Black History Month.com

December 2020

1955 1956 1963 1964 1969 1984

Ambush and Murder of Fred Hampton

On the evening of December 3, Hampton taught a political education course at a local church, which was attended by most members. Afterward, as was typical, several Panthers went to his Monroe Street apartment to spend the night, including Hampton and Deborah Johnson, Blair Anderson, James Grady, Ronald "Doc" Satchell, Harold Bell, Verlina Brewer, Louis Truelock, Brenda Harris, and Mark Clark. There they were met by O'Neal, who had prepared a late dinner, which the group ate around midnight. O'Neal had slipped the barbiturate sleep agent secobarbitol into a drink that Hampton consumed during the dinner, in order to sedate Hampton so he would not awaken during the subsequent raid. O'Neal left at this point, and, at about 1:30 a.m., December 4, Hampton fell asleep mid-sentence talking to his mother on the telephone.[25][26][27][28] Although Hampton was not known to take drugs, Cook County chemist Eleanor Berman would report that she ran two separate tests which each showed evidence of barbiturates in Hampton's blood. An FBI chemist would later fail to find similar traces, but Berman stood by her findings.[29] The bed and room where Hampton was fatally shot during the raid, showing a large amount of blood on his side of the mattress and numerous bullet holes in the walls.

The raid was organized by the office of Cook County State's Attorney Edward Hanrahan, using officers attached to his office. Hanrahan had recently been strongly criticized by Hampton, who said that Hanrahan's talk about a "war on gangs" was really rhetoric used to enable him to carry out a "war on black youth".

At 4:00 a.m., the heavily armed police team arrived at the site, divided into two teams, eight for the front of the building and six for the rear. At 4:45 a.m., they stormed into the apartment. Mark Clark, sitting in the front room of the apartment with a shotgun in his lap, was on security duty. The police shot him in the chest, killing him instantly. An alternative account said that Clark answered the door and police immediately shot him. Either way, Clark's gun discharged once into the ceiling.[33] This single round was fired when he suffered a reflexive death-convulsion after being shot. This was the only shot fired by the Panthers.

Hampton, drugged by barbiturates, was sleeping on a mattress in the bedroom with his fiancée, Deborah Johnson, who was nine months pregnant with their child. She was forcibly removed from the room by the police officers while Hampton still lay unconscious in bed. Then, the raiding team fired at the head of the south bedroom. Hampton was wounded in the shoulder by the shooting.

Fellow Black Panther Harold Bell said that he heard the following exchange:

"That's Fred Hampton." "Is he dead?... Bring him out." "He's barely alive." "He'll make it."[37]

The injured Panthers said they heard two shots. According to Hampton's supporters, the shots were fired point blank at Hampton's head.[38] According to Deborah Johnson, an officer then said:

"He's good and dead now."

The body of Fred Hampton, after being shot twice in the head at point blank range by members of the Chicago Police Department.[39]

Hampton's body was dragged into the doorway of the bedroom and left in a pool of blood. The officers directed their gunfire at the remaining Panthers who had been sleeping in the north bedroom (Satchel, Anderson, Brewer and Harris).[32] Verlina Brewer, Ronald "Doc" Satchel, Blair Anderson, and Brenda Harris were seriously wounded,[32] then beaten and dragged into the street. They were arrested on charges of aggravated assault and the attempted murder of the officers. They were each held on US$100,000 bail.[33]

In the early 1990s, Deborah Johnson was interviewed about the raid by Jose Cha Cha Jimenez, former president and co-founder of the Young Lords Organization. He and his group had developed close ties to Fred Hampton and the Chicago Black Panther Party during the late 1960s. She said:

I believe Fred Hampton was drugged. The reason why is because when he woke up when the person [Truelock] said, "Chairman, chairman," he was shaking Fred's arm, you know, Fred's arm was folded across the head of the bed. And Fred—he just raised his head up real slow. It was like watching a slow motion. He raised. His eyes were open. He raised his head up real slow, you know, with his eyes toward the entranceway, toward the bedroom and laid his head back down. That was the only movement he made [...][36]

The seven Panthers who survived the raid were indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted murder, armed violence, and various other weapons charges. These charges were subsequently dropped. During the trial, the Chicago Police Department claimed that the Panthers were the first to fire shots. But a later investigation found that the Chicago police fired between ninety and ninety-nine shots, while the only Panthers shot was a bullet that hit the ceiling from Mark Clark's fallen shotgun.