The family of Malcom X has made public a letter attributed to a now-deceased former New York Police Department officer in which the ex-cop claimed the police department and the FBI were behind the 1965 assassination of the Black liberation icon.
The letter was released Feb. 20, the day before the 56th anniversary of Malcolm X’s death. His family is calling for the investigation into his murder to be reopened in light of the new evidence.
“Any evidence that provides greater insight into the truth behind that terrible tragedy should be thoroughly investigated,” Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz said at a news conference unveiling the letter on Saturday.
The Muslim minister, was killed on Feb. 21, 1965, while addressing his Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York’s Manhattan borough. Three members of the Nation of Islam were convicted in his murder.
But in a letter former undercover officer Raymond Wood originally wrote in 2011 and wished not to be made public until after his death, the ex-NYPD cop implicated the police department in Malcom X’s death. The letter was delivered to Malcolm X’s daughters on Saturday by Reginald Wood Jr., the cousin of the deceased former officer and administrator of his estate.
“It was on Saturday that Mr. Reginald Wood, a Hillsboro County native, went to New York to deliver a deathbed, dying declaration letter to the daughters of Malcolm X, the civil rights icon that was assassinated 56 years ago,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump told Atlanta Black Star on Monday.
Raymond Wood died last November.
Crump said Raymond Wood was an undercover officer who was used by the NYPD to “infiltrate” and “discredit” Black leaders and civil rights organizations in the 1960s and 1970s.
“In this deathbed, dying confession, he implicates that the NYPD and the FBI conspired to assassinate Malcolm X,” Crump said, adding that the letter indicates Malcom X’s death was “orchestrated by the government.”
Wood, a Black man who was an undercover police officer with the NYPD between 1964 and 1971, wrote in the letter that he participated in actions that “in hindsight were deplorable and detrimental to my own black people.”
He added that the actions were committed under “duress” and “fear” that he would face major consequences if he didn’t comply with his handlers.
Wood revealed that he was pressured by his supervisors in the department to get members of Malcolm X’s security detail to commit crimes that would result in their arrests by the FBI so that they would be unable to manage the activist’s door security at the Audubon Ballroom the day of the assassination.
“Under the direction of my handlers, I was told to encourage leaders and members of the civil rights groups to commit felonious acts,” Wood’s letter stated.
That Statue of Liberty bombing plot was Wood’s supervisors’ idea, he said. The plot was publicized on Feb. 16, days before Malcolm X’s murder. Walter Bowe and Khaleel Sayyed, two key members of the orator’s security detail, were arrested.
“At that time I was not aware Malcolm X was the target,” Wood wrote.
“It’s explosive,” Reginald Wood told the Atlanta Black Star about the letter. “He said that he was forced to betray his own people. He tried to get out, and they tried to pin drug trafficking and alcohol trafficking charges on him. So therefore, by being former military, he knew that if he didn’t follow the orders it would be the same as a court-martial. So it was self-preservation at that point.”
Reginald Wood, the administrator of his cousin’s estate, authored a book about his cousin’s ordeal in relation to his undercover work with the NYPD, entitled “The Ray Wood Story.”
“It’s amazing that people will know Ray’s story,” he said. “And hopefully they will emphasize with what he had to go through and the sorrow that he had and the guilt and remorse that he had from this whole situation.”
Mujahid Abdul Halim (also known as Thomas Hagan), Muhammad Abdul Aziz (also known as Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (also known as Thomas 15X Johnson) were convicted in the death of Malcolm X in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison. Islam died in 2009, Aziz was paroled in 1985, and Halim was released in April 2010.
In a statement, the NYPD said last year after the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reopened an investigation into the assassination that it “has provided all available records relevant to that case to the district attorney” and “remains committed to assist with that review in any way.”
The FBI had not commented on the matter.