The attorney for the Oakland man briefly arrested for the 1970 slaying of a Berkeley police officer says a composite drawing made of the suspected killer at the time of the murder “has no resemblance to the way Styles Price appeared during that time. These are not minor differences. They are major.”
Price, 56, a retired high school educator, was arrested by Berkeley police on Aug. 10 for the murder of officer Ron Tskukamoto, the man for whom the Berkeley Public Safety Building was named. Price was released two days later after the Alameda County District Attorney’s office said there was not enough evidence to bring Price to trial.
While there are no pending charges against Price, the retired Berkeley police lieutenant coordinating the case, Russell Lopes, told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time of Price’s release that “We are absolutely sure, beyond any doubt—reasonable or otherwise—that [Price] cold-bloodedly killed Ron. We’re going to prove it. It ain’t over.”
Morris Jacobsen, the Alameda County Deputy district attorney assigned to the Tsukamoto case, said that his office is not investigating the case.
“It is presently in the hands of the Berkeley Police Department,” Jacobsen said. “The procedure is for the police department to collect evidence and then present it to our office. Until that time, we are not involved.”
Price has repeatedly denied that he was involved in the Tsukamoto shooting.
According to Price’s Oakland attorney, William DuBois, Price’s arrest by Berkeley police was partly based upon a confession from Don Juan Graphenreed, 56, of Oakland. Berkeley police say they believe Graphenreed was the getaway driver during the murder. Graphenreed was also released from jail without charges being filed.
Last week, DuBois released the 35-year-old composite drawing of the alleged Tsukamoto shooter to buttress Price’s claim of innocence. DuBois said the drawing came from a copy of the Aug. 22, 1970 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Lt. Lopes has said that the composite drawing is one of the factors which has convinced him that Styles was the shooter. He has also said that his office has a computerized “age regression” drawing that advances the composite drawing 35 years, and resembles Price as he currently appears.
“They keep saying this is the spitting image of Styles,” DuBois said. “But I’ve seen photographs of my client contemporaneous with the Tsukamoto murder. There’s no resemblance between my client and the original composite.”
Price pointed out one major discrepancy between himself and the drawing of the alleged Tsukamoto shooter. While the composite shows a man without glasses, Price said that he has worn prescription lenses constantly since he was 10.
“My eyesight is 2,400-plus,” Price said. “What the normal person can see at 400 feet, I can only see at 20 feet. I’m extremely nearsighted. I literally have to hold something up to my nose to read it. I wouldn’t be able to make out someone’s face 10 feet in front of me.”
The composite drawing was based on statements made by a motorcyclist who was stopped by Tskukamoto on the night of the police officer’s killing. The witness was reportedly within a few feet of both the officer and the killer while they held a brief conversation shortly before the shooting. That witness died several years later in an automobile accident.
At a press conference at DuBois’ office last week, Price said that “in no way do I resemble the assassin” of Tskukamoto.
Price said that he remains “very concerned that the Berkeley police may re-arrest me. This has caused me continual paranoia and emotional unease. Since no formal charges have been brought against me, it’s like a sword hanging over your head. I feel if they can do it to me, they can do it to anyone.”
Price said he has never been convicted of any crime, and has lived what he calls a “blameless life.” He said that he is consulting with his attorney about possible legal action.
Meanwhile, Price’s sister, Anola Price Small, released a statement from the Price family to the Tskukamoto family, stating that “my family expresses sympathy for you. We cannot believe that the Berkeley Police Department would advance their own agenda using your grief. This is so egregious and unkind as to be unbelievable. Why they would present false hope to your family and accuse an innocent person is beyond comprehension. I believe, without knowing your brother, that he would not want an innocent person to go to prison for his murder.”
Small called her brother “a productive member of the Oakland community who has spent his entire life as a civil rights activist trying to correct discrimination and racism. He is a pacifist who would never harm a fly, let alone walk up to another human being and shoot him point-blank. Those that know Styles throughout our community know that this is not in his character to commit a crime like this.”
Small is married to the physician of the author.ˆ