The Kidnapping of Patty Hearst: A Captive Who Joined Forces with Her Captors

Patty Hearst was a sophomore at Berkeley college when she was abducted by an armed radical group called Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA. According to the FBI, the SLA wanted to “incite a guerrilla war against the U.S. government” to destroy the “capitalist state.” This was February 4, 1974.

Patti Hearst was an heiress to a publishing magnate, her grandfather William Randolph Hearst. The SLA had no love of corporate media.

The 19-year-old shocked America after footage was released of her participating in an armed robbery of a bank. By then, she was fully suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, which is when hostages identify with their captors.

But Hearst didn’t go with the group willingly. A woman and two armed men burst into her apartment, beat and tied up her fiance and stole Hearst away. They drove with Hearst in the trunk of their car.

“I heard a scream and then I heard what were gunshots. I looked out the window and all I saw were the sparks of the gun going off and I hit the floor,” a neighbor told CBS News correspondent Richard Threlkeld at the time of the kidnapping. “I heard her pleading please no, not me,” she continued.

Over the two months after Hearst’s abduction, the SLA allegedly brainwashed their victim. Soon, she was publicly declaring her allegiance to the group as a staunch anti-capitalist. That’s when she took on another name, Tania, and was seen robbing a bank holding a machine gun.

A month later, the authorities finally had an armed confrontation with SLA at the group’s safe house, which ended up in flames. Six people were killed in the shootout, and at first no one knew if Hearst had survived. After she was found alive, she was taken into custody and charged with bank robbery and a some lesser crimes.

Hearst served less than two years time in prison after her sentence was pardoned by then President Bill Clinton.

Hearst told CNN’s Larry King in a 2001 interview that she was bound and blindfolded by her captors, but her attitude toward them changed when they kept her alive.

“Stockholm Syndrome is what it is called when you begin to identify with your captors. I mean, once they don’t kill you, [you] start to think they’re nice. They get nicer every day that they don’t kill you,” she said.