Police kill two members of the Black Panther Party

Police kill two members of the Black Panther Party

Black Panthers Fred Hampton, 21, and Mark Clark, 22, are gunned down by 14 police officers as they lie sleeping in their Chicago, Illinois, apartment. About a hundred bullets had been fired in what police described as a fierce gun battle with members of the Black Panther Party. However, ballistics experts later determined that only one of those bullets came from the Panthers’ side. In addition, the “bullet holes” in the front door of the apartment, which police pointed to as evidence that the Panthers had been shooting from within the apartment, were actually nail holes created by police in an attempt to cover up the attack. Four other Black Panthers were wounded in the raid, as well as two police officers.

The raid, which had been led by Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, was only one of many attempts by the government to weaken the Black Power movement. Under the leadership of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had been battling civil rights activists and other minority leaders for years with their Cointelpro program, whose purpose, according to one FBI document, was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of Black nationalist hate type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters.” Although the FBI was not responsible for leading this particular raid, a federal grand jury indicated that the bureau played a significant role in the events leading up to the raid; Hanrahan had utilized information provided by FBI informant William O’Neal, who was third in command of the Chicago Panthers, to plan his attack.

READ MORE: How the Black Power Movement Influenced the Civil Rights Movement

There was also a conscious effort by the FBI to use “aggressive and imaginary tactics” to prevent the “rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify and electrify the militant Black nationalist movement.” They apparently considered Fred Hampton, an outspoken, charismatic activist who was chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, to be such a potential leader. Hampton became involved in the civil rights struggle at a very early age: At 15, he organized a chapter of the NAACP at his high school, and he became chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Partywhen he was 20. Many other leaders of the Panthers, such as Huey Newton, Assata Shakur and Bobby Seale, spent time in jail on charges based on little or no evidence.

Although most media coverage of the Black Panthers focused on their violent rhetoric and the fact that they carried arms, the Panthers were involved in many nonviolent community-organizing activities. They provided food and medical care to the needy, preached political empowerment, crusaded against police brutality, and started a school. As Fred Hampton himself said shortly before his death, “There have been many attacks made upon the Black Panther Party, so we feel it’s best to be an armed propaganda unit. But the basic thing is to educate.” Unfortunately for Hampton and the other Panthers targeted by the FBI, being armed did not help to protect against governmental repression. In fact, it may have even made matters worse by aiding the FBI in legitimizing their aggressive tactics.

Despite the evidence provided by ballistics experts showing that police had fired 99 percent of the bullets and had falsified the report on the incident, the first federal grand jury did not indict anyone involved in the raid. Furthermore, even though a subsequent grand jury did indict all the police officers involved, the charges were dismissed.

Survivors of the attack and relatives of Hampton and Clark filed a lawsuit against Hanrahan and other officials, which was finally settled in 1983.


POLITICO Magazine

Deputy Police Commissioner for Public Affairs Robert Daley, left and other police officials examine the scene on the Lower East Side of New York where two policemen were fatally shot, Jan. 27, 1972.


The Black Panther Party: Challenging Police and Promoting Social Change

Black Panther demonstration, Alameda Co. Court House, Oakland, Calif., during Huey Newton's trial. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Founded in 1966 in Oakland, California, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was the era’s most influential militant black power organization.

Its members confronted politicians, challenged the police, and protected black citizens from brutality. The party’s community service programs - called “survival programs” - provided food, clothing, and transportation. Rather than integrating American society, members wanted to change it fundamentally. For them, black power was a global revolution.

Organizing a Revolutionary Party
Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, young political activists in Oakland, California, were disappointed in the failure of the civil rights movement to improve the condition of blacks outside the South. They saw brutality against civil rights protesters as part of a long tradition of police violence and state oppression. They immersed themselves in the history of blacks in America. In 1966 they organized young, poor, disenfranchised African Americans into the Black Panther Party.

Huey Newton, Black Panther Minister of Defense
A poster of Huey Newton sitting in a rattan throne chair wearing a beret and a black leather jacket while holding a rifle in his right hand and a spear in his left hand.

Along the bottom of the print is the text, “The racist dog policemen must withdraw immediately from our communities, cease their wanton murder and brutality and torture of black people, or face the wrath of the armed people.”

Kathleen Neal Cleaver: Inspired by women of the civil rights movement, Cleaver joined other women as influential members of the Black Panther leadership. (Above) Cleaver addresses the congregation of the Unitarian Church, San Rafael, Calif.

The Black Panthers and the dawn of black power.

Like Malcolm X, the Black Panthers believed that nonviolent protests could not truly liberate black Americans or give them power over their own lives. They linked the African American liberation movement with liberation movements in Africa and Southeast Asia.

We don’t hate nobody because of color. We hate oppression.

Bobby Seale

To Serve the People
Local chapters of the Panthers, often led by women, focused attention on community “survival programs.” They organized a free breakfast program for 20,000 children each day as well as a free food program for families and the elderly. They sponsored schools, legal aid offices, clothing distribution, local transportation, and health clinics and sickle-cell testing centers in several cities. These activities provided concrete aid to low-income communities and drew support for the Panthers.

Two women partake in the Black Panther organized People’s Free Food Program, Palo Alto, Calif., 1972

Advocating for Community Reforms
Although created as a response to police brutality, the Black Panther Party quickly expanded to advocate for other social reforms. Among the organization initiatives, they campaigned for prison reform, held voter registration drives, organized free food programs which included food giveaways and a school breakfast program in several cities, opened free health clinics in a dozen cities serving thousands who could not afford it, and created Freedom Schools in nine cities including the noteworthy Oakland Community School, led by Ericka Huggins from 1973 to 1981.

Panther Free Food Program
Children Prepare Bags of Food for Distribution at the Oakland Collesium at the Black Panther Community Survival Conference, Oakland, California, March 1972

Flier for the 1972 Black Community Survival Conference with promotion provided by the Black Panther Party's Angela Davis People's Free Food Program.

Women in Leadership
Women made up about half of the Panther membership and often held leadership roles. Vanetta Molson directed Seattle’s survival programs. Lynn French in Chicago and Audre Dunham in Boston were inspirational local leaders. Elaine Brown became the national chairwoman in 1972. Still, the organization’s members struggled to overcome gender inequality.

Women! Free Our Sisters
Poster featuring an image of protesting women and a list of demands. This poster was used to announce a protest scheduled for November 22, 1969 orchestrated by the N.E. Women's Liberation and the Black Panther Party of Connecticut in support of six female Black Panthers who were being held in Niantic Connecticut State Women's Prison.

This short documentary explores what we can learn from the Black Panther party in confronting police violence 50 years later.


The Black Panther's founders drew much inspiration from revolutionary and liberation movements around the world, specifically the writings of Mao Zedong, former Chairman of the Communist Party of China. In 1968, the BPP made Mao's "little red book" required reading.

Another required read was Frantz Fanon's The Wretched Earth, which the Algerian author and psychiatrist wrote during the Algerian war for independence. Founders Seale and Newton believed, as Malcolm X suggested, that the plight of colonized Algerians bore striking similarities to the "internally colonized" lives of African-Americans in the United States and could thus prove useful in wielding its own war of independence in the U.S. Vimeo/The New York Times


1 Answer 1

Putting together various sources, the number of Black Panther Party (BPP) members killed during police actions between fall 1967 and August 1970 was at least 14. This period covers the BPP at its height in terms of membership, and is also when it was targeted by the FBI in particular. However, in at least six of the deaths, there is no

positive evidence to support a belief that the wounded policemen knew they had been shot by Black Panthers

By 1971, the party was in steady decline following bad publicity and divisions in the leadership, and there do not appear to have been any further deaths due to police action.

According to Joel P. Rhodes and Judson L. Jeffries in a footnote in On the Ground: The Black Panther Party in Communities across America, citing the New Yorker article The Black Panthers and the Police: A Pattern of Genocide?,

Between the fall of 1967 and the end of 1968, nine police were killed and fifty-six wounded in clashes with the Panthers nationwide. Although there is some controversy concerning the actual number of Panthers killed by police during the same time, at least ten were reported killed and countless others wounded.

The article itself states 10 and gives fairly comprehensive details on all of the incidents between these dates, five in 1968 and five in 1969. Charles E. Jones, in On the Ground, gives six for 1969, but there are no details as to the identity of the sixth fatality.

To the above can be added three deaths while attempting to escape with hostages from a courthouse in August 1970 (see Marin County courthouse incident). Also killed was one of the hostages, Judge Haley.

Jonathan Jackson, 17, with William Christmas, James McClain and Ruchell Magee emerge from the courthouse holding the judge, prosecutor and three jurors hostage. Source: San Francisco Bay View

A year later, the brother of one of the BPP members killed in the attempted courthouse escape, was shot by a prison guard after attempting to escape. George Jackson was at the time awaiting trial for the murder of a prison guard in January 1970.

Trying to track down how many of these incidents were ruled 'justifiable homicide' has proven to be very difficult for some of these deaths as few sources say anything on this, except in the case of Hampton and Clark. However, the New Yorker article does give the following information (my highlighting):

The grand jury, after hearing thirty-five witnesses, concluded that the police had "acted lawfully," shooting Hutton in the belief he was trying to escape.

At the trial of Anthony Bartholomew, the surviving BPP member involved in this incident in which police officers Roberge and Limas confronted four occupants of a car, the defendant's lawyer

Gary Bellow, a well-known civil rights attorney. noted in a memorandum filed with the court, "There is no dispute that the police officers, Norman Roberge and Rudy Limas, were criminally assaulted on August 5, 1968,"

Anthony Bartholomew, though, was cleared of assault with intent to commit murder.

An inquest jury, after hearing fourteen witnesses and considering the medical evidence, ruled the shooting "justifiable homicide."

The article then summarizes the ten cases:

Six of the ten Panthers were killed by seriously wounded policemen who clearly had reason to believe that their own lives were in jeopardy.

In the four remaining cases, the fatal shots were fired by policemen who had not themselves been wounded. in two of these deaths -- those of Armstead and Clark -- the police state that in each instance they were confronted by an adversary with a lethal weapon and had reason to presume that their own lives were endangered.

Aside from Hampton and Clark, there does not appear to be any evidence that any of these incidents subsequently led to a successful action to overturn the original verdict or any compensation being awarded.

Various other numbers were cited by the US media in the late 1960s, mostly stemming from a claim by the BPP's lawyer Charles Garry that 28 panthers had been killed. He subsequently changed this number several times, and admitted that 28 was a guess. The BPP also made various claims, the lowest of which was 12 deaths. At least some of these inflated claims included the deaths of four BPP members during two shootouts with the rival US Organization, one of which took place on the UCLA campus.

On a final note, a four-hour shootout in December 1969 between at least 200 officers and eleven BPP members amazingly resulted in no deaths despite more than 5,000 rounds being fired. It was the first action seen by the newly formed LAPD SWAT teams.


Inside the Black Panther Party (1 of 2)

Black Panther Party logo courtesy of Richard Valdemar.

A recent TV documentary on Los Angeles Crip gangs included voice-over narration that Crip founders were inspired by the Black Panther Party. I've even heard the outrageous allegation that the word "CRIP" is an acronym for Communist (or Community) Revolution in Progress.

The two organizations were entirely different creatures and, except for their mutual hatred of the police, had very little in common. Watch out for politically motivated revisionist history.

In 1966, Huey P. Newton was a newly released California inmate, and he met his friend Bobby Seale at Oakland City College, where they both joined a black power group called the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM). They were greatly influenced by Malcolm X, the late former Nation of Islam speaker and writer. I n October of 1966, they founded an organization called "The Black Panther Party for Self Defense."

The Panthers were formed to protect and defend African-American neighborhoods from police brutality, a ccording to Black Panther Party writings . In the 1950s and '60s, there was some merit to these allegations. I remember growing up in this era in my own Compton-Willowbrook neighborhood of South Los Angeles, where I witnessed some of what passed for normal police procedures that would shock the American conscience of today.

Editor's note: Former Compton Police Officer John "Rick" Baker covers this era in his candid unapologetic "Vice: One Cop's Story of Patrolling America's Most Dangerous City."

Evolution and Division

As the Black Panther Party grew and expanded their membership, they adopted many other black power and black nationalist social and political ideologies. Outspoken members opposed and sometimes criticized various leaders and platforms or programs within the party. After I returned from Vietnam in 1968, I heard and read some of these debates among intelligent and motivated leaders in the organization. These men and women were nothing like Crip gang thugs. Even so, tension also developed with other rival Black Power groups over the years. Confrontations were inevitable.

The Black Panthers were modeled on socialist and communist ideals. They primarily followed a path advocated by revolutionary communist Chinese leader Mao Zedong. Panthers often quoted from Mao's Little Red Book and Maxims by Mao. Panther leaders advocated an armed revolution and the overthrow of the federal government. Some Panthers felt that they could create the revolutionary changes by working within the system.

In May of 1967, a group of Panthers surprised the California State Assembly by appearing in the legislative chamber in Sacramento armed with shotguns openly displayed in their hands. This shocking but legal protest against anti-gun legislation drew national attention. Before this, the Panthers had been largely unknown to the rest of the country. By October of 1967, whites supported Huey Newton in his trial for the murder of an Oakland policeman by wearing "Honkies for Huey" buttons.

The organization also published its own newspaper, The Black Panther. Eldridge Cleaver eventually took over the editorial leadership and broadened the circulation to over 250,000 readers. The BPP also published its manifesto, "What We Want, What We Believe," a 10-point program for "Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice and Peace." They also demanded exemptions for African-Americans from military service in Vietnam.

By 1968, Black Panther chapters were established in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Panthers could be found on most large college campuses and throughout the jail and prison system. Official membership reached 10,000 by 1969.

For a short time, the Black Panthers maintained an office in Compton. My uncle Julio Hernandez was a Compton Police officer at the time. In a related incident, he responded with his partner Johnny Cato to a shots-fired call on Fig Street in the Fruit Town gang area of Willowbrook. Two Compton brothers had been sitting on the front porch shooting their AK-47s at palm trees&mdasha diversion to draw the police into an ambush. The front door of the residence had been booby trapped with C-4 military explosives, and the home was over an underground tunnel in which the Panthers had stockpiled weapons and explosives.

In "Vice," Baker describes how they avoided the booby traps and recovered a dozen MAC-10 submachine guns (page 94).

All this occurred during the counterculture period of anti-authority and anti-war movements. The Black Panther Party programs of free breakfast for children, free busses for families visiting prisoners, drug and alcohol abuse awareness, consumer education, community health classes, free community pantry (food), child development centers, welfare and veteran benefit counseling, disabled persons services, drill teams and community drama classes, helped to soften the Panther's harsh rhetoric and won over left-wingers and even some in the establishment.

After shortening their name to the Black Panther Party in 1968, the Panthers focused their efforts on political action. Members who were traditionally recruited as "brothers off the block" continued to defend themselves against violence. They armed themselves with guns and as more college student activists joined the group a split began to emerge. For some, the Panther political and social programs became paramount, while others maintained their gang-like street mentality that had made them an icon in the black community.

Cop Killers

Officer John Frey of the Oakland Police Department was shot to death in an altercation with Huey P. Newton during a traffic stop on Oct. 17, 1967. Newton and backup officer Herbert Heanes also sustained gunshot wounds. Huey Newton was arrested for the murder. Newton was touted as a political prisoner framed by the police&mdash"Free Huey" became the battle cry of the Panthers&mdasheven though he would later admit to and even brag about the murder. At a "Free Huey" birthday rally on Feb. 17, 1968 in the Oakland Auditorium, several Black Panther Party leaders spoke, including H. Rap Brown, the party's minister of justice.

"Huey Newton is our only living revolutionary in this country today," Brown declared. "He has paid his dues. How many white folks did you kill today?"

James Forman, the party's minister of foreign affairs, spoke next.

"We must serve notice on our oppressors that we as a people are not going to be frightened by the attempted assassination of our leaders," Forman said. "For my assassination&mdashand I'm the low man on the totem pole&mdashI want 30 police stations blown up, one southern governor, two mayors, and 500 cops dead. If they assassinate Brother Carmichael, Brother Brown, Brother Seale, this price is tripled. And if Huey is not set free and dies, the sky is the limit!"

In April 1968, a group of Panthers led by Black Panther Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver was involved in a gun battle with Oakland police in which 17-year-old Panther Bobby Hutton was killed. Cleaver was wounded along with two Oakland officers. He would later say that it was a deliberate ambush of the police officers. It occurred two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Dec. 4., 1969, a Chicago Police tactical unit raided the home of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton. In this raid, Hampton was shot and killed along with his Panther guard Mark Clark. Cook County States Attorney Edward Hanrahan, his assistant and eight Chicago Police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury over the raid, but the charges were later dismissed.

Between the fall of 1967 to the end of 1970, as a result of confrontations between police and Black Panthers, nine police officers were killed and 56 were wounded. The Panthers lost 10 members killed and an unknown number injured. During 1969, police arrested 348 Panthers for a variety of crimes.

Outside the Black Panther Party headquarters in Portland, Ore., on Feb. 18, 1970, Black Panther Party member Albert Wayne Williams was shot by officers with the Portland Police Bureau. Although Williams was critically wounded, he made a full recovery.

Black Panther member H. Rap Brown is currently serving a life sentence for the 2000 murder of Deputy Ricky Leon Kinchen of the Fulton County (Ga.) Sheriff's Department and the wounding of another officer in a gun battle. Both of these officers were black.


Dems Hosted Ex-Black Panther Implicated in Torture for Event Where Panelists Praised Cop Killers

Chuck Ross • May 26, 2021 2:45 pm

Three Democratic lawmakers hosted a forum earlier this month where several convicted cop killers were hailed as political prisoners. The event featured a former Black Panther implicated in the torture of a member suspected of being a police informant.

Speakers at the May 10 forum, hosted by Reps. Steve Cohen (D., Tenn.), Bobby Rush (D., Ill.), and Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), praised Mumia Abu-Jamal, Mutulu Shakur, H. Rap Brown, and other black liberationists who are all serving life sentences for killing police officers. The topic of the event was COINTELPRO, the FBI program that tracked black separatist groups in the 1960s and 1970s.

The defense of the cop killers comes as Democratic leaders are trying to downplay the perception that the party is anti-police. Some congressional Democrats have supported defunding police departments in the wake of high-profile deaths of minorities during interactions with police. Kristen Clarke, who was confirmed this week to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division, penned an essay last year in which she supported defunding the police. She also moderated a conference in 1999 where Abu-Jamal and other cop killers were touted as political prisoners.

Lee introduced perhaps the most controversial speaker at the event, former Black Panther leader Ericka Huggins. Lee, who worked closely with the Black Panthers as an Oakland community activist in the 1970s, referred to Huggins as her "former colleague and comrade."

Huggins and another forum speaker, Black Panther Party cofounder Bobby Seale, were charged in 1970 with the murder of Alex Rackley, a party member suspected of snitching to the police. Rackley was tortured on May 18, 1969, at a Black Panther hideout in New Haven, Conn. He was fatally shot and dumped in a river two days later. Huggins and Seale were accused of ordering the hit on Rackley, who was 19 years old.

While the case was dropped against Huggins and Seale after a jury failed to reach a verdict, a tape recording introduced at their trial revealed that Huggins was present while Rackley was being tortured. Black Panthers beat Rackley with sticks and poured boiling water over him to force him to confess that he was a police informant, according to contemporaneous news reports of the trial.

The Washington Post reported in a 1977 retrospective of the case that Huggins admitted to boiling the water poured on Rackley, verbally abusing him and kicking him while he sat tied to a chair.

Huggins’s lawyer claimed at her trial that she was pressured into taking part in the interrogation and that she played no role in his death.

Lee and her Democratic colleagues did not mention Rackley’s murder at the hands of Black Panthers. But Lee hailed Huggins as an example of the strength of leadership of women in the Black Panther Party. She said it was "mind-boggling" to her that Black Panthers were harassed, assaulted, and killed by police.

Huggins, who did not respond to the Washington Free Beacon’s request for comment, told the Guardian in 2015 that she stayed with the party for another decade after the Rackley murder because she was "committed to the party, not to orchestrations of the FBI." Huggins, who refers to herself as a "former political prisoner" on her personal website, has forged a career in academia since leaving the Panthers.

Huggins did not discuss the Rackley affair during her remarks at the forum. She instead criticized unspecified "forces" that she said are spreading disinformation about the Black Lives Matter movement. She said that, like modern-day activists, the Black Panthers’ goal was "to help create a just and equitable world."

The Democrats also did not rebuff two other speakers who claimed that a group of black liberation activists convicted of killing police officers were political prisoners.

One speaker, Akua Njeri, called for the release of Abu-Jamal and Brown, referring to them as "political prisoners, prisoners of war, prisoners of consciousness." Nkechi Taifa, a civil rights activist, lamented that the cop killers had not received parole even though they are all in their 70s and 80s.

Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther, was sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. He has become a martyr of sorts for left-wing activists, who claim he was given an unfair trial.

Other cop killers praised at the event have similar records. Mutulu Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army, is serving a 60-year prison sentence for murder and robbery in his role in the 1981 heist of a Brinks armored truck in New York. Shakur and five others murdered one guard and injured another.

Russell Maroon Shoatz, a former Panther, was convicted in the 1970 murder of a Philadelphia police officer. H. Rap Brown, another former Panther known as Jamil Al-Amin, was sentenced to life in prison for killing two Georgia sheriff’s deputies in 2000. Sundiata Acoli, another former Black Panther mentioned at the forum, was sentenced to life in prison for the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

Cohen and Lee did not respond to requests for comment submitted to their congressional offices.


Aggressive approach

The approach of law enforcement on the bitterly cold morning of Feb. 10, 1971, was aggressive and combative. Brad Lilley, the 19-year-old leader of the High Point branch of the Black Panthers, woke at 5 a.m. to discover about 30 police officers and sheriff’s deputies surrounding the rented house he shared with three other teenage members of the organization.

The police were seeking to evict the Panthers. Despite the fact that Lilley and the other members were paying rent on time, High Point police were looking to force them out in line with a national strategy of pushing Black Panthers out of communities because of their political activities. According to a High Point Enterprise local newspaper reporter on the scene, the force was “heavily armed and wearing flak jackets,” though none of the residents had a record of criminal violence. The Enterprise also questioned the police department’s aggressive strategy in the crowded residential neighborhood, stating “someone could have been killed in the comparative safety of his home.”

Ironically, High Point Police Chief Laurie Pritchett, who was on the scene that day, had previously built a national reputation by avoiding combative tactics. Pritchett had been chief in Albany, Georgia, in 1961 when the civil rights group the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee began organizing a movement to desegregate the city. His nonviolent approach to policing during this campaign largely thwarted those efforts, even after Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference became involved. King later called Pritchett “a basically decent man.” Some Black High Pointers described Pritchett’s approach on Feb. 10 as inconsistent with his generally nonbelligerent law enforcement practices.

A member of the Black Panthers peeks around a bullet-pocked door that police blasted with gunfire during a predawn raid in Chicago. Bettmann/Getty Images

Interviews I have conducted suggest that the strategy of Feb. 10 exemplified Pritchett’s adoption of a more militant policing trend in the city. Lilley told me that just a few days before the shootout, a High Point police officer stopped his car and told him, “I know who you are.” According to Lilley and two other passengers in the car, the officer said he was a marked man and was going to be killed.


Eight arrested over 1971 Black Panther police killing

Eight men have been arrested in connection with the 1971 slaying of a police officer that authorities say was part of a black power group's five-year campaign to kill law enforcement officers in San Francisco and New York.

According to the police, seven of the eight are believed to be former members of the Black Liberation Army, an offshoot of the Black Panther Party.

The August 29, 1971, shooting death of Sergeant John V. Young, 51, at a San Francisco police station was one in a series of attacks by BLA members on law enforcement officials on both coasts, police said.

The attacks, carried out between 1968 and 1973, also included the bombing of a police funeral in San Francisco and the slayings of two New York City police officers, as well as three armed bank robberies that helped fund their operations, police said.

The arrests were just the latest attempt in recent years to hold antiwar radicals and black-power militants responsible for crimes committed a generation ago.

The investigation of the Black Liberation Army killing spree was reopened in 1999 after 'advances in forensic science led to the discovery of new evidence in one of the unsolved cases,' the San Francisco Police Department said in a statement.

Morris Tabak, the department's deputy chief of investigations, would not elaborate on the evidence except to say: "It could be fibers. It could be DNA. It could be other biological evidence."

Murder and conspiracy charges were filed against Ray Michael Boudreaux, 64, of Altadena, California Richard Brown, 65, of San Francisco Herman Bell, 59, and Anthony Bottom, 55, both behind bars in New York state Henry Watson Jones, 71, of Altadena Francisco Torres, 58, of New York City and Harold Taylor, 58, of Panama City, Florida.

Bell's lawyer, San Francisco attorney Stuart Hanlon, called the arrests a "prosecution based on vengeance and hate from the '60s."

"There's a law enforcement attitude that they hate these people, the Panthers," Hanlon said.

"Now they're going after old men."

Richard O'Neal, 57, of San Francisco, was also arrested on conspiracy charges.

A ninth suspect, Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, 62, was still being sought. Police said he could be in France, Belize or Tanzania.

It is unclear whether Bridgeforth and O'Neal were members of the Black Liberation Army.

None of the suspects will face the death penalty, said Maggy Krell, deputy state attorney general.

The death penalty law in effect at the time of the attack was declared unconstitutional in 1972.

The police officer was killed when Bell and Torres, armed with guns and dynamite, raided a neighborhood police station, firing a shotgun through a hole in the lobby's bulletproof window, as accomplices were posted outside as lookouts, according to police officials in New York.

Torres is accused of trying to ignite the dynamite as the pair fled the station, but the explosives failed.

After his arrest Tuesday in New York, Torres called the case 'a frame-up'.

Three men, including Taylor, were charged in the attack in 1975. But the charges were thrown out by a San Francisco judge because of a ruling that evidence was obtained by torture after the suspects were arrested in New Orleans.

Bell and Bottom are serving life sentences for the killings of two New York police officers.

Another suspect in Young's slaying, John Bowman of Oklahoma, died in December, according to his lawyer, Ann Moorman of Ukiah.

In some other cases dating to the Vietnam era, Sara Jane Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, was arrested in 1999.

A former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army - the radical group that kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in 1974 - she pleaded guilty and was sent to prison for the 1975 attempted bombings of Los Angeles police cars and a Sacramento-area bank robbery that left a woman dead.

Four other former SLA members were also sent to prison in the robbery.

Katherine Ann Power, an antiwar radical implicated in a fatal bank robbery in Boston in 1970, surrendered in 1993 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter.


Fatal Black Panther raid in Chicago set off sizable aftershocks

Forty-five years ago this month, Fred Hampton, the rising star of a declining Black Panther Party, was killed in a police raid at a West Side apartment that brought him immortality as an improbable hero of the civil rights movement.

The cacophony of gunshots on West Monroe Street in the early morning of Dec. 4, 1969, reverberated politically to the Loop office of Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan. Aftershocks traveled all the way to the Washington headquarters of the FBI. The incident also led to one of the biggest embarrassments in the history of the Chicago Tribune.

Hampton was an unlikely candidate for that notoriety. At 21, he was just a little more than two years removed from his role as a teen activist in Maywood demanding a community swimming pool. Over the next year, he was associated with a school disturbance, the beating of an ice cream truck driver and a demonstration at Maywood Village Hall that ended with the mayor and other officials fleeing the building, tear gas being fired and plenty of glass broken.

By December 1969, he was the Illinois chief of the Black Panther Party, which preached violence as the means to African-Americans' liberation. Yet black leaders and white liberals who were wary of the Panthers appeared at his funeral, outraged at the way Hampton died. The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, heir to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent crusade, said during his eulogy, "The nation that conquered Nazi Germany is following the same course as brutal Nazi Germany." The Tribune noted that Dr. Benjamin Spock, the famous baby doctor and anti-war advocate, was among the 5,000 who filed passed Hampton's coffin.

Founded in Oakland, Calif., in 1966, the Panthers had just opened a Chicago office on West Madison Street. Theirs was a short but stormy history marked by infighting — some of it covertly orchestrated by an FBI whose chief, J. Edgar Hoover, had become obsessed with the group. One founder, Bobby Seale, a defendant in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial, was about to go to prison. Other leaders were facing criminal charges, leaving room for rapid advancement. Hampton was in line for a top post nationally, even as he was appealing a conviction for that ice-cream truck incident.

In the months leading up to the raid, Black Panther members were involved in two fiery gunbattles with Chicago police. The causes of the incidents were disputed, but in a July shootout, five police officers and three Black Panther members were wounded at the party's headquarters a block north of Hampton's apartment. Then in November, two police officers were killed and six were wounded in a South Side fight with Black Panther members, who themselves suffered one death and one injury.

It was war, and a spy had infiltrated the Panthers' ranks. William O'Neal, a petty thief from the West Side, had driven a stolen car across state lines, a federal offense, and was offered a deal: Become an FBI informant and the case would go away. "I was beginning to feel clean again, just by helping the FBI," he afterward told the Tribune. Ordered to infiltrate the Panthers, he quickly rose from handyman to security chief, and in November, he was given an assignment by his FBI handler: a sketch of Hampton's apartment. "He wanted to know the locations of weapons caches, he wanted to know if we had explosives . who spent the night where," O'Neal said in a videotaped interview at Washington University.

The FBI passed that information on to Hanrahan, and a few minutes before 5 a.m. on Dec. 4, police detailed to his office raided the apartment at 2337 W. Monroe St. According to police, they were met by a barrage of gunfire in what the Tribune described as a "wild gun battle" that lasted 20 minutes. The surviving Panthers said the cops, guns blazing, stormed into an apartment filled mostly with sleeping people. The aftermath was gruesome: Hampton was dead. Mark Clark, on guard duty that night, was killed. Among the wounded were two men, a woman, and a 17-year-old girl. One police officer was injured.

Hanrahan was forced to defend the raiders against charges of "murder" and "modern-day lynchings," and activists called for a federal investigation. On Dec. 10, the Chicago Daily News described what had happened from the Panthers' point of view. Not to be outdone, the Tribune rallied with its own big story, a graphic, and a firsthand, account from an officer on the raid.

The Tribune account — which the newspaper ballyhooed with the one-word banner headline "EXCLUSIVE" — was supplied by Hanrahan and included photos supposedly showing bullet holes that supported cops' claims they came under fire. The Tribune didn't check that assertion before running with the official explanation of the photos. The next day, Sun-Times reporters went to the apartment and found that the alleged bullet holes were in fact nail heads. The Tribune's take on the photos, a Sun-Times headline crowed, "is nailed as mistake."

When a federal grand jury issued its report May 15, 1970, it blasted all parties — including the press — in harsh terms. The grand jury found the raid "ill-conceived," the post-raid investigation and reconstruction of events riddled with errors, and the news media responsible for "grossly exaggerated" accounts. The grand jury also took to task the surviving Black Panthers, whose refusal to cooperate they said hampered the probe.

Instead of chronicling a gunfight, the grand jury "found evidence that 76 expended shells were recovered at the scene, and that only one could be traced to a Panther." Despite its severe criticism, the grand jury returned no indictments.

FBI agents had supplied the intelligence upon which the police raiders depended, and their boss didn't go unscathed. Also revealed by the various investigations and lawsuits was a hush-hush FBI operation, COINTELPRO, that not only kept track of the Panthers and other radicals but also worked to undermine them with dirty tricks. News of the scheming tarnished Hoover's reputation.

Faced with mounting criticism, including damning testimony in the federal grand jury report about the botched police investigation, the chief judge of Cook County criminal court, Joseph Power, appointed a Chicago lawyer, Barnabas Sears, as a special state's attorney. Sears got a grand jury to indict Hanrahan and the police raiders. Presented with the indictment, Power refused to open it until the Illinois Supreme Court ordered him to. In the end, the defendants were acquitted in the trial that followed. Hampton's and Clark's families filed a civil suit that resulted in a $1.8 million settlement. For Hanrahan, who had ordered the raid, his promising political career was buried in an avalanche of protest votes at the next election.

After losing re-election, Hanrahan made quixotic runs for mayor and alderman and practiced law until his death in 2009. His funeral almost witnessed another clash between cops, there to mourn him, and black protesters, there to decry him.

Hampton's son, Fred Hampton Jr., born two weeks after the raid, followed in his father's footsteps. A militant activist, he went to prison for firebombing a grocery store during the protests of the acquittal of the Los Angeles cops who beat Rodney King.

Bobby Rush, Hampton's Black Panther associate who took over as the group's Illinois president, was the subject of a police manhunt after the original raid and went on to lead the protest over it. In 1972, he spent six months in prison for having an unregistered weapon, a charge that pre-dated the raid on the Panthers' headquarters.

He then embarked on a conventional political career, serving in the Chicago City Council and the U.S. House — at one point beating back an up-and-comer named Barack Obama who was angling for his seat.

After the raid, O'Neal moved around the country under assumed names, fearing reprisals for his role in Hampton's death, though he denied having guilty feelings. In 1990, having returned to the Chicago area, O'Neal ran onto the Eisenhower Expressway and was fatally stuck by a car. The medical examiner ruled it a suicide.

Editor's note: Thanks to Richard Dreger, of Batavia, for suggesting this Flashback.


The Black Panthers officially shut down in 1982

The Black Panther Party went out with a whimper rather than a roar. Eldridge Cleaver disavowed the Panthers and became a Moonie, a Mormon, and then a Reagan-supporting Republican. The New York Times says he also struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine, and died in 1998. Huey P Newton earned a PhD in 1980, but later became addicted to drugs and alcohol. In 1989, he served a six-month prison sentence for misappropriation of funds from a community school. He was shot dead later that year, apparently in relation to drug debts. After parting with the Panthers in 1974, Bobby Seale's views became more moderate but he continued to advocate for Black communities, as well as writing books and speaking at colleges.

Beyond the leaders, the Black Panthers must deal with a mixed legacy. Many less prominent members were convicted for various crimes, including shooting police officers, during the party's extreme stages in the late '60s and early '70s. The Guardian reports around 19 are still in prison.

There is currently an organization called the New Black Panther Party, but they have been disavowed as an extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), partly thanks to anti-Semitic views, and disowned by Seale, who described them as "nothing but some negative crap" in 2018.


Watch the video: 1969 SPECIAL REPORT: BLACK PANTHERS VS. POLICE