Counselor or fugitive? WCC employee faces felony charges after four decades of living in hiding
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 AnnArbor.com'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 AnnArbor.com.
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 AnnArbor.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.