Fred Hampton was an activist and deputy chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party in the 1960’s. His death was a major crime investigation, with charges of conspiracy from the FBI. Hampton studied law and used his knowledge to watch for police brutality cases with the NAACP and the Black Panther Party. After joining the Panthers in 1968, he rose through the ranks quickly after organizing peace among Chicago’s most notorious street gangs. Hampton worked to form a “Rainbow Coalition” on the streets by appealing to the gangs’ desire to get out of poverty.
In less than a year, Fred Hampton had risen to the levels of Stokely Carmichael in the Black Panther organization. The FBI had opened a 4,000-page file on Hampton, who was next in line as the Black Panther’s Chief of Staff.
The 21-year-old would never see the appointment, as he was set up and assassinated in an FBI raid on December 4, 1969. An FBI informant named William O’Neal setup a raid against the Black Panther Party at Hampton’s Chicago apartment. Hampton lived there with his pregnant girlfriend, who gave birth four weeks after he was shot and killed by Chicago police.
After a political education class, Hampton and the other party members, including Mark Clark, went back to his apartment where O’Neal had made a late meal for them. O’Neal apparently spiked Hampton’s food with drugs that would make him sleep through the raid. The drugs were later found to be introduced in his system by the coroner.
When the FBI raided Hampton’s apartment, he was under the influence and unable to quickly react. Hampton was shot three times, the last two in the head after the police relocated his body to a doorway and shot him in cold blood. Black Panther Mark Clark was also shot and killed by the police officers. Others were severely injured and arrested.
After the incident, the survivors of the raid were charged with attempted murder of police officers and all criminal charges were dropped against the officers that shot Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.
The Chicago police department were given praise for their actions, stating that the apartment was full of aggressive, armed and violent Black Panthers, even though only one bullet (out of nearly 100) that had been fired on the scene belonged to a Black Panther. The rest were from the police. Although forensics proved that Hampton was shot at close range, the judge on the case ruled that the prosecution had provided “insufficient evidence” of a conspiracy. Ironically, William O’Neal, the FBI Informant, committed suicide some time after the raid.
Some ten years after the first trial, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the decision of the first court and the case could be retried. In the new ruling, the family of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were awarded $1.85 million for their loss and suffering.
In 2007, a DVD was released entitled “Death of a Black Panther: The Fred Hampton Story.” December 4th has been declared Fred Hampton Day by the Chicago City Council. A bust in Hampton’s likeness sits outside the Fred Hampton Family Aquatic Center in Maywood, Illinois.
Jeffrey Haas, the attorney involved in the case between Hampton’s estate and the judge on the case released “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther” in 2011.