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Who is William Bradley?

February 8, 2020
6 min read

Malcolm X remains an icon, especially to the black community protesting for their civil rights. The charismatic and powerful leader was ultimately assassinated, not long after Malcolm broke away from the Nation of Islam (NOI). Malcolm X, or El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was shot and killed on 21 February 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom.

Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler, and Thomas 15X Johnson were arrested for the murder. However, the case against Butler and Johnson has always been shaky. Now, Netflix’s docuseries, ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?‘ has stirred up quite a storm, accusing William Bradley or Al-Mustafa Shabazz, of being the one who fired the sawn-off shotgun, which claimed Malcolm’s life. The impact of the docuseries is undeniable as reports state that the Manhattan DA’s office has decided to reopen the case, to look at the evidence.

In light of newfound interest in Bradley or Shabazz, you might be wondering about who he is, whether he really shot Malcolm, and where he is now. We have got you covered in that regard.

Who is William Bradley or Al-Mustafa Shabazz?

William Bradley’s name cropped up in affidavits filed by Thomas Hagan or Talmadge Hayer. The case against Hayer was ironclad, but the ones against Butler and Johnson were circumstantial. The cases were clubbed together, despite Hayer taking the stand to confess, but also asserting Butler and Johnson’s innocence.

Later, when he filed the affidavits in 1977 and 1978, he provided the partial names of four associates, who actually helped in the assassination. Hayer named the shotgun-wielding man as Willie X. Hayer’s lawyer, the famous William Kunstler, determined that Willie X is William Bradley.

Despite this, not much was known about William Bradley’s whereabouts. Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, the man behind Netflix’s docuseries, comments on how he knew Bradley was responsible but did not know his new identity after he embraced Islam and changed his name. ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?’ shows us a part of a clip from the day of Malcolm’s assassination. While Hayer is being beaten up by people outside the hall, Muhammad points to a figure in the corner. He remarks that it looks like Bradley.

The figure is then shown to step away from the scuffle, cross the frame of the camera, close his coat, and walk away. Muhammad’s search for Bradley yielded results when he asked a man from Newark about Bradley. The man gave him Bradley’s new identity – Al-Mustafa Shabazz.

Muhammad dug into Shabazz’s records, seeing charges of aggravated assault and terroristic threat. In fact, studying Shabazz’s court records, show that the individual had quite a few run-ins with the law. A baseball star at South Side High School, Shabazz was responsible for holding up a bank in Livingston in April 1968, along with two others. Although his accomplice was convicted, the charges against Shabazz were dropped, leading to speculations that he might have connections, or be an FBI informant.

However, Shabazz soon saw the inside of a prison cell, when he was sent away on conspiracy charges from 1977 to 1980. He was thrown in jail again, in 1984, after threatening to kill an East Orange cop, raping a woman, and dealing drugs. By the time he got out of prison in 1998, he had the reputation of being a Newark enforcer who was not to be trifled with.

Where is William Bradley Now?

Shabazz turned his life around, marrying a popular Newark-based social activist, Carolyn Kelley. He lived in a gated two-story home on Vassar Avenue in Newark’s South Ward. Reports state he had a Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan. Muhammad has indicated that Shabazz owned a boxing gym in Newark, called First Class Championship Gym.

In 2010, Shabazz appeared in a campaign video for Corey Booker, who was then running for mayor and is now a senator. When Corey was asked about Shabazz, he stated that he knew him, but did not know of the allegations against him. Al-Mustafa Shabazz passed away in 2018.

Did William Bradley Kill Malcolm X?

Now that we have an idea of who Al-Mustafa Shabazz is, it should be easier to understand whether he was the one who killed Malcolm X. In order to do so, we have to look at the reports of Malcolm’s cause of death. Although two other shooters pumped bullets into him, the medical examiner determined that it was the shotgun pellets that had killed the revolutionary leader.

Now, according to Hayer’s affidavits, it was Willie, or Bradley, or Shabazz, who was carrying the sawn-off shotgun. We already know that Muhammad believes Shabazz to be the killer, as does Manning Marable, the author of ‘Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention’. Other researchers have come forward, accusing Shabazz as well. Among them are Omar Shabazz, documentary filmmaker, and Karl Evanzz, an investigative journalist. However, the New York Times has reported that Evanzz has dismissed Muhammed’s research as unreliable, citing film footage, showing Aziz (Butler) at the location.

On the other hand, Ron Rice, the then-Newark city councilman, commented that many believed Malcolm’s shooters to have come from Newark’s Mosque 25, but he did not know Carolyn’s husband to be one of them. Carolyn too slammed the possibility of her husband being Malcolm’s killer, saying that people were just looking for a scapegoat. Shabazz himself had denied it, saying, “It’s an accusation. They never spoke to me. They just accused me of something I didn’t do.”

While both sides seem to be sure of their cases, the honest truth is that Malcolm’s murder was not properly investigated. ‘Who Killed Malcolm X?’ shows this, when we see the lectern with the bullet holes has been lying in the basement, instead of being locked away in an evidence room. Hayer’s affidavits and testimony were somewhat ignored, and there is no forensic evidence tying Johnson and Butler to the scene.

Moreover, Eugene Roberts, the undercover NYPD cop who was in charge of Malcolm’s security, was never questioned about the shooting. Muhammed believes that he would have his face towards the audience, and might have seen the entire thing going down. The FBI also had 9 informants in the room at the time. Nobody provided a concrete account of what happened during Malcolm’s assassination.

Could Shabazz have gotten away with one of the most infamous assassinations of the 20th century? It is entirely possible, that the man lived out his life after murdering Malcolm X. However, at this point, they are all allegations, and nothing has been proven against the late Al-Mustafa Shabazz. Hopefully, with the Manhattan DA’s office reopening the case, the truth will finally come out.

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