AFRICANGLOBE – Al-Mustafa Shabazz leaves his home everyday in Newark, N.J. A Pulitzer Prize-winning author says Shabazz assassinated Malcolm X, even though he was never charged.
Life is good for Al-Mustafa Shabazz.
The 76-year-old ex-con lives in a gated two-story home in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Newark.
He drives a gold Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan. And he’s married to one of the city’s most prominent civic leaders.
But Shabazz has an even better reason to be counting his blessings: He allegedly got away with one of the most notorious murders of the 20th century.
The burly Muslim with the white beard was the chief assassin in the slaying of Malcolm X, according to the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the slain civil rights leader.
In his book, ”Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” Columbia University professor Malcolm Marable identifies Shabazz as firing the first and fatal shots at the former Nation of Islam leader.
Multiple sources say that Shabazz’s role in the killing has been an open secret in Newark for years.
“Here’s a man who’s walking the streets of Newark with impunity, a teflon don, and nobody’s doing anything about it,” said Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a historian and writer who was the first to publicly identify Shabazz as the main triggerman.
“It’s an affront to justice and an affront to the legacy of Malcolm.”
Shabazz, reached outside his home last week, initially clammed up when confronted by a reporter.
“I don’t have no comment. You can call my lawyer,” Shabazz said.
Pressed further, Shabazz defended himself. “It’s an accusation,” he said. “They never spoke to me. They just accused me of something I didn’t do.”
The mystery surrounding Malcolm’s assassination has dogged scholars for decades and inspired endless conspiracy theories.
Three Nation of Islam members were arrested and convicted of the shooting at the Audubon Ballroom on Fed. 21, 1965.
Thomas Hagan, then known as Talmadge X Hayer, was captured at the scene. He later confessed but always maintained that the other two – Muhammad Abdul Aziz, then known as Norman 3X Butler; and Kahlil Islam, then Thomas 15X Johnson – were not involved.
But if not Aziz and Islam, then who else killed Malcolm? Malcolm’s relatives, supporters and several filmmakers wrestled with that question for years.
In the late 1970s, Hagan provided some tantalizing clues. In two affidavits filed in 1977 and 1978, he provided partial names for his four accomplices.
Hagan identified the shotgun-toting man who was the first to open fire on Malcolm as Willie X. Hagan’s lawyer, the famed William Kunstler, determined that Willie X was a man named William Bradley.
But the case quickly went cold. More than three decades passed before Bradley was identified as the towering Newark man living under the name Al-Mustafa Shabazz.
In his 2011 book, Marable wrote that he was able to confirm through sources in Essex County’s Black Muslim community that the man formerly known as William Bradley was hiding in plain sight in Newark.
Bradley was 15 feet away from Malcolm when he “elevated his sawed-off shotgun from under his coat, took careful aim, and fired,” Marable wrote. “This was the kill shot, the blow that executed Malcolm X.”
Police dust car for fingerprints during the investigation.
Shabazz’s criminal exploits are the stuff of legend in his hometown of Newark and beyond.
A baseball star at South Side High School, Shabazz was one of three masked gunmen who robbed a bank in nearby Livingston in April 1968, court records show.
Shabazz and a second man, James Moore, were hit with bank robbery charges the following year. But while Moore was ultimately convicted, the charges against Shabazz were dropped.
The special treatment Shabazz received, Marable wrote, “raises the question of whether he was an FBI informant, either after the assassination of Malcolm X or very possibly even before.”
Whatever connections Shabazz may have had, they failed to keep him out of prison.
He was jailed from 1977 to 1980 on conspiracy charges, officials said. Shabazz returned to prison in 1984 after being indicted on charges that included threatening to kill an East Orange cop, raping a woman and drug dealing.
In the court records, the name “William Bradley” is listed as Shabazz’s alias.
He emerged from prison in 1998. By then, Shabazz was known in Newark’s Black Muslim community as an enforcer not to be trifled with.
“He was like a street legend. If you mention his name, it would invoke fear for blocks,” said a longtime member who asked to remain anonymous. “He was notorious.”
Shabazz turned his life around through his marriage to Carolyn Kelley, a powerful Newark activist who was instrumental in the fight to overturn the murder conviction of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
Shabazz made an appearance in a 2010 campaign video for Newark mayor Corey Booker. Two years earlier, he delivered what now could be seen as a curious quote to the Newark Star-Ledger in a story about the prosecution of then-Newark mayor Sharpe James.
“He was too powerful politically for a Black man in America,” Shabazz said. “Every time a Black man is in power, they send someone to get him out.”
Not everybody close to Malcolm’s case believes Shabazz was the lead triggerman.
Malcolm’s nephew Rodnell Collins is convinced his uncle’s killer was a mysterious Asian man who fled the country.
“The person who fired the kill shot has gotten away,” Collins said. “If he was walking the street, he wouldn’t be alive. He would simply disappear.”
Hagan, who was paroled in 2010 and is now living a quiet life in Brooklyn, declined to comment.
Aziz was paroled in 1985, and Islam in 1987.
Shabazz’s wife said the allegations against her husband are bogus. “We know nothing about that,” Kelley said.
“It’s a shame,” she added of Malcolm’s death. “We loved him. We wish he was here.”
Asked if he felt the same way, Shabazz was less effusive. “I already told you how I felt, sir,” he said.
By: Seth Bookey, Michael Cruz And Scott Browne