Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) member Wendy Yoshimura was born on January 17, 1943 at the Manzanar Internment Camp for Japanese Americans, where her parents were detained during World War II. After the war, the Yoshimura family relocated to the Japanese island of Etajima, where her father was employed by the Allied Occupation forces. The family returned to the United States when Wendy was 13 years old, and in 1969 she graduated from the California College of Arts and Crafts.
Yoshimura thereafter became involved with a radical group called the Revolutionary Army, which was founded by her boyfriend Willie Brandt. In 1972, police discovered a pipe bomb, similar explosives in mid-construction, a machine gun, and numerous other weapons in a garage that Yoshimura had rented under an assumed name. Yoshimura's fingerprints were found on the aforementioned items, as well as on a book about forming an urban guerrilla unit, and on an Army training manual about rifles and rocket launchers. Police also found notes and letters discussing plans to bomb targets on the UC Berkeley campus, and to kidnap or assassinate former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Brandt and two accomplices were arrested and subsequently convicted for these conspiracies, but Yoshimura evaded police and lived under an alias in New Jersey until 1974.
In May of that year, SLA members William Harris, Emily Harris, and Patricia Hearst relocated, with the help of radical sports writer and activist Jack Scott, to rural Pennsylvania after six of their comrades -- Donald DeFreeze, Angela Atwood, Camilla Hall, Nancy Ling Perry, Patricia Soltysik, and William Wolfe -- had been killed in a shootout with Los Angeles police. Scott further arranged for Yoshimura to join the SLA as an aide who would handle tasks like shopping and other public transactions for Hearst and the Harrises. It was during this period that Yoshimura's friend Kathleen Soliah also joined the SLA.
On April 21, 1975, Yoshimura and Patricia Hearst drove the getaway cars for four SLA members who held up the Crocker Bank in Carmichael, California—Emily Harris, Kathleen Soliah, Michael Bortin, and James Kilgore—as well as their lookouts, William Harris and Steven Soliah. During the robbery, Emily Harris shot and killed a 42-year-old bystander named Myrna Opsahl, who was a church secretary and the mother of four children.
In September 1975, Yoshimura, Patricia Hearst, William Harris, and Emily Harris were arrested in San Francisco in connection with the Crocker Bank robbery and Myrna Opsahl's death.
In 1990 Yoshimura was granted limited immunity to testify in a grand jury investigation of the SLA's role in the 1975 Crocker Bank robbery and the killing of Myrna Opsahl. The prosecutor showed Yoshimura photographs of Opsahl's blood on the bank floor, hoping "to jar her emotionally, to appeal to a higher sense within her, some sympathy for this poor woman who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.'' But in her testimony, Yoshimura denied having known that she was participating in a bank robbery and claimed that she could not remember anyone involved other than Hearst. The judge cited her for contempt of court.
Today Yoshimura is a watercolor artist and painting instructor who lives in Oakland, California.