You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11 a.m.

Counselor or fugitive? WCC employee faces felony charges after four decades of living in hiding

By Kellie Woodhouse

Old Police Killing_Wood.jpg

Ronald Bridgeforth, 67, center, with his attorney Paul Harris and wife, Diane, appears in court in Redwood City, Calif., on Thursday.

AP Photo

This story has been updated.

A Washtenaw Community College counselor alleged to have shot at police officers in 1968 and evaded California authorities for more than four decades "was quite loved on campus," according to one WCC staff member.

During his three decades of employment at WCC, Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth was living under the alias of Cole Jordan.

"A shocker, yes, and sad, too," WCC staff member Rachel Scott-Barsch said on's Facebook page. "He was quite loved on campus."

The 67-year-old fugitive told a San Francisco judge during a hearing on Thursday that he was finally ready to accept punishment for opening fire on police officers in 1968, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report. Bridgeforth is alleged to have been involved in a violent 1960s radical group.

Bridgeforth pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon in 1969, but fled before sentencing, the Chronicle reported. In 1978, he resurfaced in Ann Arbor as a WCC custodian under the name Cole Jordan, said college spokeswoman Janet Hawkins.

Bridgeforth worked his way up the ranks at WCC, working in a several different positions and eventually becoming full-fledged faculty member and student counselor in 1998.

"The college did not have any knowledge of his fugitive status," Hawkins told

According to Hawkins, Bridgeforth received his bachelor's degree in general studies from Wayne State University in 1986 and a master's degree in counseling from Eastern Michigan University in 1993. He was licensed by the state as a professional counselor in 1994.

"It has been a surprising turn of events," Hawkins said. "This is a very important time for our students. So our focus right now is on getting them ready for the next semester."

John Rinke, director of support services at WCC, said that prior to news coverage of Bridgeforth's 1968 charges, he had no knowledge his former coworker was a fugitive. Rinke declined additional comment.

In 2007, San Francisco prosecutors levied additional charges against the fugitive. They accused Bridgeforth of being the getaway driver during the murder of a police sergeant at San Francisco's Ingleside Station on Aug. 29, 1971, while Bridgeforth was a fugitive.

However, according to Chronicle, the California chief assistant attorney general has said the murder charges would be dropped.

Bridgeforth's attorney told the Chronicle that his client will plead guilty to the assault during a Nov. 22 hearing.

A judge at Thursday's hearing set bail at $25,000.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Rachel Scott-Barsch as a student. The story has been corrected to reflect that Scott-Barsch is a staff member at WCC. Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

re: alternativeview99---when someone says they don't condone what this criminal did--well they just did---let's just make all this go away ---typical response from folks who have no clue about responsibility----these are probably the same folks who think being in this country illegally is just a minor offense----get real ---this guy needs to be off the street---ask the police if this guy needs to be off the street---

Daniel Soebbing

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

Amazing story. This guy really turned his life around. From what I can gather from other comments that I've read in other forums it sounds like he had a great impact on the lives and education of students at WCC and others in the community. If anybody deserves clemency it would be Ronald Bridgeforth. What ever happened to the statute of limitations? I would have thought that would have run out by now.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 4:43 a.m.

i pray for the family,theirs no perfect man an the man i knew as cole jordan was not a bad guy to work for,in life as we grow we learn as we grow an mistakes are made i dont know any more than any one else has read an ugly story from a mans past,i am by no means saying forget what hes been accused of,but lets not forget he has a family been a model citizen in our state far as we know and a long standing person of some good deeds right here at w c c ,so the man i knew an worked for as cole jordan i pray for you an your family an will leave any judgeing up to the man above,an the judicle system if they deem it fit.god bless.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:41 a.m.

Okay....let's get real. This man did not have an evil heart when commiting the crimes. It sounds like he was caught in a bad place, with bad company, at a bad time, at a young age where the situation blew up in his face. This isn't a case of a man looking another man in the eye and shooting him dead. We are talking about a boy. ' No....I don't excuse this. But, I have to be honest. If I was faced with choosing who I wanted to be in a fox hole with me combatting an enemy dedicated to killing me, I would probably choose Cole over other people. Gosh. I would not choose Rick Snyder. I would not choose Obama. I would not choose Perry. I would not chose a lot of people you probably think deserving of my respect. Be clear. I don't excuse Cole's crimes any more than I excuse the crimes of others...especially those on wall street who have raped the middle class. But, when Cole faces judgement, I am sure God will not use the ridiculous standards of behavior Wall Street has given us to determine whether or not another human being should walk the face of this earth in dignity. Bottom line, I would prefer Cole to be in a fox hole with me as opposed to all these people you have elected to govern us. It is just my opinion and until you dismantle the Constitution, I can still express my opinion.

Michigan Man

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 11:02 a.m.

99 - This man will ultimately face two justice systems - USA criminal justice and that of God - I would be much more concerned about the later - you do not know what is in this mans heart - Our God, though, has that one covered.


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 1:38 a.m.

not only did this criminal get away with it for 40 yrs--his education was paid for by the taxpayers of michigan and washtenaw county---his sob story was about being disrespected all his young life and now all those in authority at WCC was going to feel good about giving a man a good start in life-----WCC has always been a way for no talent and the criminal element to advance with the funds from other hard working people labor-----where is the outrage that those young mush minds at WCC , was exposed to this criminal---and to really put the icing on this tragic lack of oversite----WCC has a criminal justice program for all future police officers to become certified---well so much for the professional instuction at this place---think about all thiis and the folks who run this place and their salaries, along with the sham positions of Trustee----this is a money drain on all who work for a living---

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:38 a.m.

Based on your post, let me suggest some courses at WCC that might be of use to you: ENG 050 Basic Writing PSY 200 Child Psychology HST 202 US History PLS 111 Political Science HST 150 African American History Good Night and Good Luck

Anna Fuqua-Smith

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

I share a lot of articles from especially about crime matters like this. I do have to say that the Washtenaw Voice covered it the best all the way from Michigan and was the first to break it considering it's the paper for WCC. This story is poorly reported on and deserves more developing from the students and there reactions-- good luck on trying to get the faculty to talk. Considering Barsch wrote on a facebook page and you're using that as a source for your story is pure laziness. Next time, try sending a reporter to the school instead of phoning all interviews and getting your information from other newspapers. WCC is a vital community institution and deserves better coverage than this.

Anna Fuqua-Smith

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:33 p.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Try that for a better story.

April Griffin

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:41 p.m.

When I came across this article on facebook, first reaction was shock, then I began to think about it a bit, and feel sadness and dismay. Let me explain. Shock relates to the fact that I knew there was always something about him just under the smooth exterior, just did not know how to identify it. Sadness, &quot;Cole Jordan&quot; was a good counselor and dedicated to the students @WCC, a stand up kind of man who appeared well mannered and self confident. It is sad that (although he was wrong for hiding), that he carried this crime with him for so long. It must have been a very heavy burden for him. mind you, I'm not a fan, but he is after all a human being who made mistakes, and like many who have done in the past , spent a lifetime trying to make up for the mistakes by being a good person. By being a man that many looked to for advice and support . I am dismayed because people do not see past the headlines and typos, only that he is a fugitive. Please don't misunderstand; I do believe there should be justice for the crimes he has committed. I do hope and pray that all parties involved are able to find peace.

Stupid Hick

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 3:49 p.m.

Zax, are you aware he wasn't caught but turned himself in?


Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

he spent a lifetime trying to make up the the mistakes by being a good person? how do you know? maybe he was trying to stay out of jail and off of the radar and from getting fingerprinted and caught again. that would be my guess. the article says now he is ready to face his crimes? oh, so we all get the chance to decide when to come back and we can all be fugitives as long as we pretend to be good people? i don't think so.

Ben Solis

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Why would you write your own story when you have a reporter in your ranks already writing it for another outlet? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Sharing is caring.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:16 p.m.

The Voice not only wrote it better, but reported on it first. Ann, if you're going to come into the game this late, you should at least report on it yourself. Crediting the newspaper you found out about it from might be good too.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

wait this story is confusing, did he shoot a police officer or did he drive the get away car, did the officer die? if not, let the man go and live in peace

Rachel Barsch

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

Just a couple of notes: I am a staff member at WCC, not a student, as quoted in this piece. When I wrote my &quot;comment&quot;, I was not speaking on behalf of the college, but rather portraying a general feeling that is this is an awful situation. Matt Durr, the editor of the Washtenaw Voice newspaper, did an excellent job of breaking this story last evening: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Kudos to the Washtenaw Voice for its fabulous reporting.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:45 p.m.

Thanks for letting me know, I'll see that it's reflected in the article.

Ted Vincent

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:20 p.m.

Updated, and you still make no mention of the basic question: was he apprehended, or di he turn himself in? JackWagon Journalism.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

If it makes you feel any better, the San Francisco Chronicle story didn't say whether he was arrested or turned himself in, either. Since you're dying to know, he turned himself in.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

Does it really matter?

Annie Nonmus

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

Drop the charges?!! If he's guilty, then jail time (lots) is the proper action.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.

Thank you for the re-write. The simple changes made help me understand the story so much more easily. Now if we could only have this as the FIRST edition of the story. And to those who complain about my previous comments on the writing pf the article - no, I do not believe I can do too much better. But other papers and even the former AA News shows that there are those out there who can, if given the support of their management (and skill, of course). Plus, how else will A2com ever know they are producing an inferior product that is annoying their readers?


Sun, Nov 13, 2011 : 4:15 a.m.

I completely agree with you - but I've found it's better to let my initial reaction (anger, disgust) simmer down a bit before posting any critique. Kyle Meinke covers Wolverine football and, in the beginning, his work fell &quot;short a bit.&quot; I want everyone at to succeed: mostly because WE benefit when they do. I've gotten &quot;thank you&quot; emails from staff (not from Kyle, but his steady improvement shows he's paying attention). Anyway - I still agree with you and appreciate that you showed your appreciation for their rewrite. Good wishes to you.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

why set bail so low when he has already been a fugitive for decades and pleaded no contest. He can stay in jail until sentencing and get credit for time served. He has proven he knows how to run and hide.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sat, Nov 12, 2011 : 12:51 a.m.

Or it's a recognition that a 67-year old man who voluntarily gave himself up is not likely to be much of a flight risk. But interesting that you assume the political leanings of the judge without a shred of evidence. You'd make a GREAT juror. Good Night and Good Luck


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

That's part of our broken legal system and the influx of liberal judges.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

omg no


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

Hire some real reporters. Since this story was lifted from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, why not just post the whole article for us to read. It was probably better written than what I just read above.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

This story is really hard to follow. I will read about in the Detroit Free Press instead.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 7:42 p.m.

Sounds like a typical story, 1960's radical becomes a well liked college employee. Bill Ayers (President Obama's Buddy) comes to mind.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

It's called &quot;redemption&quot;, there is a religion somewhat based on this principle. I seem to remember some &quot;radicals&quot; being elected President back in The Founders Days.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

Have you guys ever heard of proofreading? Come on! Almost every article posted has major glaring mistakes!

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 6:30 p.m.

It the sell checker said know words was wrong.

Patty Bradley

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

He worked his way up from a custodian to a full-fledged faculty member and student counselor? This would make a great novel or movie.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:28 p.m.

with a surprise ending


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

I have been to WCC. For some of the Faculty, Custodian to Faculty Member is a lateral transfer.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

Sigh. Another slap-dash effort from A2com. Why do we have to work so hard to figure out when/where the original crime happened? Why are there sentence repeats? If only A2 com gave their staff time to do a decent job.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 10:10 p.m.

eastsider2, allow me to point out the obvious....without this article and without this newspaper, you wouldn't have known about this issue let alone be unjustly and slap-dashidly critical of its content.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 8:28 p.m.

Um, California authorities, San Francisco prosecutors... lots of clues as to where the original crime happened. Decently-written article.

Marilyn Wilkie

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

It is so annoying to be reading comments ABOUT a story only to trip upon yet another lambasting of someone's reporting. Go ask for a job if you think you can do better. It's tiresome to hear the whining and distracts from what the story is about. Just my opinion, of course.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

&quot;Bridgeforth pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon in 1969, &quot; So it is not alleged. He plead to it. I am curious, he didn't have to prove who he was to work at WCC? No fingerprint check for working with students?


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:42 p.m.

When he was hired as a custodian the requirements for employment were different. There were no checks.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

Slightly different legal interpretations on &quot;No Contest&quot;. In most states, declaring no contest means you are not admitting guilt but must also recognize (thus not contest) that the State has evidence to convict.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 6:44 p.m.

Yes, no contest means he did not admit to committing the crime but will serve the punishment for it.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

Actually, in the story from the Chronicle it is stated that he plead &quot;no contest.&quot; I'm not sure if there is much of a difference though...

Michigan Man

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

Why would California authorities drop charges? Makes little sense. I suppose the saying that you can run but not hide does have some truth. Perhaps the family of the murdered office will now find some peace, comfort and resolution, if these charges are correct.


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

Bridgeforth pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon in 1969. Where does it say he murdered a police officer? Did I miss something?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

1) This is why in the process of voir dire attorneys on both sides ask prospective jury members what they know about the case at hand. 2) In this case, there will be no trial. He intends to plead guilty to the one charge and it is expected that the other charge will be dropped. But an otherwise insightful post! GN&amp;GL

Michigan Man

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Ghost - With your line of thinking you would not be acceptable jury material for this criminal case, soon to unfold in our USA criminal justice system.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 6:46 p.m.

Maybe because there was little or no proof, certainly not enough to justify the expense of a trial? Naaaaaaaaaaaaah. Couldn't be. Pleading guilty to the one charge surely makes him guilty of the other. At least in the minds of the well-informed minds on's discussions. Good Night and Good Luck


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

&quot;He started as a custodian and eventually obtained his mater's degree&quot; Is that the same type of degree the character from the movie Cars had?


Fri, Nov 11, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

I started as a custodian at the UofM and over the past 18 years have obtained my associate's degree, my bachelor's degree, and my master's degree - the first two degrees while working full time as a custodian, the third while working in management. Are you implying that a custodian is not smart enough for or worthy of an education?