Although three men were convicted of fatally shooting Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom in Upper Manhattan in 1965, for some time it has been believed that the investigation into his death was bungled, opening the door for two innocent men to be imprisoned and a guilty party to go free. While previous efforts to have the case reopened have failed, the publicity surrounding the recently published biography by Manning Marable could help bring about a new investigation — especially because in recent years prosecutors in the South have shown that it’s possible to pursue and win cases that are decades old and many of those cases have helped shine a light on the failures of civil rights era police.
Part of what makes it more urgent to reopen this case is the recent revelation that the man who was never arrested for the assassination, but many suspected was responsible is now living in Newark under a different name.
X was shot to death on stage at the Audubon Ballroom on Feb. 21, 1965. Shortly after he began to speak a scuffle broke out in the audience, then a smoke bomb went off and gunmen opened fire.
The prime suspect at the time was Thomas Hagan (pictured above being taken from Audubon Ballroom), a 22-year-old New Jersey member of the Nation of Islam who was arrested at the Audubon. Police investigated the crime scene for only four hours before the ballroom was mopped up for a dance that had already been planned. Police seemed to believe it was a simple enough case, since Malcolm X had recently broken with the Nation of Islam, who branded him a traitor and an enemy. Just a week before his assassination his home had also been firebombed.