On December 4, 1969, Fred Hampton was murdered while he was sleeping in his bed. He was shot in the arm, shoulder, and twice through the head. He was just 21 years old. Mark Clark was also killed that morning. Right after the shootings, State’s Attorney Hanrahan called a press conference where he announced that the Black Panthers had organized a “vicious, unprovoked attack” on the police who had appeared at an apartment at 4:45 that morning to supposedly search for illegal weapons. Seven survivors of the targeted murder, including Hampton’s fiance Deborah Johnson who was 8 months pregnant, were arrested and charged with attempted murder. After 13 years of litigation, Flint Taylor, Jeffrey Haas, and other lawyers at the People’s Law Office were able to prove that the shootings were actually assassinations organized by the F.B.I. as part of its Cointelpro program.
The following excerpts, collected by Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer for the Eyes on the Prize documentary series, feature Deborah Johnson recounting the shootings that killed Fred Hampton.
“The first thing that I remember after Fred and I had went to sleep was being awakened by somebody shaking Fred while we were laying in bed. Saying, “Chairman, Chairman, wake up! The pigs are vamping. The pigs are vamping.” About the same time, I looked up and I saw what appeared to be flashes of light going across the entranceway to the back bedroom. It looked like a million flashes of light, because the apartment was pretty much dark. I rolled over to Fred — he sill hadn’t moved at this point, as I recall — and then slid down to Fred’s right side, so that put me closest to the wall in the bedroom […]
Someone else was in the room with me and kept yelling out, “Stop shooting, stop shooting, we have a pregnant sister in here.” Eventually the shooting stopped and they said we could come out. I remember crossing over Fred and telling myself over and over. Be real careful. Don’t stumble, they’ll try to shoot you. Just be real calm. Watch how you walk. Keep your hands up. Don’t reach for anything. Don’t even try to close your robe.
I’m walking out of the bedroom, there are two lines of policemen that I have to walk through on my right and my left. I remember focusing on their badge numbers and their faces. Saying them over and over in my head, so I wouldn’t forget. As I walked through these two lines of policemen, on of them grabbed my robe and opened it and said, “Well, what do you know, we have a broad here.” Another policeman grabbed me by the hair and pretty much just shoved me — I had more hair then — into the kitchen area. It was very cold that might. I guess that it snowed. The back door was open. Some people were on the floor in the kitchen.
I heard a voice come from the dining room area. Someone said, “He’s barely alive. He’ll barely make it.” The shooting, I heard some shooting start again.”