“I believe I’m going to die doing the things I was born to do.” FRED HAMPTON (August 30, 1948 – December 4, 1969)
Nearly 50 years ago, on the evening of December 3, 1969, Illinois Black Panther Party Deputy Chairman Fred Hampton, his pregnant wife and 8 of his closest comrades sat down for a late, waiting dinner after concluding a political education class at a local church. They chit chatted about organizing strategies and rehashed the day’s events as they scoff down the delicious macaroni and cheese, and fried chicken dinner. Hampton is then brought a glass of kool-aid with which to wash it all down. Both the dinner and the beverage was prepared by his Chief of Security, William O’Neal. Unbeknownst to the Chairman, he has just been betrayed.
After the dinner, Hampton and his wife turned in for the night, but not before he took a telephone call from a family member. In the middle of the conversation, Hampton suddenly falls into a light slumber as the phone slides from his ear down to his shoulder. He does not re-awaken to close the conversation or hang up the phone, nor does he adjust the position of his body in his bed. His wife, assuming that fatigue has set in, grabs the phone and hangs it up for him. After all, working in the field is a grueling 16 to 18 hr day for party members. But Hampton’s sudden drift into somnolence is not caused by fatigue. He was drugged by his Chief of Security. The kool-aid he consumed was laced with a sleeping agent known as secobarbitol. O’neal’s betrayal was now complete. He ensured that Hampton would never open his eyes again in this lifetime.
William O’Neal was just another lil ghetto boy in Chicago without proper supervision. However, when he caught an auto theft charge and was threatened with a prison stint, he eagerly became an FBI informant. As an agent provocateur, he routinely brutalized party members under the accusations that they were police informants. O’Neal went so far as to construct an electric chair to deal with these alleged informants.
O’Neal’s antics were so convincing that no panther sensed what was about to happen. At 4 am before the break of day on December 4th, under the pretext of serving a search warrant, 14 police officers raided the Panther’s Monroe Street Apartment. In a no knock invasion, they came in blasting. Panther Mark Clark fired a shot as the result of a reflex that occurred when he was shot in the heart before he could respond to the invasion. But Clark was collateral damage. Hampton was the real target of the hunters.
With a floor plan of the apartment provided by O’Neal, Chicago Police stormed into Hampton’s bedroom where he lay asleep with his pregnant wife. Because he was drugged by O’Neal, Hampton’s wife was unable to awaken him despite all of the commotion going on during the raid of the apartment. What happened next was a chilling example of how far the state would go to suppress Hampton’s revolutionary voice of dissent.
Akua Njeri, Hampton’s pregnant wife recounted that: ” I remember being awakened by a person in the room shaking Fred saying Chairman! Chairman! the pigs are vamping! the pigs are vamping!”
Njeri stated that the person in the room with her yelled to the police officers that:”we have a pregnant sister in here stop shooting!!” According to Njeri, the shooting eventually stopped and the police allowed them to come out of the room. Hampton, still bearing the effects of the secobarbitol, was unable to sufficiently arouse himself from his bed to respond to the events going on around him. In her final chilling account of the raid, Njeri stated:
“When I was in the kitchen, I heard an unfamiliar voice say (about Hampton) that, he’s barely alive. He’ll barely make it. Then the shooting started again. Then I heard the same unfamiliar voice say, he’s good and dead now!”
When their guns fell silent, the Police’s panther hunt had robbed Chicago of one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. Self assured and smug, they carried Hampton’s dead body on a stretcher from his apartment wearing a demonic smirk upon their faces, as though they had just bagged a rare extinct species to be stuffed and mounted on the wall of their precinct.
Now it was up to Illinois State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan to provide the cover story to justify an unjustifiable homicide. Hanrahan’s fictitious narrative went something like this. Upon the immediate announcement of their entry into the premises, party members attacked the police with gun fire. The police ordered the Panthers to cease fire and to come out with their hands up. The Panthers failed to heed the officer’s commands. Hanrahan then accused the Panthers of firing over 100 shots at the police at which time, the officers returned fire resulting in the deaths of Hampton and Clark, and the wounding of the other surviving Panthers. Hanrahan even stated that their were bullet holes in the walls and doors that would verify his account of the raid.
This insipid facade held up until a young Chicago Sun-Times reporter named Bryan Boyer, got together with the Panthers and conducted their own independent forensic investigation into the macabre events that occurred that morning. Boyer and the Panthers observed that the direction of all the bullets were going from the outside in, not from the inside out as was reported by Hanrahan. And what of the numerous bullet holes in the walls and doors? Nail heads!. When these facts were revealed to the public, Hanrahan’s noxious cauldron of lies collapsed like an ice cream cone in hell.
Despite these harrowing revelations, no police officers were charged for Hampton and Clark’s murder. Black Police Officer James “Gloves” Davis, who led the charge, would later receive a commendation from the Mayor’s Office. He later retired from the department receiving countless accolades and rewards for his years of service on behalf of the city.
For his nefarious part in this criminal conspiracy, FBI informant William O’Neal received a $300.00 cash bonus from the FBI, and a dismissal of the auto theft charge that hung over his head like a Sword of Damocles. But if one thought that 300 pieces of silver and a clean criminal record was sufficient payment for his soul, one would be sorely mistaken.
Apparently, he was unable to bear the scarlet letter of his betrayal in his later years. Because after recounting the haunting story of the raid; and his complicity there in for an interview for the critically acclaimed documentary series Eyes on the Prize in 1985, he could no longer suffer the excruciating guilt tormenting his soul. So on January 18, 1990,
at 2:30 in the morning, O’Neal committed suicide when ran across the westbound lanes of the Eisenhower Expressway, and was killed instantly when he was struck by a car.
As for the Panthers, they would later take the Chicago Police Department, and the FBI to court for the murders and obtain a $1.8 million dollar settlement. And though it limped on for a few more years before it finally collapsed, many Chicago Panthers would later admit that despite their most gallant efforts, the true obituary of the Chicago BPP Chapter was written on a cold December night when it’s Chairman was murdered execution style as he slept in his own bed.
TONY MACEO is a Senior Blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power and Strategy.com. Like, Share and subscribe to the website. Become a Patron @powerofstrategies on Patreon, or support by paypal @email@example.com. Check out the chess store. TILL NEXT TIME, I’LL HOLLA!