The Arrest of Patty Hearst

February 4, 2009

Retired Special Agent Doyle recalls the investigation and events leading up to the arrest of Patty Hearst, kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Audio Transcript

Mr. Schiff: Hello, I’m Neal Schiff, and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. It was February 4, 1974, when there was a kidnapping in Berkeley, California. Famed heiress Patty Hearst, granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the SLA. The FBI began the hunt.

Mr. Doyle: “We went to six-day work weeks with 12-hour shifts, so it was a major undertaking.”

Mr. Schiff: That’s Frank Doyle, now retired FBI special agent. He says tons of leads and tips came into the FBI from all over the place as the hunt for Patty Hearst continued. Doyle says a term familiar to many special agents was heard often: “Water, gas, leads.”

Mr. Doyle: “These simply entailed the theory that this group, known as the SLA, who had kidnapped Patty, would have to initiate some safe house tactics; they would have to subscribe to gas and electric service. So this undertaking meant that every new hook-up for gas and electric service by the utility…we went and researched as to whether they might be the SLA and whether Patty Hearst might have been there. So that was sort of an ‘off the wall’ exhaustive lead.”

Mr. Schiff: Doyle was the case agent on the Bill and Emily Harris portion of the kidnapping case of Patty Hearst. Doyle says he and two colleagues were doing surveillance on the Harrises in the search for Hearst in San Francisco on September 18, 1975.

Mr. Doyle: “We determined that she could possibly be in a location called 277 Precida in San Francisco, so the assault plan was developed. Myself and others spent a night in an RV vehicle out front and the general plan was to, when Bill and Emily Harris came out to go jogging, as they were known to, that they would be arrested away from the residence and then the assault on the residence would take place and, of course, Patty was supposed to be there with others.”

Mr. Schiff: Patty Hearst was not there. Meanwhile, Doyle’s colleague, Jason Moulton, a special agent with the FBI for about a year, was at another location in nearby Daly City, California. He and FBI Special Agent Tom Padden, along with two police officers were on Morse Street in Daly City. Moulton says what went down happened quickly.

Mr. Moulton: “A surveillance led us to the Morse Street address and then with work with the utility companies we found out at 425 Morse Street that someone was stealing power at that location. After we made the arrest of the Harrises on Precida, I asked the Agent in Charge, Charles Bates, if anyone had gone to the Morse Street address and he said, ‘No.’ So I said, ‘Well, I’m going out there.’ And so myself and Tom Padden, Larry Pasero, and Tim Casey (police officers) got in a Bureau car and we drove immediately to the Morse Street address.”

Mr. Schiff: Moulton says they got to 425 Morse Street and found a man in the basement garage:

Mr. Moulton: “Upon introduction we asked if he had seen Wendy Yoshimura or Patty Hearst and he said, ‘Well, I don’t know if that’s them but there’s two women upstairs right now.’ Well, we were already in the house. We were in the basement of the house.”

Mr. Schiff: Moulton says Agent Patton and an officer went to the back door and he and the other police officer went to the front door.

Mr. Moulton: “Upon getting up to the top of the steps, Tom Padden immediately identified Patty Hearst at the table along with Wendy Yoshimura. Wendy followed the commands issued by the officer and Special Agent Padden. Patty fled in towards the front room. At that point Special Agent Padden yelled some words to the effect that Wendy would be harmed if she didn’t return. She did come back and she was placed in custody. What was in the front room was the carbine that had been used in the robbery of the Hibernia bank where a bank officer had been shot and also there was a 12 gauge shotgun and two additional handguns. So that was when the arrest was made and we took both of those individuals into custody at that time.”

Mr. Schiff: Moulton says he is proud to have been involved in a major case like this and praises his colleagues for their hard work.

Mr. Moulton: “At this point we’d put our hearts into this. How we got to these people was through a lot of good leg work and police work and relying upon files that had been compiled by other special agents years previously. All these people were living underground so it was great accomplishment as far as I was concerned.”

Mr. Schiff: There’s more on the Internet about this big case from the mid 1970s that had law enforcement around the country hunting for Patty Hearst. Go to That concludes our show. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

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