On the morning of December 4, 1969, lawyer Jeffrey Haas received a call from his partner at the People’s Law Office, informing him that early that morning Chicago police had raided the apartment of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton at 2337 West Monroe Street in Chicago.
Tragically, Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark had both been shot dead, and four other Panthers in the apartment had critical gunshot wounds. Police were uninjured and had fired their guns 90-99 times. In sharp contrast, the Panthers had shot once, from the shotgun held by Mark Clark, which had most likely been fired after Clark had been fatally shot in the heart and was falling to the ground.
Haas went straight to the police station to speak with Hampton’s fiancée, Deborah Johnson, who was then eight months pregnant with Hampton’s son. She had been sleeping in bed next to Hampton when the police attacked and began shooting into the apartment and towards the bedroom where they were sleeping. Miraculously, Johnson had not been shot, but her account given to Haas was chilling. Throughout the assault Hampton had remained unconscious (strong evidence emerged later that a paid FBI informant had given Hampton a sedative that prevented him from waking up) and after police forced Johnson out of the bedroom, two officers entered the room where Hampton still lay unconscious. Johnson heard one officer ask, “Is he still alive?” After two gunshots were fired inside the room, the other officer said, “He’s good and dead now.”
Jeffrey Haas’ account of this conversation with Johnson jumps right out from the inside cover of The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther. In this excellent book, Haas gives his personal account of defending the Panther survivors of the December 4 police assault against the criminal charges that were later dropped, and of filing a civil rights lawsuit, Hampton v. Hanrahan, on behalf of the survivors and the families of Mark Clark and Fred Hampton.
. . . When the COINTELPRO files became public, Haas, PLO, and his Panther clients immediately suspected that the Dec. 4 police raid had been part of this program, and that the FBI had viewed Hampton as a potential “messiah,” who needed to be “neutralized.” As part of their civil rights lawsuit, they filed numerous motions requesting all FBI files relating to the Illinois Panthers and COINTELPRO. After repeated attempts by the defendants and Judge Parry to cover up the FBI role, eventually a few explosive documents were made available.
One document showed a drawing made by the FBI’s paid informant, William O’Neal, which provided the floor plan of Hampton’s apartment. The FBI had supplied this diagram to prosecutor Edward Hanrahan before he led the raid several days later. Following the raid, the FBI paid O’Neal a special bonus to thank him for providing the diagram.
Another document surfaced showing that the FBI had made a deal with deputy attorney general Jerris Leonard, who led the 1970 federal grand jury investigation. In an effort to conceal the FBI’s role and the still-secret COINTELPRO, they decided that the criminal charges would be dropped against the seven Panther survivors, and in exchange the federal grand jury would rule in favor of Hanrahan and the police raiders. . .[Description from full review by Hans Bennett on TowardsFreedom.com.]
This book of the assassination of a sleeping Fred Hampton by Chicago police working for a mad state’s attorney is more important NOW than it was THEN. It is a revelation of how the powerful of our city use power to keep truth distant. The hard truth is that this is a remarkable work. — Studs Terkel
ISBN: 9781569767092 | Lawrence Hill Books
Interview with author Jeffrey Haas Democracy Now!, December 4, 2009. Watch below.
|Malcolm London reads Fred Hampton, Power Anywhere Where There’s People (1969) from Voices of a People’s History on Vimeo.
Fred Hampton portrait by Erin Currier.
Fred Hampton poster by Claude Moller.
Find lessons below to teach about the Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO.