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Cop Killing CaseEnds in Dismissal By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday August 12, 2005

One day after Berkeley police arrested a retired Oakland high school teacher for the 1970 murder of a Berkeley policeman, the Alameda County district attorney’s office refused to press charges. 

William DuBois, the Oakland attorney representing Styles Pr ice, 56, said “They decided they were not going to press charges because they had insufficient evidence.” 

Price was arrested at his home Wednesday morning, and a second suspect, Don Juan Warren Graphenreed, was arrested by Berkeley officers in Corcoran State Prison, where he is serving time for a burglary conviction. 

DuBois said charges are still pending against Graphenreed. 

Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies said Thursday evening that the department hadn’t received notice of the dismissal. 

“Our investigators worked very hard, and clearly they had enough evidence to convince a judge to issue arrest warrants,” Okies said. 

“But the district attorney’s office has its own standards, and if they chose not to issue charges, then it was probably because they felt they didn’t have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. 

A warrant was also issued for a third suspect, the alleged “look-out,” who remains at large. 

DuBois said Price had contacted him over a year ago and asked him to conduct h is own investigation “because he was very upset with the allegations and the search of his home. We could not find a scintilla of evidence that he had committed this crime.” 

Okies said the investigation had revealed that Price was the man who killed Offi cer Ronald Tsukamoto, while Graphenreed was the driver. 

DuBois dismissed the claim. “He’s a very peaceable, peace-loving guy,” said the lawyer. “I’m sure he’s very relieved. No one wants to be charged with a crime, especially the murder of a police offic e, much less a crime committed 35 years ago.” 

The April 20, 1970 murder was Berkeley’s first and only cop killing. 

Tsukamato, the city’s first Asian American officer, was gunned down after he made a routine traffic stop at 1 a.m. of a motorcylist who wa s to be the only witness to the murder. 

He had worn the badge only 10 months at the time of the shooting. The basic facts of the crime are clear. 

While Tsukamoto was ticketing the motorcyclist for making an illegal U-turn, a man in a long, dark coat wal ked up. After the two talked for a moment, that man in the coat pulled out a pistol and fired two rounds. One missed, but the other pierced the officer’s eye, killing him instantly. 


The suspects 

Wednesday marked Graphenreed’s second arrest for the crime. 

On May 24, 2004, police arrested him in the Fresno County Jail, where he was being held on burglary charges prior to the trial that landed him in Corcoran. 

At the time, law enforcement sources attributed the killing to Graphenreed’s efforts to raise h is standing with the Black Panthers. He spent only two days in the city lockup before the district attorney’s office ordered his release. 

Two more arrests followed three weeks later, when Berkeley officers arrested two Oakland sisters as accessories in the murder. Assistant District Attorney Jacobson refused to press charges, and the pair was released three days later. 

Officers had presented insufficient evidence in all three cases, Jacobson said. 

Wednesday was the first time Price’s name had surfaced publicly in connection with the case. 

After Graphenreed’s first arrest, police linked the crime to the Black Panther Party, which at the time of the crime had been in a state of war with law enforcement. 

Shortly after the murder, then-Berkeley Police Ch ief Bruce Barker blamed the Panthers and other militants for inciting the mentally disturbed to violence, but did not directly accuse them of plotting or carrying out the killing. 

DuBois acknowledged that police had conducted a thorough investigation, “T hey worked hard, and I know that they have some evidence that suggests some connection between the people arrested and the crime—especially with Grapheneed.” 


The investigation 

“The arrests were made after a three-year investigation. New leads were deve loped and new evidence gathered, and old evidence was reexamined with modern technology,” Okies had said earlier Thursday before the announcement that the charges has been dropped against Price. “Both were booked on no-bail charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.” 

The investigation was conducted by Lt. Russell Lopes, a retired officer who returned to duty to handle the investigation. 

Adding to the complexity of the case is that fact that there are no longer any living witnesses to the murder. 



The victim 

The slain officer was born on July 29, 1942, in an internment camp—the Tule Lake Segregation Center northeast of Fresno, where his parents were among the 120,000 Japanese Americans, two thirds of them citizens, interned on the order s of President Franklin D. Roosevelt five months earlier. 

On their release, the expanded family moved to Berkeley, where Tsukamoto graduated from Berkeley High School in 1960. His brother Gary, still a Berkeley resident, said at the time of Graphenreed’s first arrest that Ronald had always wanted to become a policeman. 

After attending Contra Costa City College, he went on to graduate from San Jose State University, joining the Berkeley Police Department, where he became the first Asian American to wear the badge. 

The city honored the slain officer in 2000 by naming the city’s new Public Safety Building in his honor.