Was Fred Hampton Executed? | The Nation


Was Fred Hampton Executed?

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Not simply an informant, O'Neal tried to provoke others into "kamikaze"-type activities. Former Panther member Louis Truelock has submitted an affidavit stating that during a visit to O'Neal's father's home, the informer showed him putty, blasting caps and "plastic bottles of liquid," enough material to produce several bombs. He proposed that they blow up an armory and later suggested robbing a McDonald's restaurant. Truelock and others who heard O'Neal's provocative proposals rejected them as useless to the cause.

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Although he was infatuated with weapons and tried to involve other Panthers in criminal activities, O'Neal was tolerated because he was an exceptionally hard worker around the office. Ronald "Doc" Satchel, a Panther leader who was wounded in the raid, recalls, "The only person who didn't want O'Neal in the Panthers was Fred Hampton."

O'Neal was also instructed to carry out the FBI's "divide-and-conquer" plan. The bureau most feared a pact between the Panthers and the Blackstone Rangers, Chicago's most powerful black gang. Defendant Marlin Johnson, former Chicago FBI chief, now head of the Chicago Police Board, and a defendant in the present trials, testified before the Church committee that he approved the sending of an anonymous letter to Ranger leader Jeff Fort which read, "The brothers that run the Panthers blame you for blocking their thing and there's supposed to be a hit out for you.... I know what to do if I was you." When pressed for an explanation, Johnson claimed that he thought a hit "is some-thing nonviolent in nature," and maintained that the letter-writing scheme was aimed at preventing violence. He added, "We didn't think he [Fort] would pay too much attention to the letter."

William O'NeaI's crowning achievement was his advance work on the December 4 raid. Two weeks before the attack, he provided the FBI with a detailed floor plan of Panther headquarters, complete with an "X" over Fred Hampton's bed. Most of the shots were fired at that spot.

Following the lethal raid, O'Neal was rewarded with a $300 bonus after Agent Robert Piper, also a defendant in the suit, explained in a memo to Washington, "Our source [O'Neal] was the man who made the raid possible." In another memo, listing the amounts and dates that O'Neal was paid, the bureau acknowledged his information on national Panther leaders, anti-war activists from the New Mobilization Committee and the Chicago 8, and the furnishing of the floor plan: "It is noted that most information pro-vided by this source is not available from any other source." O'Neal was so valuable that Roy Mitchell once dished out $1,600 to buy him a car and $1,000 to bail him out of jail.

When FBI agents began to shop around for a police agency to raid Panther headquar-ters, they approached the Chicago Police Department twice, in October and November 1969, but were turned down both times. The FBI then approached Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan, who agreed to carry out the operation. Hanrahan, in a TV interview, said that he agreed to the raid after the FBI told him that the Panthers were stockpiling illegal weapons at their headquarters. However, on November 19, O'Neal had reported to the FBI that the guns had been legally obtained. This was corroborated by Maria Fisher, an infiltrator who worked for both the FBI and the state.

The raid was originally scheduled for December, 3 at 8 P.M., but the State's Attorney's office, without notifying the FBI, postponed it by several hours, on the stated ground that it would be too dangerous to move in while the occupants were awake. But the floor plan submitted by O'Neal specifically marked Hampton's bed, and some people wonder what the real reason was for the delay.

It was not the first time Black Panther headquarters had been raided. In June 1969, a force led by FBI Agent Marlin Johnson, but also involving other police agencies, met no resistance when the raiders informed those inside of their intent to search the office, allegedly for a fugitive. O'Neal admitted in a deposition that he had set up that raid. No fugitive was found, but several Panthers were arrested on a variety of charges, all of which were later dropped. The point is that, once the authorities announced themselves, the Panthers made no attempt to resist.

At 4:30 on the morning of December 4, police raiders burst into the apartment with their guns ablaze. Harold Bell, one of the wounded survivors, testified that everyone immediately surrendered. Bell and two others, including Hampton's girl friend, Deborah John-son, were ordered out of Hampton's bedroom, where he lay motionless. Then, says Bell, police fired from point-blank range into Hampton's body. Bell's testimony about Hampton's execution-style death has been supported by Deborah Johnson and other survivors. Johnson testified that, after emptying his gun into Hampton's bed, the cop walked away muttering, "He's good and dead now."

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