A letter purporting to contain a New York police officer’s deathbed confession about his involvement in the assassination of Malcolm X is a fake, the officer’s daughter said Friday, adding another wrinkle to decades-long investigations into the civil rights leader’s killing.
In an interview with NY1, Kelly Wood said there was no way her father, Raymond A. Wood, wrote the letter, in which he purportedly admitted to helping arrest members of Malcolm X’s security team days before the 1965 assassination.
“My father is not a coward. He would have never ever asked anybody to speak on his behalf after his passing,” she said. “If he had something to say, he would have said it when he was alive. I’m certain of that.”
The document made waves when it was released last week by Malcolm X’s three daughters, civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Wood’s cousin, Reggie Wood. They said Raymond Wood wrote it after falling ill in 2011 and asked that it not be made public until after he died.
The revelations seemed to bolster long-standing claims by some activists and historians that the New York Police Department and the FBI helped orchestrate the murder of Malcolm X, who was gunned down in a Harlem auditorium as he was preparing to speak.
But Kelly Wood said it would have been out of character for her father to keep critical information about Malcolm X’s death hidden for all those years. “If he was involved in any way,” she said, “he would have spoken up earlier.” While she believed Reggie Wood may have been sincerely trying to assist Malcolm X’s family, she told NY1, “hurting my father’s reputation is not the way to do it.”
The letter described how Raymond Wood, while working as an undercover NYPD officer, was assigned to a unit that infiltrated civil rights groups in search of illegal activities so that the FBI could arrest their leaders. According to the letter, Wood’s supervisors threatened to charge him with false crimes if he tried to resign.
“I participated in actions that in hindsight were deplorable and detrimental to my own black people,” the letter read. “Under the direction of my handlers, I was told to encourage leaders and members of the civil rights groups to commit felonious acts.”
In February 1965, according to the letter, Wood’s supervisors had him lure two key players on Malcolm X’s security team into a plot to bomb the Statue of Liberty. Four people were arrested on Feb. 16 on charges that they sought to blow the head off the structure, and Wood was credited on the front page of the New York Times for infiltrating the group. Malcolm X was assassinated Feb. 21 at the Audubon Ballroom, where guards were unable to secure the entry.
According to the letter, Wood’s supervisors ordered him to be at the ballroom that day, and witnesses reported him leaving the scene after the fatal shooting. Khalil Islam, also known as Thomas Johnson, “was later arrested and wrongfully convicted to protect my cover and the secrets of the FBI and NYPD,” the letter read.
Wood is said to have written the letter after being diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2011. The cancer went into remission in 2012, and he did not die until November.
At last weekend’s news conference, Reggie Wood said his cousin had been estranged from the family for more than 46 years around the time his health declined and wanted to reconnect with his relatives before he died. Reggie Wood said he volunteered to move Raymond Wood to Tampa so his family could care for him. After Raymond Wood died, he found the “confession letter,” which he said Raymond Wood had written and mailed to Reggie Wood’s father.
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