Throughout 1973 and 1974, the entire law enforcement establishment in the greater Los Angeles and Bay areas were laser focused on tracking down and bringing into custody the leaders and members of a radical leftist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). The group was best known for kidnapping heiress Patty Hearst but they were also responsible for the murder of two people, the robbery of two banks, and other acts of violence.
On May 18, 1974, local police in the South Compton area of Los Angeles believed they had located two vehicles parked outside a house – vehicles that were known to be used by SLA members. LAPD SWAT teams converged on the house in question and to put it mildly, a gun battle equal to many military actions broke loose. The individuals inside the house, who did turn out to be SLA leadership, gave as good as they got in the furious several-hours gun battle that followed LAPD’s approach to the small, unremarkable house. The amount of arsony that SLA members had inside that house shocked even the most seasoned LAPD special unit officers.
On the scene even before the gun battle broke out were several news men (that’s what they were called then) from KFWB, the top radio news station in the L.A. area. The reporters hit the scene as soon as they heard any rumblings from nearby the house that something might be up. And indeed it was as all hell broke loose with a major gun battle erupting from inside and outside the house, including the use of grenades and tear gas. The gun battle went on for hours, and a few intrepid KFWB reporters remained on the scene from beginning to end, reporting the story even as they inhaled tear gas and spoke into their microphones crouched behind low walls and KFWB squad cars.
One of those brave KFWB reporters on the scene that day was my father, a young Hank Allison who risked his life to bring the story home to Angelenos glued to their radios, listeners who included my mother, who was terrified to hear what my dad was dealing with in the middle of his reporting from the scene.
Now thanks to radio archives at the University of Georgia you can hear an exceptionally intense one hour documentary covering KFWB’s reporting from the scene of the SLA shootout, including significant contributions from my father, Hank Allison.
My father that year won the prestigious duPont-Columbia University journalism award for his coverage of this infamous SLA shootout, and now you can hear why. He was one kickass reporter. I miss him and the world is a much smaller place without him.
CLICK HERE to listen