WMAQ-TV News reports that Black Panther leader Fred Hampton has been killed in a police raid on his Chicago apartment. There are conflicting theories over the series of events that led to Hampton's death.
Police Raid on Black Panthers Turns Deadly
JORIE LUELOFF, Anchor, WMAQ-Chicago:
Good afternoon. The 20-year-old chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, was shot and killed in a pre-dawn shootout with states attorney police in his west side apartment. Another member, 22-year-old Mark Clark of Peoria, also died in the shootout, which left four Panthers and two police officers wounded. States Attorney’s police say they were fired upon when they tried to enter the apartment at 2337 West Monroe on a search warrant, issued for possession of illegal weapons. Three more Panther party members are in police custody in connection with the shooting. Coming up, we’ll have a filmed interview with the two wounded police officers, a live interview with two Black Panther leaders, and a special film story on Fred Hampton.
LUELOFF: The two policemen who were wounded in this morning’s west side shootout were Chicago policemen assigned to special duty with the State’s Attorney’s office. Illinois Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton, and another party member died in the gun battle at 2337 Monroe Street. Officers Edward Carmody and John Ciszewski were not hurt seriously; they talked with NBC Newsman Keith Klein.
KEITH KLEIN, Reporter:
Officer Carmody, when you knocked on the door, what happened?
EDWARD CARMODY, State’s Attorney’s Office: Well, I didn’t actually knock. I heard our officers at the front announce their office, and shots fired. So I kicked in the back door. And as soon as the door opened, I could see shots being fired at us at the back door.
KLEIN: Was it lighted inside?
CARMODY: Yes, the whole apartment – the, the kitchen was lit and the front room was lit. The bedrooms were dark.
KLEIN: Did you know at that time approximately how many people were inside?
CARMODY: No, we had no idea.
KLEIN: Officer Ciszewski, what was the basis of going to the apartment?
JOHN CISZEWSKI: Uh, we had a search warrant, and in the search warrant was listed “guns, shotguns, ammunition,” and so forth, contraband.
KLEIN: Did you indeed find a lot of guns?
CISZEWSKI: Yes, we did, very many.
KLEIN: Could you describe how many?
CISZEWSKI: Uh, the ones that I had seen that got out of the back room were approximately about 5 or 6 shotguns, and also in another room, a very large gym bag or whatever you may call it, full of shotguns, another bag full of shotgun shells also.
KLEIN: Do you have any ideas how many shots were fired?
CISZEWSKI: Quite a few, I have no idea.
KLEIN: Any idea how long a period did the gun battle ensue?
CISZEWSKI: It seemed like an hour to me.
KLEIN: How did you get hurt?
CISZEWSKI: Uh, went in the back room, and trying to get some of the weapons out of there. There was one gentleman laying on the bed, and I was trying to get some of the weapons out of there. Two other ones were on the bed in the corner, and at this time, I got hit in the leg, I don’t know how.
KLEIN: Was there a possibility that there was gunfire being fired at you from other than the apartment?
CARMODY: I don’t think so. It didn’t seem like it to us. We got in almost immediately. So if there was, we wouldn’t be able to tell anyhow.
KLEIN: Did you know that they were Black Panthers?
CARMODY: No, we didn’t. We just knew that we were informed that there were guns and contraband in the building.
KLEIN: Did you have information that indicated that Fred Hampton might be there?
CARMODY: Not to my knowledge.
KLEIN: You just knew that there were guns, and the possibility of, that these may have been Black Panthers?
CARMODY: All we knew is there were guns in there.
KLEIN: At this point, it appears that the people who are deceased were in the gun battle?
CARMODY: Oh, they were definitely in the gun battle.
KLEIN: I mean, they were firing at police?
CARMODY: Yes sir. I mean, we saw the shots coming out of the two bedrooms.
LUELOFF: The raid on Hampton’s apartment was conducted by the States Attorney’s Office, acting on a tip from an informant that there were illegal guns there. State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan was scheduled to be on the noon report, but cancelled his appearance moments ago. Here is NBC Newsman Keith Klein.
KLEIN: State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan declined to appear as a guest in this NBC News studio at the same time as representatives of the Black Panther organization. However, a filmed report on a news conference held by Hanrahan moments ago will be seen later on NBC News Reports. States Attorney Hanrahan did issue the following statement, however. It says:
“This morning, pursuant to a search warrant, States Attorney’s police attempted to search the first-floor apartment at 2337 West Monroe Street to seize sawed-off shotguns and other weapons stored there. Our office had reliable information that this location was a depot for such illegal weapons gathered by members of the Black Panther Party. As soon as Sergeant Daniel Groth and Officer James Davis, leading our men, announced their office, occupants of the apartment attacked them with shotgun fire. The officers immediately took cover. The occupants continued firing at our policemen from several rooms within the apartment. Thereafter, three times, Sergeant Groth ordered all his men to cease firing, and told the occupants to come out with their hands up. Each time, one of the occupants replied, ‘Shoot it out,’ and they continued firing at police officers. Finally, the occupants threw down their guns and were arrested.”
“The immediate, violent, criminal reaction of the occupants in shooting at announced police officers emphasizes the extreme viciousness of the Black Panther Party. So does their refusal to cease firing at the police officers when urged to do so several times.”
Continuing the statement by States Attorney Edward Hanrahan, “Fortunately, only one police officer was wounded. We whole-heartedly commend the police officers for their bravery, their remarkable restraint, and their discipline in the face of this Black Panther attack, as should every decent citizen of our community.”
That’s the end of the statement from State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan. Mr. Hanrahan has forbidden State’s Attorney police, including officers John Ciszewski and Edward Carmody, who spoke with NBC News earlier from making any additional statements to newsmen. Keith Klein, NBC News, reporting.
LUELOFF: NBC Newsman Fred Thomas will interview several members of the Black Panther Party in a moment. First, here’s a closer look at the party and its Illinois chairman Fred Hampton, who was killed last night.
The Illinois Black Panther Party opened its Chicago headquarters on November 1, 1968. In the one-year and the one month of its existence at 2350 West Madison street, there have been at least two major shootouts with police in which both members of the Panthers and law enforcement officers were injured. The Panther philosophy as uttered by its founders, Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, advocates active self-defense including the use of guns. But there were also the local community efforts of the Panthers, in their free breakfast program for black children, a medical center and active support for the black community’s demands for better housing and jobs. And in a little over a year, the Black Panther Party have become a considerable force in the black community.
But it’s the violent aspect of the Panthers, which has made news. Early in the morning of July 31, there was a shoot out between Chicago Police and Panthers at their Madison street headquarters. Five policemen and three Panthers were injured, this time none seriously. Each side blamed the other for the conflict. Some claimed afterwards that during the gun fight fire broke out, and the headquarters building and its contents sustained considerable damage. The Panthers clamed they were the victims of police harassment. At a rally that night, Panthers strode to the stage to say they’d be the dominant force in the black community no matter what.
Unidentified Man #1: What those porks did this morning was the act of a frenetic, desperate, frightened monster in the last throes of death. And his weaknesses are our strengths. And the beautiful sight was to watch the community gather and witness the vain destruction by these barbarians and to see them pull closer, and closer to the Vanguard party. Each blow they strike against us only knocks more people off the fence onto our side. Each time the attempt to terrorize and brutalize the vanguard party they bring the weak out of hiding, the power to take a step forward, and the undecided become decided.
LUELOFF: But it was Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party to whom both militant whites and blacks looked to for direction. It was his charisma, his ability to articulate the philosophy of the Panthers, which held audiences. At a rally last August, commemorating the demonstration which accompanied the Democratic National Convention, Fred Hampton shared his disdain and contempt for white radicals who advocate attacking police.
FRED HAMPTON: We want you to understand; I want to leave a message for you anarchists. You’re full of it, you idiot fools. You understand? You like to go out and get people’s heads whooped. The Black Panther Party doesn’t endorse any criminal action. We believe anytime you lead people to the slaughter, it’s a crime. We study the teaching of Malcolm X, and Malcolm X said that whenever you’ve got a shepherd that tells the sheep not to run when attacked by the wolf and at the same time not to fight that wolf back, then that shepherd is a traitor.
LUELOFF: Hampton told his audience composed of young white middle class radicals that what he was saying was what Huey P. Newton and Eldridge Cleaver were saying all over the nation. He said there was a rhythm and a beat to the path of philosophy, and that the audience should listen carefully.
Hampton: That beat started in California and now it’s all over the world. That’s the international beat now and that beat sounds good. The beat goes on and on and on and no matter where you go, it might not sound so loud but you listen for it, you hear that beat. That beat is the beat that is saying that we’ve got to be so revolutionary…and intoxicated and not be astronomically intimidated. Yeah. Yeah. Ain’t that right? Yeah. You can tell the revolutionary but you can’t tell revolution. You can run a freedom fighter around the country but can run freedom fighting around the country. You can shoot a liberator but you can’t shoot liberation. If you do, you come up with answers that don’t accept, explanations that don’t explain, solutions that don’t solve, and conclusions that don’t conclude. If you dare to struggle, you dare to win, if you dare not to struggle, then you don’t deserve to win…you don’t deserve to win. We’re saying that you’ve got to get out here and got to involve yourself in the struggle. You’ve got to come out here and involve yourself in the struggle. You’ve got to come out here and support the vanguard party of the International Proletarian Revolutionary Struggle. That’s the Black Panther Party.
LUELOFF: Here’s NBC Newsman Fred Thomas with Black Panther Defense Minister Bob Rush, and Minister of Information Shaka [Rufus] Walls.
FRED THOMAS: Shaka, what do you think of what happened last night?
Shaka [Rufus] Walls, Minister of Information: this is a clear indication by the fascists, murderers, pigs, that went into our deputy Fred Hamilton’s apartment. These pigs were released by Daley and Hanrahan with an order to kill, not an order to arrest anyone. The actions are very clear and there is no way they can get around this, because we were over there, we investigated and [provided the] analysis [to] this whole situation. A baby, or a fool can see that this was murder, they say that this sister came to the door and shot with a shotgun, 20 minute gun battle, some pigs said he thought it was a hour, but there was no gun shot around that door, there is no gun shots outside that apartment, the front or rear, this is a contradiction. We say that even if they had a warrant, you serve a warrant, not at 4 o’clock in the morning when people are asleep. But at daytime. When people are—when you are supposed to serve a warrant. So they came there to murder, to murder, and to murder. And that’s exactly what they did. Because Art Sherman, Fred Hampton, was asleep in the bed and this is where all the blood is in that apartment. This is where they shot him. There is no appearance of any gunshot, any other bullet, at all…I’m a veteran, and I know any kind of gun weapon when I see it, any kind of pellets or shotgun, hand grenades, anything else, and there is no gun shots except for in Deputy Sherman’s Fred Hampton’s room where he was sleeping. And those pigs just lied, and lied, and lied.
THOMAS: Bobby, Now, Mr. Hanrahan described, used the term “vicious” to describe the Black Panther Party. Now how do you react to that?
Bobby Rush, Minister of Defense: Mr. Hanrahan’s statement, his term “vicious” is only applied when we have to defend ourselves against the viciousness of the Hanrahans and the Daleys and all the rest of the pigs who are attempting to wipe us out. To murder us. This has manifested in the railroading of our Ju—of our Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton, its manifested in the railroading of our chairman, Bobby Seale, the exile of our minister of information Eldridge Cleaver, the murder of Fred Hampton. These are vicious; these are vicious tactics employed by the pigs. We don’t want to, I don’t want to get into a debate…a verbal debate with Hanrahan, the words he used…The man murdered Fred Hampton. Fred Hampton was laying in his bed, we’ll prove it. We’ll prove it to the world, that Fred Hampton was murdered. There were no gunshot wounds, there was not gunshot bullet holes outside of the apartment. If there was a gunfire, gunfire the pigs had to fire in the apartment so there are no wounds—holes outside the doors, they said they kicked down the doors, the locks are still intact on the doors, we’ll prove it…the cameras were over there today, they took pictures of it, we’ll prove that these pigs murdered Fred Hampton while he was asleep, they attempted to wipe out the Black Panther Party and after they—if they succeed in this, black people, a lot of them to succeed in this, then they’ll move all black people and (unintelligible) like Hitler did in Germany.
The Black Panther Party was born in Oakland, California, in 1966, a little over 50 years ago. Its history holds vital lessons for today's movement to confront racism and police violence, yet textbooks either misrepresent or minimize the significance of the Black Panthers.