Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump and family members of Malcolm X — the legendary activist who was assassinated in Feb. 1965, at the age of 39 — announced on Tuesday their plans to file a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department and various government agencies, alleging they intentionally concealed evidence related to the murder after it happened.
Crump appeared at a news conference in Manhattan alongside two of Malcolm X’s daughters, Qubilah Shabazz and Ilyasah Shabazz, to provide what he called “formal notice” of the legal complaint to the city of New York, the state of New York, the NYPD, the district attorney’s office and various federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI and the CIA.
The attorney said Malcolm X’s family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit for $100 million, alleging that the entities named “had factual evidence and exculpatory evidence that they fraudulently concealed from the men who were wrongfully convicted for the assassination of
In 2021, a state Supreme Court judge officially exonerated two of the three men who had previously been convicted and incarcerated in connection with Malcolm X’s murder. It followed a two-year investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that found Muhammad A. Aziz, then 83, and the late Khalil Islam were wrongfully convicted. A third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim, admitted to the shooting but said neither Aziz nor Islam was involved.
“I regret that this court cannot undo the serious miscarriage of justice,” said Judge Ellen Biben at a court hearing in Nov. 2021. “There can be no question that this is a case that cries out for fundamental justice.”
Crump said Tuesday, “The rhetorical question is this: if the government compensated the two gentlemen that were wrongfully convicted for the assassination of Malcolm X with tens of millions of dollars, then what is to be the compensation for the daughters who suffered the most from the assassination of Malcolm X?,” referencing a settlement the city and state of New York reached with Aziz and Islam’s family last year.
“We intend to have vigorous litigation of this matter, to have discovery, to be able to take depositions of the individuals who are still alive, 58 years later, to make sure that some measure of justice can be given to Malcolm X’s daughters,” Crump continued, later adding, “The truth of what happened and who was involved has always been critical.”
The lawsuit was announced at The Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The building, which opened as a memorial site commemorating Malcolm X and Shabazz, his late wife, previously housed the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was fatally shot on Feb. 21, 1965.
Tuesday marks 58 years since his death.
“The connection between his death and federal and New York government agencies, including the NYPD, FBI and CIA has long been contested,” Crump said in a statement ahead of Tuesday’s news conference. “The governmental agencies had factual and exculpatory evidence that they fraudulently concealed from the family of Malcolm X and the men wrongly convicted of crimes surrounding the assassination of Malcolm X.”
Malcolm X, a minister and human rights advocate who became a prominent leadership figure during the American civil rights movement, was shot 21 times while preparing to deliver remarks on stage during an event at the Audubon Ballroom. He was meant to address an audience of hundreds, including his wife and daughters, at a gathering of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which he had founded one year earlier.
Two years ago, Malcolm X’s three daughters spoke with Crump at a news conference where they accused the NYPD and the FBI of conspiring to have their father assassinated, citing a deathbed letter written by former police officer Raymond Wood on Jan. 25, 2011. In the letter, Wood, who was on duty the day of Malcolm X’s death, wrote that he “participated in actions that in hindsight were deplorable and detrimental to the advancement of my own black people.”
“Under the direction of my handlers, I was told to encourage leaders and members of the civil rights groups to commit felonious acts,” Wood said in the letter.
Crump on Tuesday reiterated the family’s accusations that law enforcement and powerful government leaders conspired to have Malcolm X killed, specifically referencing former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover multiple times throughout his remarks.
Last July, lawyers representing Aziz filed a lawsuit against the city of New York that sought $40 million for the two decades he spent in prison on the infamous murder conviction. An additional complaint was filed at the time on behalf of Islam’s estate.
In October, the city agreed to pay $26 million to settle both suits, and New York state agreed to pay an additional $10 million.