- The Washington Times - Monday, November 7, 2005

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It seemed fitting that on his first shift back after a leave for the birth of his fourth child, St. Paul police Officer James Sackett would be dispatched to help a pregnant woman.

But when he arrived at the home on May 22, 1970, there was no distressed mother — only a sniper’s fatal bullet.

“I don’t think that night has ever left my mind,” said Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett, who was a St. Paul officer on duty at the time.

“From that day on, our lives were totally destroyed,” said Officer Sackett’s widow, Jeanette Sackett-Monteon.

This week, Larry Clark and Ronald Reed will be tried in Ramsey County District Court in Officer Sackett’s death.

Still unresolved is whether information in old FBI files is relevant and whether it should be turned over to defense attorneys.

In addition, the men have asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to overturn a decision to try them together. They also say prosecutors purposely delayed charging them and improperly presented evidence to a grand jury, and that the murder indictments should be thrown out.

It has taken 35 years and the work of a St. Paul police-FBI task force to get the evidence that county prosecutors say has solved the case.

Judge Gregg Johnson has warned attorneys to focus on the crime, not the time in which it was committed.

But many witnesses are expected to testify about the turbulent St. Paul of the late 1960s, when talk of shooting police officers went beyond a few black radicals.

“‘Kill the Pigs.’ That was what everybody was saying,” said James Mann, one of four black St. Paul officers in those years.

Mr. Reed and Mr. Clark were among the loudest advocating Black Panther philosophy and violence against police, witnesses who were classmates are expected to say in court.

Mr. Reed was a leader among those who hung out at the Inner City Youth League, said Robert Hickman, who was the center’s director.

Mr. Clark was among the students at St. Paul Central High School in 1969 who demanded black history courses and action against “racist teachers.”

St. Paul did not become like Detroit, where rioting left dozens dead and many injured in 1967. And it didn’t see the racial violence of other cities after the Martin Luther King assassination in 1968.

Residents in St. Paul complained that white police officers roughed up young black people without cause, and interrogated black drivers for no reason.

In this week’s trial, the key prosecution witness may be Constance Trimble, who said she made the bogus phone call that lured Officer Sackett to the ambush. She was acquitted of murder charges in 1972 but was found in contempt of court and jailed for not saying who directed her to make the call.

Miss Trimble told authorities last year that Mr. Reed told her to make the call and that later they met Mr. Clark at the home, near where Officer Sackett died.

• Distributed by Scripps Howard

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