Civil rights icon and former Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City on Feb. 21, 1965. Almost exactly 56 years later, there seems to be proof of what many suspected all along — that not only was NOI involved in his murder but the federal and local government helped orchestrate it.
During a recent press conference, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and three daughters of the late Malcolm X — Qubilah Bahiyah Shabazz, Ilyasah Shabazz, and Gamilah Shabazz — revealed that a former New York City police officer had given a deathbed confession admitting his involvement in the killing of Malcolm X.
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little and took the Muslim name of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. He was gunned down during a speech he was delivering at Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom while addressing the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted of his murder.
Retired NYPD officer Ray Wood allegedly confessed to his connection to the assassination in a letter in which he wrote, “I have carried these secrets with a heavy heart.”
The press conference took place on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 at the old Audubon Ballroom – now The Shabazz Center – along with lawyers Ray Hamlin, Paul Napoli and Reggie Wood. Reggie Wood was appointed the guardian of Ray Wood’s estate, Black News Channel reported. According to Reggie Wood, his cousin gave him the letter to keep until Ray’s death. Wood’s purported deathbed letter was delivered to three of Malcolm’s daughters and Reggie Wood, who read the letter to them.
The deathbed letter, written on Jan. 25, 2011, was obtained by ABC News. Wood was serving as an undercover police officer on the day of Malcolm X’s death. In the letter, he admitted he “participated in actions that in hindsight were deplorable and detrimental to the advancement of my own Black people,” ABC News reported.
Crump tweeted, “Today, 56 years after Malcolm X was assassinated while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom on, let’s continue to offer our prayers to his family and honor his LEGACY. He was Black Lives Matter before there was a #BLM movement!”
British novelist and journalist Hari Kunzru tweeted a copy of Ray Wood’s letter. There was a spirited discussion on Twitter.
“Officer or not he was still a Black Man who, by all accounts, appears to have been terrorized into committing these acts. It’s easy to be an armchair Quarterback on social media from the comfort of your home when your life and the lives of your family aren’t at risk,” tweeted one user.
Another wondered about the letter’s authenticity: “Hm. I have some questions. For starters, did anyone witness him signing this statement? Did he leave it in a postmarked or notorized envelope? Had he discussed this information with any family members before his death? Can we verify that he was with the NYPD?”
Another asked why Wood’s letter, which was written in 2011, wasn’t released sooner. “We may not have known exactly who and exactly how, in every detail, but we’ve always known the NYPD and the FBI/COINTELPRO were involved in his murder. Why is this letter being released now?”
Wood, who was African American, was hired by the NYPD in 1964 to “infiltrate civil rights organizations” to find evidence of criminal activity so the FBI could discredit the groups and arrest its leaders, Wood wrote.
In the letter, Wood detailed the plan for Malcolm X’s murder. According to Wood, there was a planned arrest of two of Malcolm X’s “key” security detail members in a concocted plot to bomb the Statue of Liberty days before his 1965 assassination. The alleged plot involved three members of a Black “terrorist group” and a Canadian woman who were planning to place dynamite at the Statue of Liberty, in the Liberty Bell and at Washington Monument, the New York Times reported on Feb. 16, 1965.
“It was my assignment to draw the two men into a felonious federal crime so that they could be arrested by the FBI and kept away from managing Malcolm X’s door security on February 21, 1965,” Wood wrote. “… At that time I was not aware that Malcolm X was the target.”
Wood alleged in the letter that “his actions on behalf of the New York City Police Department (BOSSI) were done under duress and fear,” adding that he could have faced “detrimental consequences” if he did not follow the orders of his handlers. BOSSI stands for the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations.
“After witnessing repeated brutality at the hands of my coworkers (police), I tried to resign,” Wood wrote. “Instead I was threatened with arrest by pinning marijuana and alcohol trafficking charges on me if I did not follow through with the assignments.”
According to Wood, as he faced failing health, he was worried that the family of Thomas Johnson, one of the men convicted of killing Malcolm X, would not be able to exonerate him after Wood died. Wood wrote that Johnson was arrested at the Audubon Ballroom the night Malcolm X was killed to protect Wood’s cover and “the secrets of the FBI and NYPD.”
Wood placed his letter into the care of his cousin, Reggie Wood, and requested that the information be held until after his death. No details about the circumstances and timing of Wood’s death were provided, MEA Worldwide reported.
“It is my hope that this information is received with the understanding that I have carried these secrets with a heavy heart and remorsefully regret my participation in this matter,” Wood wrote.
Wood’s cousin went on to write the book, “The Ray Wood Story,” which was published earlier this month.
There have long been questions about Malcolm X’s death. In 2020, the New York City district attorney’s office opened an investigation into the assassination and those convicted after the documentary “Who Killed Malcolm X?” aired on Netflix.
Civil rights attorney Crump said the review into Malcolm X’s death was restorative justice.
“This is the only way we can bridge this divide,” Crump told ‘Good Morning America.’ “We have to have transparency, present accountability, and that’s the only way we’ll ever get to trust.”
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A spokesperson for the NYPD released the following statement: “Several months ago, the Manhattan District Attorney initiated a review of the investigation and prosecution that resulted in two convictions for the murder of Malcolm X. The NYPD has provided all available records relevant to that case to the District Attorney. The Department remains committed to assist with that review in any way,” CBS New York reported.