Ben Crump, co-counsel Ray Hamlin, and other attorneys held a press conference on Tuesday in New York featuring a key witness who claims undercover officials were involved in the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965.
Mustafa Hassan — who spoke for the first time publicly about his observations from the day Malcolm X was killed, and was part of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), formed by Malcolm X — said he was on security detail at the event at Audubon Ballroom where Malcolm X was shot.
Hassan read from an affidavit filed in Kings County, New York, which detailed his recollection of the day, where he said he heard an explosion and later gunshots. He said he saw a man — whom he later identified as Talmadge Hayer, also known as Thomas Hagen and Mujahid Abdul Halim (who was one of three who was convicted in Malcolm X’s killing) — running up an aisle towards an exit while wielding a gun. “I managed to knock this person down,” Hassan said, and then he headed back to the auditorium stage to check on Malcolm X, “who was in grave conditions, seemingly close to death.”
He then went to pursue the man who he had earlier knocked down. “I would later see the same man outside as he was being beaten by Malcolm’s followers, while a group of policemen, who suddenly showed up at the scene, ask[ed] ‘Is he with us?’ while at the same time holding back Malcolm’s followers from beating him,” he said. “From my vantage point, this was an attempt by the police to assist in him getting away. Rather than allow the man to get away. I reached out and grabbed the man by his collar to prevent him from escaping, as evidenced in the attached photograph that you’ll see.”
Hassan, who was 26 at the time, said he believed he heard one officer ask a question that implied that there was some coordination involved and that Hayer may have been part of a conspiracy to assassinate Malcolm X. “They were prepared to let him go, that’s my perspective,” Hassan later added. Hassan said he was never questioned or interviewed about his eyewitness account during the investigations.
Archival photos and video footage from the wire and news services from that day, which Crump said they just learned of two days ago, appear to confirm Hassan’s recollections of what happened, depicting Hassan holding a man’s collar as police appear to hold him and others away from the man. Hassan said he and his family left the country after the incident in fear for their safety.
“We simply want the truth to be known, the history books to reflect the orchestration of the assassination of our father, and we want justice to be served,” said Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, who was in attendance at the press conference. “Because I think what history has recorded is inaccurate. So, we want the truth to be known. We want the history books to reflect that truth. And we would like justice to be served.”
In February, Ilyasah Shabazz, along with her sister Qubilah and other family members, filed a notice of claim with the intent to sue the FBI, the CIA, the New York Police Department, and other agencies for allegedly concealing evidence related to his killing. Crump said that for legal reasons, they have to wait a certain amount of time before they can file. According to another attorney present at the press conference, federal agencies have six months to make a determination before they can file a suit, and the New York agencies have one year and 90 days from the time they filed their notice of claim to file a lawsuit.
Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam — who each spent more than 20 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the 1965 assassination of civil rights leader Malcolm X — received $26 million from New York City to settle lawsuits filed on behalf of the men last fall. Aziz and Islam were exonerated in 2021 following a nearly two-year investigation, which concluded that the two would have likely been acquitted if the Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York Police Department had not withheld key evidence.
Malcolm X was killed on Feb. 21, 1965, attacked by three gunmen who confronted him after he began delivering a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. Aziz and Islam (who died in 2009) were convicted alongside a third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim (also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagen), who was also found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 2010, he was released on parole.