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In the new Netflix docu-series, “Who Killed Malcolm X?”, researchers and witnesses to the February 1965 murder of the iconic activist allege that Malcolm’s true killer was never brought to justice.
By the time the civil rights leader was gunned down in the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, a rift had opened between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. There was speculation at the time that Malcolm was killed at Muhammad’s behest after his split from the Nation, according to Malcolm X expert and imam Abdur-Rahman Muhammad.
Three Harlem NOI members were arrested and convicted of the murder: Talmadge Hayer (also known as Mujahid Abdul Halim and Thomas Hagan), Muhammad Abdul Aziz (also known as Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (also known as Thomas 15X Johnson).
Aziz and Islam insisted on their innocence, and Hayer swore in two affidavits that they had nothing to do with it. Both Aziz and Islam were later paroled from prison, with Islam dying in 2009.
“I was there, I know what happened and I know the people who were there,” Hayer testified in February 1966, according to CNN.
Muhammad has, since 2010, insisted that a Newark, New Jersey, man named William Bradley (later known as Al-Mustafa Shabazz) was responsible for the shot that killed Malcolm. He also implicated three other members of a Newark Nation of Islam mosque, according to the New York Times.
Shabazz was first accused of involvement in the murder by Hayer in an affidavit, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported.
On April 22, 2010, Muhammad identified Shabazz on his blog, after spotting him in a campaign commercial for then-Newark Mayor and current Democratic U.S. Senator Cory Booker.
“He is the man who fired the first and deadliest shot, which ripped through the chest of the powerful Black leader on that cold 21st day of February, 1965,” Muhammad wrote. “Time has caught up with him, and he can no longer lurk in the shadows waiting for his eventual end without having his dastardly deed made known. Mr. Bradley must now face the historical music in the land of the living.”
The New York Daily News reported on Muhammad’s claims — and confronted Shabazz in front of his home in 2015. Sources claimed that his true identity and alleged role in Malcolm's death were an “open secret” in Newark, the Daily News reported.
Shabazz, 76 at the time, was married to one of the city’s prominent civic leaders, according to the Daily News, and drove a gold Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan. He initially told reporters that he had no comment and they could talk to his attorney, the paper reported.
Shabazz later denounced the accusation. “They never spoke to me. They just accused me of something I didn’t do,” he told the Daily News.
Shabazz died in 2018, according to his obituary, which provided no other information about his death. Many users signed the online guest book with messages hailing Malcolm X, rather than condolences for Shabazz’s family.
“When you are forgotten, the legacy of Malcolm will live,” a user calling themselves Jax Shabazz wrote.
All six parts of “Who Killed Malcolm X?” are now streaming on Netflix.
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