Could the mystery of who killed Malcolm X finally be solved?
Assassinated in 1965, Malcolm X was an African American leader in the civil rights movement, minister, and supporter of Black Nationalism. Also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, he urged his fellow Black Americans to protect themselves against white aggression “by any means necessary”. His charisma and oratory skills helped him achieve national prominence in the Nation of Islam.
Yet, his death has always been shrouded in mystery. It was known that he was constantly shadowed by the FBI. However, his growing prominence in the Nation, was said to have drawn the ire of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, leader of the of group. Many suspected he ordered the hit on Malcolm X.
However, on Jan. 25, 2011, Raymond Wood, who served as an undercover police officer on the day of Malcolm X’s death, wrote a letter in which he admitted he “participated in actions that in hindsight were deplorable and detrimental to the advancement of my own black people”.
Law enforcement conspiracy
When Wood was hired by the NYPD in 1964, his job was to “infiltrate civil rights organizations” to find evidence of criminal activity so the FBI could discredit the subjects and arrest its leaders, Wood wrote in the letter obtained by ABC News.
Wood’s handler devised the arrest of two of Malcolm X’s “key” security detail members in a plot to bomb the Statue of Liberty days before his 1965 assassination, Wood wrote. The plot involved three members of a Black “terrorist group” and a Canadian woman who were planning to dynamite the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell and the Washington Monument, the New York Times reported on Feb. 16, 1965.
“It was my assignment to draw the two men into a felonious federal crime, so that they could be arrested by the FBI and kept away from managing Malcolm X’s door security on February 21, 1965,” Wood wrote. “. . . At that time I was not aware that Malcolm X was the target.”
Intimidation and fear
Wood alleged in the letter that “his actions on behalf of the New York City Police Department (BOSSI) were done under duress and fear,” adding that he could have faced “detrimental consequences” if he did not follow the orders of his handlers.
“After witnessing repeated brutality at the hands of my coworkers (Police), I tried to resign,” he wrote. “Instead I was threatened with arrest by pinning marijuana and alcohol trafficking charges on me if I did not follow through with the assignments.”
Malcolm X was killed in Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21st, 1965, by gunmen who opened fire during a speaking engagement. Three men – Muhammad Aziz, Mujahid Abdul Halim and Khalil Islam – were convicted of killing the civil rights leader and sentenced to life in prison. Aziz & Islam had long denied they were connected to any plot to kill Malcolm X, and Halim had said the two were not involved.
Some experts say the investigation into the killing was botched and question whether law enforcement knew about the assassination plot beforehand because the FBI and the New York Police Department had Malcolm X under surveillance at the time of his death, according to the New York Times.
Death bed confession
Reginald Wood Jr. said Saturday that Raymond Wood revealed his participation after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2011 and wanted to make the letter public after his death, fearing possible repercussions from authorities. He died November 24th, 2020.
“He wanted the world to know that he is deeply sorry,” Reginald Wood Jr. said. “I hope that this information helps the Shabazz family to more clearly understand what happened to their father on that horrible day.”
Shabazz family seeks justice
Family attorney Ray Hamlin said the Shabazz family is seeking justice & compensation for the crimes alleged in the letter. “Any evidence that provides greater insight into the truth behind that terrible tragedy should be thoroughly investigated,” said Ilyasah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X’s daughters.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office announced in February 2020 after the release of a Netflix series exploring the assassination that it would revisit the 1965 assassination.
“The NYPD has provided all available records relevant to that case to the district attorney,” the department said in a statement to USA Today. “The department remains committed to assist with that review in any way.”