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William O’Neal, the FBI informant who infiltrated the Black Panthers, responsible for the assassination of Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton. Mourners pass by the coffin of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton at his memorial service on Dec. 9, 1969, at the First Baptist Church of Melrose Park. Hampton was murdered during a police raid on Dec. 4, 1969.

In late 1968, the Racial Matters squad of the FBI’s Chicago field office brought in an individual named William O’Neal, who had recently been arrested twice, for interstate car theft and impersonating a federal officer. In exchange for having his felony charges dropped and a monthly stipend, O’Neal agreed to infiltrate the BPP as a counterintelligence operative. He joined the Party and quickly rose in the organization, becoming Director of Chapter security and Hampton’s bodyguard.

By means of anonymous letters, the FBI sowed distrust and eventually instigated a split between the Panthers and the Rangers, with O’Neal himself instigating an armed clash between the two on April 2, 1969. The Panthers became effectively isolated from their powerbase in the ghetto, so the FBI went to work to undermine its ties with other radical organizations. O’Neal was instructed to create a rift between the Party and SDS, whose Chicago headquarters was only blocks from that of the Panthers. The Bureau released a batch of racist cartoons in the Panthers’ name, aimed at alienating white activists, and launched a disinformation program to forestall the realization of the Rainbow Coalition. In repeated directives, Hoover demanded that the COINTELPRO personnel destroy what the [BPP] stood for and eradicate its ‘serve the people’ programs. Documents secured by Senate investigators in the early 1970s revealed that the FBI actively encouraged violence between the Panthers and other groups.

In early October, Hampton and his girlfriend, Deborah Johnson (now known as Akua Njeri), pregnant with their first child (Fred Hampton, Jr.), rented a four-and-a-half room apartment on 2337 West Monroe Street to be closer to BPP headquarters. O’Neal reported to his superiors that much of the Panthers’ provocative stockpile of arms was being stored there.

The FBI, determined to prevent any enhancement of the BPP leadership’s effectiveness, decided to set up an arms raid on Hampton’s Chicago apartment. FBI informant William O’Neal provided them with detailed information about Hampton’s apartment, including the layout of furniture and the bed in which Hampton and his girlfriend slept. An augmented, 14-man team of the SAO — Special Prosecutions Unit — was organized for a pre-dawn raid armed with a warrant for illegal weapons.

On the evening of December 3, Hampton taught a political education course at a local church, which was attended by most members. Afterwards, as was typical, several Panthers retired to the Monroe Street apartment to spend the night, including Hampton and Deborah Johnson, Blair Anderson, Ronald “Doc” Satchell, Harold Bell, Verlina Brewer, Louis Truelock, Brenda Harris, and Mark Clark.

Upon arrival, they were met by O’Neal, who had prepared a late dinner, which the group ate around midnight. O’Neal had slipped the powerful barbiturate sleep agent, secobarbitol, into a drink that Hampton consumed during the dinner, in order to sedate Hampton so he would not awaken during the subsequent raid. O’Neal immediately left.

At 4:45 a.m, an 14 man heavily armed police team stormed into the apartment. Automatic gunfire converged at the head of the south bedroom where Hampton slept, unable to awaken as a result of the barbiturates the FBI infiltrator had slipped into his drink. He was lying on a mattress in the bedroom with his fiancée, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with their child. Two officers found him wounded in the shoulder, and Black Panther Harold Bell reported that he heard the following exchange:

“That’s Fred Hampton.”
“Is he dead?… Bring him out.”
“He’s barely alive.
“He’ll make it.”
Two shots were heard, which were later discovered were fired point blank in Hampton’s head. According to Johnson, one officer then said:

“He’s good and dead now.”

Oko Drammeh's photo.

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