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Twins Are Held in '70 Slaying of Policeman

The women are suspected of being accessories in the shooting, police say.

June 17, 2004|Lee Romney | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Berkeley police have arrested 53-year-old twins suspected of being accessories in the 1970 slaying of the department's first Japanese American officer.

Joyce Gaskin and Joy Hall, both of Oakland, turned themselves in to authorities Tuesday after warrants for their arrest had been issued by an Alameda County Superior Court judge, said Berkeley police spokesman Joe Okies.

They are being held in lieu of $250,000 bail each in Berkeley's jail, which is in the police and fire facility named after slain Officer Ronald Tsukamoto.

Last month authorities arrested Don Juan Graphenreed, 54, reputedly a low-level associate of the Black Panther Party, in connection with the crime. But police and prosecutors decided not to charge Graphenreed, who was returned to a Fresno jail to await trial -- which begins today-- on unrelated charges.

Sources close to the case said Graphenreed was believed to have driven the getaway car in the unprovoked, late-night shooting of Tsukamoto, 28.

Berkeley Police Lt. Russell Lopes, the lead investigator, said Gaskin and Hall were "developed as potential witnesses during the course of the last two years. We have determined they were accessories after the fact.... We think we've proved that they knew and harbored information [about the case] and have lied about that."

The case will be reviewed by the district attorney, and the investigation is continuing, Okies said.

A source familiar with the case said the women were girlfriends of the alleged perpetrators, who were members of the Black Panther Party.

Lopes said he could not confirm or deny those relationships.

David Hilliard, former chief of staff of the Black Panther Party, and party co-founder Bobby Seale reacted angrily to reports of Graphenreed's potential connection to the party, saying they had never heard of him.

Lopes stressed Wednesday that the suspects' political affiliations appeared irrelevant.

"We are pretty confident that this was not an ordered event," Lopes said. "While they acted in concert with each other, they did not do it on anyone's orders. Whatever their political affiliation might have been -- and we know what it was -- it had no bearing whatsoever on the crime.... At that time, there were a lot of people who didn't like police."

Neither Gaskin's family nor the women's attorneys could be located for comment.

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