SHIRLEY — William "Lefty" Gilday, a former Amesbury man who led police on a massive manhunt in 1970 after shooting and killing a police officer, died in prison last Friday at age 82, according to state officials.
Gilday, a former minor league baseball player, was part of a '60s radical group known as the Weather Underground. The group, formed largely by college-aged students, sought to protest against the U.S. government's Vietnam War policies by using violent tactics.
The group's first local target was the Newburyport Armory, which was attacked on Sept. 20, 1970. The building was damaged and weapons were taken.
Three days later, Gilday and four others held up a Brighton branch of the State Street Bank, and shot Boston patrolman Walter Schroeder, 42, in the back while making their getaway. Two of Gilday's associates were quickly captured, but the other three eluded police.
It led to the most massive manhunt to that date in state history, as over 3,000 law enforcement officers sought Gilday and two associates, Susan Saxe and Katherine Power. After eight days on the run, Gilday was captured while attempting to escape through the Hampton, N.H., salt marshes.
Gilday was sentenced to death for the murder, which upon appeal was reduced to life in prison.
Over the years, Gilday and his fellow radicals became a rallying point for various groups that saw them as victims of an oppressive government. He suffered a stroke in 2008.
The Boston Globe reported that he would not apologize for his role in Schroeder's murder until an interview in June. He died from an advancing case of Parkinson's disease.
Boston police named their police headquarters for Schroeder.
Saxe and Power were put on the FBI's Most Wanted list and eluded an FBI manhunt for years before finally being apprehended. Saxe was arrested in Philadelphia in 1975 and served seven years in prison, while Powers eluded police for 23 years. She turned herself in to Oregon police and was sentenced to eight to twelve years in prison and was released in October of 1999.