The daughter of a police officer who allegedly wrote a letter saying NYPD and the FBI were behind the assassination of Malcolm X has insisted the document is a fake and had been circulated by a publicity-hungry relative.
The note, said to be a deathbed confession by undercover cop Ray Wood, claimed he was pressured by his supervisors to lure two members of the civil rights leader’s security detail into committing crimes that led to their arrest just days before he was shot dead.
But Wood’s daughter Kelly Wood said Friday that it was a forgery and her father’s cousin, Reggie Wood, had released it to the media last weekend in a bid to attract attention to himself.
She told NY1: ‘I know that my father did not write this letter. I know that is not his signature and I know the envelope they’re using to somehow justify that the letter was mailed is also a fake.’
Wood’s daughter Kelly Wood said Friday that it was a forgery and her father’s cousin, Reggie Wood, (pictured last Saturday) had released it to the media in a bid to gain publicity. Pictured right: Malcolm X
She also disputed the idea that her father would only want the letter to be released after his death in November 2020 to avoid facing its consequences.
‘My father is not a coward,’ she said. ‘He would have never, ever asked anyone to speak on his behalf after his passing. If he had something to say, he would have said it when he was alive.’
The letter was released at an event organised by Reggie Wood and members of Malcolm X’s family last Saturday at Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom, where he was shot dead exactly 56 years ago on February 21, 1965.
Those arrests kept the two men from managing door security at the ballroom on the night Malcolm was killed, according to the letter.
‘My job was to infiltrate civil rights organizations throughout New York City, to find evidence of criminal activity, so the FBI could discredit and arrest its leaders,’ Wood allegedly said in the letter.
‘Under the direction of my handlers I was told to encourage leaders and members of civil rights groups to commit felonious acts.’
In the letter, dated January 25, 2011, the former officer is said to have claimed that his actions were done under duress and fear of retaliation.
‘After witnessing repeated brutality at the hands of my colleagues (police), I tried to resign. Instead, I was threatened with arrest by pinning marijuana and alcohol trafficking charges on me if I did not follow through with the assignments.’
The letter says that on February 16, 1965 Wood coerced members of Malcolm X’s security detail into plan a bombing at the Statue of Liberty.
The plan was then foiled by police and the two men were ‘arrested just days before the assassination of Malcolm. At the time I was not aware that Malcolm X was the target,’ Wood supposedly wrote.
The letter, said to be a deathbed confession, claimed he was pressured by his supervisors to lure two members of the civil rights leader’s security detail into committing crimes that led to their arrest just days before he was shot dead
In his later, dated January 25, 2011, the former officer supposedly claimed his actions were done under duress and fear of retaliations
Wood is said to have the letter and instructed his cousin to hold the information until after his passing.
‘It is my hope that this information is received with the understanding that I have carried these secrets with a heavy heart and remorsefully regret my participation in this matter.’
During last Saturday’s conference, Reggie Wood, claimed that his cousin confessed to his involvement in 2011 when he believed a worsening cancer would take his life. He ultimately went into remission and lived until November 2020.
‘For 10 years, I have carried this confession secretly in fear of what could happen to my family and myself if the government found out what I knew,’ Reggie Wood said.
Malcolm X’s three daughters – Qubiliah, Ilyasah, and Gamilah Shabazz – joined civil rights attorney Ben Crump demanding for the murder investigation to be re-opened in light of the ‘new evidence’ shared last Saturday.
‘Any evidence that provides greater insight into the truth behind that terrible tragedy should be thoroughly investigated,’ said Ilyasah Shabazz.
Attorney Ray Hamlin added: ‘So, what we’re trying to do is talk about restorative justice is as lawyers – try to pursue relentless justice.
‘On behalf of the legacy of Malcolm X, Dr. Betty Shabazz, on behalf of his family his lineage who is here.’
Malcolm X was shot seconds after stepping to a lectern to speak inside the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965
Two policemen carry stretcher bearing Malcolm X after he was downed by an assassin’s bullets at a rally
Three Nation of Islam members, Mujahid Abdul Halim (also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan), Muhammad Abdul Aziz (also known as Norman 3X Butler) and Khalil Islam (also known as Thomas 15X Johnson), were convicted of Malcolm X’s murder in 1966 and sentenced to life in prison.
While Halim admitted to taking part in the assassination, he insisted that Aziz and Islam were not involved. And the two maintained their innocence throughout the years.
Islam died in 2009 and Halim and Aziz have since been paroled.
Last year the Manhattan DA began a review of their Islam and Aziz’s convictions after meeting with representatives of the Innocence Project.
Now, with the new evidence, the DA’s office says ‘the review of this matter is active and ongoing.’
An autopsy later revealed that he had suffered a total of 21 gunshot wounds to his chest, arms and legs
The NYPD said in a separate statement it has ‘provided all available records relevant to that case to the District Attorney’ and ‘remains committed to assist with that review in any way.’
The FBI declined to comment on the matter.
Malcolm X was a powerful orator who rose to prominence as the national spokesman of the Nation of Islam, an African-American Muslim group that espoused Black separatism.
He spent more than a decade with the group before becoming disillusioned and publicly breaking with it in 1964. He moderated some of his earlier views on the benefits of racial separation.
Malcolm X was shot seconds after stepping to a lectern to speak inside the Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.
Seconds before, a man had stood up and yelled, ‘N***** get your hand out of my pocket!’
As Malcolm X and his entourage attempted to quell the disturbance, a man rushed forward towards the stage and shot him once in the chest with a sawed-off shotgun, and two other men then opened fire with semi-automatic handguns.
‘For 10 years, I have carried this confession secretly in fear of what could happen to my family and myself if the government found out what I knew,’ Reggie Wood claimed last Saturday
The civil rights activist was rushed to Columbia Presbyterian where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival, at 3:30pm.
An autopsy later revealed that he had suffered a total of 21 gunshot wounds to his chest, arms and legs.
Days earlier, Malcolm X had ominously told a reporter that he believed members of the Nation of Islam were seeking to kill him.
He was being surveilled by the FBI at the time. His home in Queens was firebombed the week before his death.
Almost immediately after his death, conspiracies of police involvement in the assassination began to circulate.
Many of the theories centered on the ease in which the assassins were able to enter the ballroom, and the police’s perceived failure to preserve the crime scene.
One of the officers involved, Tony Bouza, would later write in his 2011 book ‘Manny Marable’s Malcolm X’ that the ‘investigation was botched’.
Thomas Hagan, 22, struggles with police who take him from the scene outside the ballroom where Malcolm X was shot and killed
‘Any evidence that provides greater insight into the truth behind that terrible tragedy should be thoroughly investigated,’ said Ilyasah Shabazz, representing Malcolm X’s family