The Murder of Fred Hampton

On December 4, 1969, at 4:30 a.m., Edward Hanrahan and his squad of special police raided the Black Panther Party apartment at 2337 W. Monroe Street in Chicago. A hail of police gunfire from rifles, a sub machine gun, shotguns and handguns left Fred Hampton and Mark Clark dead and four other Panthers wounded. In a carefully staged press conference only hours later, Hanrahan falsely claimed that there was a fierce shootout and that Fred and other Panthers had fired numerous shots at police.

In their arrogance, the police neglected to seal the apartment from the public after the raid. Panther leader, now U.S. Representative, Bobby Rush contacted Skip and Dennis, and they mobilized the Office to go to 2337 W. Monroe to take pictures and to gather evidence which the police left behind. The entire apartment had been torn apart, and it was quickly apparent from the bullet holes that all the bullets went into the rooms where the Panthers were sleeping. The bloody mattress and pool of blood on the floor showed that Fred was shot at point blank range in his bed, and his body was dragged out into the hall.

With the help of several friends, including Mike Gray, who was making a documentary on the Panthers, which later became the “Murder of Fred Hampton,” we filmed, photographed and documented the location of each piece of evidence, then removed it to a secret location: Reverend Jim Reed’s church. We also took custody of the front door panel, which showed that the police had fired a shot through the front door – contrary to their story. Jeff Haas and Marc Kadish were at the police station where they heard the firsthand accounts of the survivors: that the police came in shooting, that Fred and Mark and the survivors never had a chance to defend themselves, and that the police had said “[Bobby] Rush is next.” Rush was warned and went underground for several days, thereby avoiding being home when the police raided his apartment on December 5th. Two new members of the office were recruited that day – Northwestern students Susan Jordan and Jackson Welch.

The raid and Fred’s murder had a tremendous impact on our lives and the work of the office. We worked continuously for weeks and months, first at the apartment and the police station, then on the legal defense of the survivors, drafting civil rights lawsuits, dealing with the federal grand jury, the coroner’s inquest and the People’s Inquest. While Hanrahan used the  Chicago Tribune and local television stations in an attempt to further his lies and cover-up, the Panthers and we were able to demonstrate at the apartment that the police fired all but one of the shots and to publicly establish that it was a “shoot-in” and murder, rather than a shootout.

In May 1970, the U.S. Justice Department continued the Hampton cover-up by refusing to indict the raiders, but rather issued a grand jury report which condemned both the Panthers and the police, while admitting that the police fired 90-99 shots to one by the Panthers. In June, with the assistance of Arthur Kinoy, Bill Bender, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, we filed several civil rights lawsuits against Hanrahan and the police on behalf of the Hampton family and the raid survivors. These suits were to prove pivotal in exposing the true facts of the raid, and were to define the office in the years to come. To continue reading about the Black Panthers and the Fred Hampton Murder, click here.

History by Section

Early Days
The Murder of Fred Hampton
Government Surveillance
Representing the Panthers in Downstate Illinois
The Hampton Trial
Prisoner Rights Work
Puerto Rican Independence Movement and the Puerto Rican Community
Hampton Appeal
George Jones and Street Files
Representing Demonstrators and Activists
Puerto Rico Work Continues
Police Brutality and Torture
Continuing to Represent Demonstrators
The Attica Civil Case
Continuing Work in Solidarity With Puerto Rico
Fighting the Death Penalty
Sexual Abuse Litigation
Back to the Supreme Court
The 1996 Democratic Convention
Policy and Practice Cases
False Arrests and Convictions
Continuing to Defend Dissent
Continuing the Fight for Justice in the Chicago Police Torture Cases
Criminal Defense
Jail Suicide
Opposing the Criminalization of the LGBTQ Community
People’s Law Office and The National Lawyers Guild