psychologist.

The outgoing president, John Weingart, now a New Jersey state environmental official, says the election "was a question of style. anything, Barry was the more liberal of the two candidates. Up until the day of the robbery, if I had to list the people at Brandeis likely to be involved, I would have listed several hundred people before I got to Kathy."

Stanley Bond: Svengali?

Stanley Bond, 25, arrived on the Brandeis campus as a special student in February 1970, fresh from serving nearly four years in prison for armed robbery. College administrators took a chance on him because he was bright and showed potential.

Bond, a Vietnam veteran, is variously described as brilliant, smooth, handsome, womanizing, menacing, charismatic, mesmerizing and unstable.

He introduced himself to two students early in the semester by displaying a .45-caliber handgun that he kept in his dorm room, said one former student, who asked not to be named.

John Weingart recalls that Bond seemed conservative at first. Bond upbraided him that February for leading a campus protest demanding curriculum reform -- "Didn't I know how fortunate we were to be in this wonderful college and why was I causing trouble?" he said.

But by May, when Brandeis erupted in a student strike after the United States invaded Cambodia, Bond spouted radical rhetoric.

"We thought he was crazy or a government plant," Barry Elkin said. "One day no one knew him and the next he was saying everyone should die for the revolution."

During the walkout, Bond constantly disrupted Brandeis strike committee meetings run by Dr. Elkin. After hearing that Bond was threatening his life, Dr. Elkin left campus early that May.

"He didn't think I was radical or revolutionary enough," Dr. Elkin said. "I'd have to adjourn meetings and reconvene them elsewhere to get away from him. We all thought he was violent."

George Ross, a Brandeis sociology professor, calls Bond a "Svengali-like figure."

"He was a character of immense complexity, very bright, able to talk his way around corners," Dr. Ross said. "He talked his way into a position of centrality among the anti-war kids. He was seductive, handsome, and played on the romanticism of being an outlaw."

But Jacob Cohen, an American studies professor who also knew Bond, says that while Bond sexually seduced Kathy Power and other women on campus, the students may have intellectually seduced the former convict.

"He wanders into an ideological hothouse and is told that, far from being a criminal, he is in fact a revolutionary. And so he was under pressure to produce," Dr. Cohen said.

Kathy Power knew nothing about robbing banks, said Steven Black, an Oregon lawyer who helped arrange her surrender. But he said she was no starry-eyed follower of Stan Bond.

"This was not Patty Hearst," Mr. Black said, referring to the

newspaper heiress who joined the revolutionary group that abducted her. "This woman is very intelligent and very powerful in her own right. Kathy Power was not Betty Coed swept off her feet."

Two worlds at war

Kathy Power, Sue Saxe and Stan Bond all worked on the May 1970 student strike. National Guardsmen had killed four students at Kent State University in Ohio, outraging and energizing students across the nation.

Brandeis students created an ad hoc National Strike Information Center. The consensus was that holding classes or final exams would be absurd at such a time of crisis.

It was a time of apocalyptic talk and growing intolerance on campus. Students debated whether the police were oppressed workers or "pigs." Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver's maxim was often repeated: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

Susan Townsend, an activist student, remembers being horrified when somebody on the strike committee went out to sunbathe -- such lack of revolutionary commitment!

More than 1.5 million of the nation's 7 million college students demonstrated that month, the largest protest ever on campus.

The Nixon administration tried to make the students themselves the issue. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew assailed campus "permissiveness." Construction hard hats attacked protesters. By June, Americans rated campus unrest as the nation's No. 1 problem.

By 1970, most Americans had come slowly to agree with anti-war protesters that the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake. They yearned for an honorable withdrawal. But they resented the protesters' arrogance and self-righteousness. Eighty-two percent opposed the student strike.

The gulf between student dissidents and working-class people such as the Schroeders, between long-hairs and short-hairs, freaks and straights, children and parents, was immense.

While Brandeis students smoked dope, criticized society and pondered revolution, Walter and Marie Schroeder were raising their nine kids on a patrolman's $156-a-week salary.

They lived in a three-bedroom, fifth-story apartment in a Boston public housing project built to house returning World War II veterans. He was grand knight at the local Knights of Columbus hall.

Paul Schroeder, Walter's second-oldest son, was 13 when his father was killed. He remembers his dad waving to him from the sidelines at his childhood baseball games. He recalls fishing trips to Jamaica Pond and packing into the family station wagon to buy an ice cream on hot summer nights.

Officer Walter Fahey, 61, said Walter Schroeder was "an everyday cop who did his job very well. It was a tumultuous time. We went to demonstrations daily and nightly. We were caught in the middle. The cops were at war, too."

The voices get shrill

Dozens of students, including Kathy Power, Sue Saxe and Stan Bond, stayed at Brandeis the summer of 1970 to keep the strike alive.

The rhetoric grew shrill. Jacob Cohen recalls two student theories:

First, the country was ripe for revolution. A few acts of courage "would sever a membrane of self-restraint and the whole system would unravel," he said.

Second, there was about to be a genocide. The killings at Kent State and Jackson State universities were a sign. The government would wipe out the dissidents.

Radicals disrupted Dr. Cohen's classes for visiting adults that summer with harangues about U.S. imperialism. To defuse the situation, the professor agreed to debate Ms. Saxe.

"If getting absolutely everything you want is your idea of freedom, then you're not free," Dr. Cohen recalls telling her.

Ms. Saxe responded: "Why don't you just kill us now and get it over with?"

"It all sounds so suicidal, with such little grip on reality that it's hard to make it seem plausible today, but it seemed plausible to them," Dr. Cohen said.

"After 23 years, we turn it into a romantic story, but in miniature this is the sort of stuff that blows up Olympic villages. If you want models, you need the Branch Davidian compound in Texas or Rev. Jim Jones in Guyana, just on the edge of apocalypse."

Guns and English Lit

"The post-Cambodia uprising was the student movement's last hurrah," writes Todd Gitlin, a '60s historian. "Activism never recovered from the summer vacation of 1970."

Students for a Democratic Society, a national vehicle for student radicals, had already splintered into factions such as the terrorist Weathermen. No organization existed to harness the strike's momentum.

That fall, Brandeis students quickly voted to officially end the strike. Only 198 students on the campus of 2,200 bothered to turn out. Just 13 voted to stay on strike.

But the gang of campus revolutionaries had moved into action.

Stan Bond robbed an Evanston, Ill. bank on Aug. 18.

Two weeks later, Kathy Power and Sue Saxe joined him in sticking up a Philadelphia savings and loan for more than $6,000.

Then Ms. Saxe legally purchased seven high-powered weapons in Portland, Ore., where she had told her parents she was doing graduate work in English literature.

On Sept. 16, only a week before the Boston shooting, Kathy Power visited her family in Denver. Her brother John was out of the Navy; her brother Richard was about to join the Army.

AThe family recalls a happy, placid occasion -- no hint that Kathy had changed.

Four days later, the gang broke into the National Guard armory at Newburyport, Mass., and made off with 400 rounds of ammunition, four blasting cap machines, three military radios and a truck.

They intended to give the booty to the Black Panther Party.

By then, Bond considered himself at war with the U.S. government.

"I don't think I'm guilty of any crime," he said after his capture.

"I don't feel that an act of war is murder."

Sept. 23,1970

The week Officer Schroeder was killed, an open letter from drug guru Timothy Leary, then underground, was published in Boston. "Arm yourself and shoot to live," he wrote. "To shoot a robot genocidal policeman is a sacred act."

The same week, Charles Reich, an obscure Yale law professor offered a more hopeful vision in a new book, "The Greening of America." He said youth culture was the dawning of a higher consciousness.

"It will not require violence to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence," he wrote. The book sold 20,000 copies a week.

The hot, steamy morning of Sept. 23, the gang moved on the Brighton bank in three cars. Kathy Power, who was to drive the getaway "switch" car, sat in a station wagon three blocks from the bank. William "Lefty" Gilday, 41, a paroled armed robber, parked across the street from the bank and covered it with a submachine gun.

Stan Bond, armed with a pistol, burst in a rear door and disarmed the bank guard. Sue Saxe, in a red wig and purple dress, followed, brandishing a carbine. Robert Valeri, 21, carried a shotgun and packed a .357 magnum handgun.

Bond fired two shots into the ceiling when a teller was slow to follow orders.

Officer Schroeder and his partner responded to a 9:37 a.m. silent alarm. The three robbers were already fleeing with two bank bags full of cash when the patrol car pulled into the parking lot. Officer Schroeder had just gotten out of his cruiser when Gilday opened fire.

"I turned and he was on the ground," Frank Callahan, Officer Schroeder's partner, said at the time. "All I saw was a car driving off. We never got off any shots."

Valeri testified 18 months later: "Both Stan and I asked [Gilday], 'Why?' He said he always wanted to shoot a police officer."

'Pain never goes away'

"My intention was never to damage any human life by my acts, and there is no accusation that I was directly responsible for the death of Walter Schroeder," Kathy Power said in her statement. "His death was shocking to me, and I have had to examine my conscience and accept any responsibility I have for events that led to it."

Paul Schroeder, now 36 and a Boston police detective, regards that as a cop-out.

He is one of four Schroeder children in police work. His youngest sister, Erin, 11 months old when her father was killed, became a police cadet this fall in Waltham, the home of Brandeis.

The women's movement that began in the '60s helped open police work to the Schroeder women. The civil rights movement made it possible for a black man, a friend of Paul Schroeder's, to head the Boston detectives union.

But much of the Schroeder family, and the Boston police who named the department's highest medal of honor for Walter Schroeder, see no connection between the peaceful dissent of most '60s protest and the bank heist that robbed nine children of a father.

"They're blaming the times and an era for the wrongs. She wants to use Vietnam as an excuse. But those guys she got involved with -- Vietnam meant nothing to them," said Paul Schroeder, a plain-spoken man whom other officers call a "cop-and-a-half."

"The media portray her as the second coming of Mother Teresa, which is a shame. Straight-A college student, Betty Crocker homemaker, she's so courageous. She was a ------- coward, hanging around with a group of known criminals and enjoying it. . . .

"Her husband called her 'Suzy Sunshine.' That tells me she apparently never really gave a ----."

"He [Walter Schroeder] was the authority. He was a cop. We still are the pig, the cop, Five-0. But I've never seen a person yet who needs the police call any radical group on the telephone."

"No matter what happens here, whether she goes to jail, that never ever will bring back our father," Detective Schroeder said.

"Nothing changes, you know what I mean? Someone goes to jail, they get out of jail, and whatever they inflicted upon you, the pain just never goes away."

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