Six decades after the assassination of prominent civil rights leader Malcolm X, a man who witnessed his death files allegations that law enforcement officials had informants in the crowd on February 21, 1965.
Mustafa Hassan, formerly known as Richard Melwin Jones, was with Malcolm X on the day he died. Multiple photos and videos from the day show Hassan, 84, tending to him after he was shot.
Despite Hassan’s presence, law enforcement officials did not interview him, personal injury and civil rights attorney Ben Crump and co-counsel Ray Hamlin said at a news conference Tuesday.
Hassan alleges he overheard New York Police Department (NYPD) officers asking each other if Thomas Hagan, formerly known as Talmadge X Hayer, was “with us” after he fatally shot Malcolm X.
He believes this means that the police knew that Malcolm X’s life was in danger, but did not act quickly enough to protect him and mistakenly arrested two men in connection with his death.
For years, the assassination of Malcolm X has been the subject of questioning and theories pointing to a larger conspiracy suggesting that his death was planned or orchestrated by US officials.
An initial investigation into the assassination of Malcolm X found three men guilty of fatally shooting the prominent leader on February 21, 1965. But documentaries, books and amateur investigations have long questioned the truth behind Malcolm X’s assassination.
Lawyers for Malcolm X family reveal ‘explosive’ witness bolsters murder conspiracy claims
Then, in 2021, two men who were found guilty of killing Malcolm X, for which they served more than 20 years in prison, were exonerated by the Manhattan district attorney.
Since then, the truth behind the assassination of Malcolm X has remained hidden.
Who was Malcolm X?
Malcolm X was a well-known civil rights and religious leader who rose to fame in the 1950s after becoming a spokesperson for the religion, the Nation of Islam.
During the civil rights movement, Malcolm X juxtaposed the beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr, calling for racial separatism and rejecting his nonviolent teachings.
Famously, he urged blacks to claim civil rights “by any means necessary.”
Although he sparked debate with some of his views, Malcolm X is widely recognized as a leader in promoting racial justice and black empowerment.
During his time with the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X received repeated death threats and was monitored by government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Finally, in 1964, Malcolm X broke away from the Nation of Islam.
The assassination of Malcolm X
On February 21, 1965, three men opened fire outside the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, where Malcolm X was preparing to address a crowd of supporters.
He was fatally shot 21 times in front of his wife, Betty Shabazz, and four of their daughters.
Also standing near him was Mr. Hassan, who in an affidavit testified that he was assisting with Malcolm X’s security detail when Hagan shot him.
“Later I would see [Hagan] outside as Malcolm’s supporters beat him while a group of policemen, who suddenly appeared on the scene asking ‘are you with us?’ while at the same time preventing Malcolm’s supporters from beating him,” Hassan said.
“From my point of view, this was an attempt by the police to help him escape.”
Hassan said he tried to grab Hagan by the neck to prevent him from escaping, but a police officer stepped between them.
Three men, Muhammad Aziz (formally known as Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (formally known as Thomas 15X Johnson) and Hagan, have been arrested, charged and convicted of the murder of Malcolm X.
Although Hagan confessed to firing a gun, he testified that neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. Despite this, the three men were sentenced to life in prison.
In 2020, then-Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr opened an investigation into the murder of Malcolm X alleging that prosecutors withheld key evidence during the trial.
After spending more than 20 years in prison, Aziz and Islam (posthumously) were exonerated of the charges in 2021.
Questions about the truth of Malcolm X’s assassination have led to theories that law enforcement did not deliberately prevent his assassination and that government agencies, such as the FBI and CIA, may have been involved.
Crump believes Hassan’s testimony about the day Malcolm X died shows that the police did not conduct a thorough investigation and that there may be more to it than they are letting on.
“We want justice done because I think what history has recorded is inaccurate,” Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz told reporters on Tuesday.
He added: “We want the truth to be known and we want the history books to reflect that truth.”
Last February, Malcolm X’s family filed an attempt to file a lawsuit against agencies like the FBI, NYPD, CIA, and more, accusing them of playing a role in his death.
Crump said they were following protocol and waiting to file the lawsuit.
In the press release, Crump accused government agencies of having “factual and exculpatory evidence that fraudulently concealed the family of Malcolm X and men wrongly convicted of crimes related to the murder of Malcolm X.”