On August 4, 1977 Ronald Burkholder––biochemist, penguin researcher, and laser specialist––was shot six times outside his laboratory by the LAPD. He died immediately after. The circumstances surrounding Burkholder's death were unclear, but provoked outrage in LA where he was the 27th person fatally shot by police that year. Reports vary, but at approximately 5:00 AM Ronald Burkholder left his laboratory, possibly injured, possibly nude, possibly leaving a trail of blood behind him, and proceeded to "attack a telephone booth" and then "blindly lashed out at objects with no idea of what he was doing." Sometime after a witness described Burkholder nude and masturbating in the middle of the street, not ceasing to "play with his penis." Shortly after sergeant Kurt G. Barz of the infamous LAPD Rampart Division described Burkholder "jumping up and down" in the middle of the road and swinging from a street sign. Barz then claimed nude, 135 pound, unarmed Burkholder assumed a karate stance and somehow grabbed his nightstick and flung it away prompting Barz to fire a volley of six shot into various regions of Burkholder's body. (Interestingly, and somewhat unrelatedly, O.J. Simpson published a similar report of Ronald Goldman assuming a "karate stance" in his book If I Did It provoking in Simpson a murderous rage that could only be satisfied by stabbing Goldman five times in the neck.)
Burkholder's friends adamantly claimed he was a non-violent man and had no training in martial arts, which seems likely. Burkholder was a thin biochemist who'd graduated from Johns Hopkins, earned a grant from the National Science Foundation, and spent his time engaged in investigations of Antarctic fauna and lasers, but seemingly one of his last scientific investigations into the chemistry of a potent PCP derivative PCPy (alternately called rolicyclidine or PHP) ended in his disastrous August 4 delirium. This is only a skeletal outline of the case, but at 8:00 PM tonight at the Spectacle theater I am screening Richard Cohen's documentary Deadly Force, the definitive document on the mysterious Burkholder shooting and LAPD corruption in the 1970s. This is also the first time Deadly Force has screened in 30 years. Come join me!
Spectacle Theater, 124 S. 3rd Street
8:00 PM, November 1