A familiar name has re-surfaced in connection with the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader, Malcolm X, re-igniting a 51 year-old dispute that one of Malcolm X's killers — the man who fired the first, fatal shot, is alive, free and remains unpunished.
According to the Star-Ledger, in his latest and last publication, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, noted historian and author, Manning Marable claims the man responsible for firing the fatal shotgun blasts that killed the revered activist is William Bradley, now known as, Al-Mustafa Shabazz, of Newark.
In the 594 page biography, Marable claims, which he says are backed by multiple sources within the Black Muslim community, comes 32-years after Talmadge Hayer (Thomas Hagan), one of three men convicted in the shooting of Malcolm X, filed two sworn affidavits naming his only accomplices as Leon David, Benjamin Thomas and Bradley/Shabazz. This did not exonerate Thomas Johnson (Khalil Islam) or Norman 3X Butler. Johnson served 22 years in prison for the shooting, and died in August 2009, the BlackStarNews reported.
Thirteen years after the shooting, accompanied by famed attorney William Kunsler, Hayer's affidavit named three men, all members of Mosque number 25, in Newark, as conspirators in the murder of Malcolm X. Hayer, who is now known as Mujahid Halim, served more than 40 years in prison for Malcolm X's murder and was paroled in 2010, MediaTakeOut.com reported.
In his 1978 affidavit, Hayer declared Wilbur McKinley as the man who dropped the smoke bomb, re-created in Spike Lee's award winning movie, "X," that created a diversion moments before Bradley, armed with a shotgun, fired the first shot which pierced the famous orator's chest. Hayer said he and David followed with pistols and continued shooting Malcolm.
According to the official autopsy report posted by the Smoking Gun, Malcolm X was shot 15 times. The cause of death was listed as "multiple shotgun and other caliber bullet wounds of heart and aorta." According to historian Abdur Rahman Muhammad, Thomas, who was killed in domestic dispute in 1986 in Florida, was named as the circle's ringleader having chose Bradley as chief assassin specifically due to his street reputation for being a stick-up man and bank robber.
Hayer was arrested immediately after February 21 shooting and treated at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital for a gunshot wound to his thigh and a broken leg. Two men, identified as spectators, were also shot that afternoon in the ballroom. William Harris, was shot in the abdomen, and William Parker, was shot in a foot, the New York Times reported.
During a 2010 interview with The Star-Ledger, Marable said that while his book is not a court of law, "You make judgments about people based on the totality of their lives." He acknowledged that Bradley/Shabazz's life has made an about face over the last 20 years. Today, the elderly man is recognized as a positive and constructive figure within the Muslim community, thanks in part to his marriage and local activities, Marable said.
Though there is no video footage of the actual assassination (there is audio), there is footage showing police carrying Hayer in the street. Then you see a man, identified by Muhammad as Bradley, in a long black coat, with what may be a newspaper sticking out from his coat caught up in the chaos, and then walking away.
Many have asked if it has been long known that Bradley/Shabazz was the lead shooter, why has he never been brought to justice. Senior writer for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Abdur Rahman Muhammad says the answer lies with our government. Muhammad, a former Imam who works to combat Islamic extremism in the American Muslim community, claims his research supports the idea that the accused is being protected by "someone," whom a Muhammad source says is the Federal Government. One of the reasons Muhammad believes this to be true is because Bradley/Shabazz, a man he calls a "dangerous multiple felon," allegedly committed a bank robbery in New Jersey with two men three years after he allegedly shot Malcolm X. Bradley/Shabazz's accomplices went to prison for their role, but he did not, said Muhammad.
"Was this his [Bradley/Shabazz] ‘get out of jail free card’ for assassinating Malcolm X," Muhammad asked, who added that the government needs to "come clean" on Malcolm’s assai nation along with information concerning Bradley/Shabazz's suspected involvement with J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous Counter Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO.
Muhammad said others, like investigative journalist Karl Evanzz and documentary filmmaker Omar Shabazz, share his and Marabel's beliefs, because there's never been any doubt about who really pulled the trigger that cold February day in 1965 at the Audubon Ballroom; the burning question was "who is William Bradley and where does he live?" said Muhammad.
Theories and neighborhood rumors aside, J. Edward Waller, the attorney representing Bradley/Shabazz told the Star-Ledger Monday that his client "categorically denies he was involved in the assassination of Malcolm X." His wife, Carolyn Shabazz, echoed Waller's statement saying no direct or indirect evidence exists tying her husband to the shooting of Malcolm X.
"As God, Allah, is my witness, there’s no way my husband could have had a negative thought in his head about Malcolm X," Carolyn Shabazz told the Star-Ledger. My husband is no more guilty about what happened with Malcolm than you or I."
Carolyn Shabazz, who resides in Newark's south ward with her 72-year-old husband, reportedly owns the First Class Championship Gym on Bergen Street, and, according to NJ.com, is known as a strong community advocate.
John Sharpe James, son of former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, said the rumor that Bradley/Shabazz was involved in the shooting of Malcolm X has been well known for years, but West Ward Councilman Ron Rice told the Star-Ledger that he had only heard speculation about Mosque No. 25's role in assassination, but not that Bradley/Shabazz was believed to be involved.
Marabel's book, described by the Associated Press to be his life’s work, went on sale today. The 60-year old, survived by his wife Leith Mullings and five children, died Friday of complications from pneumonia at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. He suffered with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease, for 24 years and had undergone a double lung transplant in July.
In 2005, Columbia University, where Marabel was a professor of public affairs, history and African-American Studies, announced the opening of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. The memorial is located in the Audubon Ballroom.