News that two suspects, Alejandro Perez de Jesus, 24, and David Hernandez Cruz, 24, have been arrested in the violent murder of Malcolm Shabazz, the first grandson of slain Black activist Malcolm X (Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), has not lessened the shock and anger felt throughout the nation and the Black Diaspora.
Some reports this weekend suggested the possibility that Shabazz may be interned alongside his grandparents, Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, in Ferncliff Cemetery in Ardsley, N.Y. With his mother, Qubilah Shabazz, in California at press time, it has been reported that the funeral service may be held in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, May 16 or Friday, May 17.
It was a bright and 75-degree afternoon on Thursday, May 9, when the Amsterdam News received a phone call reporting the murder of Malcolm Lateef Shabazz.
Subsequent phone calls–including one made by this reporter–led to the harsh task of actually informing the family of young Shabazz’s death.
The circumstances of the killing evolved during the afternoon: first, the AmNews was told that the 29-year-old father of two daughters was shot to death; he then died from injuries from being thrown off of a roof; and finally, he was beaten to death after an attempted robbery.
Grief accompanied by suspicion and anger have reverberated throughout the Black community.
Just hours after learning of her son’s death, Quibilah Shabazz called this reporter to request that the community respect the family’s privacy at this very difficult time.
“We will miss him,” said the Shabazz family in a statement. “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved El-Hajj Malcolm El-Shabazz. To all who knew him, he offered kindness, encouragement and hope for a better tomorrow. Although his bright light and boundless potential are gone from this life, we are grateful that he now rests in peace in the arms of his grandparents and the safety of God. “
Shabazz family acquaintance and youth advocate Terrie Williams was instrumental–along with the AmNews–in informing the Shabazz family of Malcolm’s passing. Williams, who is also the author of “Black Pain,” told the paper, “This young man had such a challenging life. He was a beautiful individual who was just trying to find his way. My heart is broken.”
When news of Shabazz’s killing spread, members of the Black grassroots movement were skeptical, and they immediately theorized about government involvement.
Reports of the arrest of the two suspects did not dampen the shock or pain felt by many, especially those organizing the annual pilgrimage to the gravesite of Malcolm X, where his wife is also interned, this Sunday, May 19.
“The story just does not make sense,” said Divine Allah, New Jersey activist and youth minister for the New Black Panther Party. Speaking with the AmNews on Wednesday, he asked, “Why would someone murder a random man over a bar tab or during a robbery in front of a whole bunch of people? The real story will all come out eventually. This was a young brother who had been targeted most of his life. Why? He was the grandson of one of our greatest Black leaders. Malcolm Shabazz was trying to find his path where he could be of great social and political influence. This young man was beginning to be known in his own right across the world. This has assassination written all over it.”
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City referred the paper to the U.S. State Department. A spokesperson referenced a Friday press briefing, where a reporter stated, “There was report earlier today that Malcolm Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X, died in Mexico yesterday. Do you have any information on that? There was a citation that the embassy there was confirming the report.”
Acting Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell replied, “so, We are aware of the death of a U.S. citizen in Mexico City. We’ve been in contact with family members and are providing appropriate consular assistance. At their request, we have no further comment at this time.”
The spokesman who took the AmNews call added that he would forward any additional comments on the case, especially–as requested–on the arrest of the two suspects.
They did call back on Tuesday afternoon to state, “At the family’s request, we have no further information.”
Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Rios confirmed that Shabazz was severely beaten around his head and torso.
A source familiar with the story who had given verbal reports to the AmNews co-signed media reports saying that Shabazz was in Mexico with labor activist Miguel Suarez, a co-founder of the California-based RUMEC (Revolutionary United Mexicans in Combat), who was deported in April. The two men reportedly wanted to bring attention to the deportation of Suarez.
Cruz and Perez de Jesus worked as waiters at the Palace Club, a downtown bar in a notorious part of town. Prosecutors are searching for two other Palace Club workers who they say took part in the deadly beating, which they claim was over a $1,200 bar bill. Some other source reports dating back to last Thursday have told the AmNews that it was an attempted robbery and/or a setup.
Prosecutor Rodolfo Fernando Rios Garza told journalists at a press conference that Shabazz came to Mexico City from Tijuana and went to the bar with Suarez.
Garza said that two young women had approached Shabazz and Suarez and invited them to the bar.
Suarez told the Washington Post that after the dispute began over the bill around 3 a.m., he was taken to another room; but when he managed to get out, he found Shabazz lying beaten. The severe beating left Shabazz with fractures to his skull, jaw and ribs.
The AmNews has tried to reach Suarez but could not reach him by press time.
Shabazz had a troubled life. Born in Paris to an Algerian father, Shabazz didn’t really know him.
As a youngster, on the back of several family issues, young Shabazz was sent to stay with his grandmother, Betty Shabazz. But in the summer of 1997, 12-year-old Shabazz was charged with setting the fire to the Yonkers apartment. Several days later, the widow of the great 1960s icon succumbed to the injuries she sustained in the blaze. Famed attorney and former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton represented the grandson of his one-time client, Malcolm X.
Sutton gave this reporter a ride back to New York City from the Yonkers Family Court that day. He stated that, despite the dire nature of the current case, young Shabazz “gets it. He just gets it. He is very bright, very intelligent.”
Subsequently, Shabazz pled guilty to juvenile delinquency and was sentenced to 18 months in juvenile detention for manslaughter and arson.
Many years later, Shabazz told the AmNews that the story that was reported, and even the story admitted to by himself, was not quite what people were told and that he was coerced.
Upon his release, and while living with his aunt, Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm was arrested in 2002 for stealing $100. He got three and a half years, he told the AmNews, because he stopped a girl from being raped and took her to the hospital, and he was later arrested and charged with kidnapping and robbery and a bunch of charges.
“This man faced tremendous challenges,” a friend of the family told the AmNews, adding that they wanted to honor the family’s wish for privacy. “We all do know, though, that so much was imposed on Malcolm–some of his own doing, some put on him by outside forces.”
When asked in March 2011 by the AmNews if he thought he was a target, Shabazz replied, “Definitely. I’ve been a target my entire life. My family is targeted.”
Shabazz later wrote: “The formula for a public assassination is the character assassination before the physical assassination, so one has to be made killable before the eyes of the public in order for their eventual murder to then [be] deemed justifiable. And when the time arrives for these hits to be carried out, you’re not going to see a CIA agent with a suit and tie and a badge that says ‘CIA’ walk up to someone and pull the trigger.
What they will do is outsource to local police departments in the region of their target and employ those who look like the target of interest to infiltrate the workings in order to set up the environment for the eventual assassination (character, physical incarceration, exile) to take place.”
Buzzing with opinions on the story, for example, is the website www.yourblackworld.net. Tracey Lin Miller wrote, “Wonder if this is another scapegoat affair, when there are other factions at work. Remember COINTELPRO.”
Eldon Pittman Jr. asked, “Why wasn’t the other guy beaten?”
Meanwhile, Jon Johnson said, “It’s a sad way to die … doesn’t sound like all the facts are being presented, and I doubt they ever will.
Mali said, “Dear people reading the letter that he wrote prior to his expiration to murder, it will make you wonder about the FBI/CIA actions. [In the letter,] he [talks] of the harassment from the New York Police Dept. and the FBI.”
Insight stated, “What [do] you want to bet [that] these two guys do three years in an upscale private prison, and when they are released, they move into their new hacienda?”
“One of the things I learnt from my grandmother, Betty Shabazz, is that you can’t help anybody else until you first help yourself, so for a long time, I was going through my journey, my trials, my struggles and my effort to get myself together,” Malcolm Shabazz told the AmNews in 2011.
“It’s definitely an inspiration being the grandson of Malcolm X. It has been a blessing in terms of being able to connect with other revolutionary spirits and militant-minded people all over the world like Roland Lumumba, the son of Patrice Lumumba, and Samia Nkrumah, the daughter of Kwame Nkrumah, and Fred Hampton Jr. and Yuri Kochiyama, the first person to be by my grandfather’s side when he was shot.
“But it’s been a disadvantage in terms of being targeted by select businessmen and government officials.”
This week, as they continue to grieve, the Shabazz family said, “With grateful hearts, we send sincerest appreciation to our supporters around the world for your tremendous outpouring of love and respect during our time of grief.”