The last known killer of Malcolm X was released on April 27. Thomas Hagen, now 69 years old, was freed one day earlier because his paperwork was processed sooner than expected, according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services.
On April 21, 1965, Malcolm X was shot point blank by Hagen, then known as Talmadge Hayer, while others caused a distraction in New York’s Audubon Ballroom. X was 39. Hagen was then shot in the leg while trying to flee.
Two others, Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Khalil Islam, were tried in 1966 and found guilty although they claimed innocence. Hagen claimed they were innocent as well; Aziz was paroled in 1985, while Islam was freed in 1987.
Hagen to this day still claims there were two other men involved in the planning. He has not given their names, which makes one wonder why getting those names wasn’t a priority.
Hagen was sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment. Since 1992 he was in a full-time work-release program that allowed him to live at home with his family for five days a week and report to the prison for two days.
In March he pleaded his case for freedom and was scheduled to be released in April. Hagen earned a master’s degree in sociology while in prison which helped him come to terms with his actions. He now wants to be a substance abuse counselor. The “better treatment” of his case has created an outcry in some of the Muslim and African American community, as could not see this happening to a person who killed a white icon.
Although Hagen still says that the killing was not ordered by the Nation of Islam, and he was acting out of his own conviction as “a very young man, a very uneducated man” the controversy surrounding the killing of Malcolm X still runs deep in many communities all over the world.
It was no secret that X was targeted by the CIA with heavy surveillance; one of his own bodyguards was an undercover agent for New York City’s organized crime and anti-Communist unit.
“His actions and speeches were of such concern to the government that CIA director Richard Helms instructed his agents to do everything they could to ‘monitor’ the activities of Malcolm X,” wrote Al Jazeera reporter Bilal Randeree.
X was also mysteriously poisoned in Egypt and almost didn’t make it out alive: to do this one would need a global network the Nation of Islam did not have.
Not long before his assassination, X’s home was firebombed and the police blamed Malcolm for bombing his own house to make it look like he was being targeted instead of trying to find the perpetrator.
James Ali, the treasurer of the Nation of Islam at the time, was an informant for the FBI and had been at the rehearsal speech days before X was killed and a similar distraction occurred that would eventually happen at the actual killing.
Coloumbia Presbyterian Hospital did not respond to the situation although they were just across the street from the event. People went to the hospital to get a stretcher and take X there before he received any medical attention. It is now known that nothing could have been done to save him.
A top aide of X went to the FBI after the assassination to report a larger conspiracy involving the US government and was found dead in his apartment a few days later. His death was first deemed suicide, then drug overdose, and finally, natural causes.
Depending on how seriously one chooses to take these points, they can criminalize the government, or just be coincidence. For now though, the legacy of Malcolm X still lives on.