Only now is Barbara Deadwyler able to stop blaming her son for the death of her husband.

It has not come easily over the last 14 years, nor has the new perspective softened her bitterness.

The fact remains, and will always remain, that her husband died by a police bullet as he was driving her to a hospital for Michael to be born.

Had she not been pregnant, had Michael's birth not been imminent, had the moment been different. . . .

She has thought about it all these years since May 7, 1966; not in historical terms, not that the incident might have restarted the Watts riots 10 months after the fire had cooled.

Her thoughts are more personal. They enribbon her life on the haunting level of what might have been, and the possiblilites are painful to her.

But, still, it was not her son's fault.

"I've had to talk to him, explain to him and tell him that for a while I did blame him for the death of his father," she said.

"But he understands and forgives me for that."

The boy shouldered an awesome guilt for many years. "He'd come to me an say that it if weren't for him his father would be alive today," she said.

Time has blurred the edges of guilt. Maturity has reckoned with the realities.

But still. . . .

The incident became one of the most publicized police shootings in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department. It renewed tensions in the black community and threatened to reignite the barely cooled embers of the Watts riot the summer before.

There was a televised coroner's inquest and an investigation, and in the end the policeman was cleared and Barbara Deadwyler lost a $3 million suit against the city.

Only the memory remains.

Leonard Deadwyler's last words were, "My wife is having a baby."

It wasn't precisely true. She was experiencing false labor pains, and he was driving her at a fast clip to a hospital when police pulled them over.

Officer Jerold Bova, then 23, testified at the inquest that as he approached the car with his gun drawn, the vehicle began to roll.

He thrust himself into the car window, he said, the car lurched and his gun fired accidentally. Deadwyler died trying to explain.

Barbara Deadwyler said the car did not lurch. She said her husband stopped the auto, tried to explain and the policeman's gun went off.

Bova, now a captain in charge of the department's West Los Angeles Divison, refused an interview. It was his partner who rememeberd Deadwyler's last words.

The shooting drew widespread attention to the issue of police response in minority communities. But it did little for Barbara Deadwyler.

She has had four major operations and three nervous breakdowns since. She lives on welfare -- $800 a month to support Michael and four other children.

Once she dreamed of a nursing career, but that dream has long since died.

Now, when she dreams at all, she says it's about "the way things could have been."

"I used to dream about him [her husband] all the time." She pauses, stares. "It was like he wasn't dead at all. I'd be watching TV and it was like he was sitting next to me. We would laugh, and then he would leave," she said.

She thinks about it. "What still angers me is that we didn't get anything out of it. Now everyone has forgotten about it. Nothing has changed."

And what of Michael, 14, a head taller than his mother, and the shadow of guilt cast over him?

"I think about what happened sometimes," he said softly. "When I see a white policeman arresting a black person, I think about it.

"And when someone asks me about what happened to my dad, I don't like to go into it. I just tell them he got killed."

Johnnie Cochran was Barbara Deadwyler's lawyer then. He is now assistant district attorney.

"It's shameful," he said. "She operated within the system, did everything the system says to do, loses her husband, has a child, has her day in court -- and the jury turns down her request."

Barbara Deadwyler, he adds, was a victim of the system, and her future remains locked in her past. Her progress stopped 14 years ago.