*Director Shaka King has provided some context behind some notable moments in his latest film “Judas and the Black Messiah” (in theaters and streaming on HBO Max now).
The Warner Bros. film tells the story of the 1969 murder of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. (Daniel Kaluuya). The film’s central point is the relationship that develops when FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) infiltrated the Panthers. He provided information to the FBI that led to Hampton’s murder. He was 21.
Per USA Today, King found it challenging to depict events 100% factual due to the FBI’s poor record-keeping. He and Hampton Jr. recently dished with the outlet about some of the historical details. Two points the men touch on: Was Fred Hampton drugged before he was murdered? and I
King said he’s “convinced” it was O’Neal who poisoned Hampton.
Hampton’s autopsy revealed he had fentanyl in his system but it’s unclear whether O’Neal drugged him, as the movie suggests. The fentanyl level was enough to kill him, even if police hadn’t murdered the activist.
“If he had been conscious then he could’ve defended himself,” King said. “People were incredibly afraid of this man because he was a mighty figure, so they went through every means to make sure they could render him as defenseless as possible during the assassination.”
In “Judas and the Black Messiah,” Hampton is jailed for assaulting a Good Humor man and stealing $70 worth of ice cream. According to King, this really happened.
Here’s more from USA Today:
In 1968, Nelson Suitt testified in court that he was selling ice cream by a playground when a group of older teens demanded free ice cream.
Moments later, Suitt said, Hampton got out of a car, jumped into the ice cream truck and held him down while his crew unloaded ice cream from the vehicle. The Black Panther Party leader denied Suitt’s accusations and claimed he was denied a fair trial. Regardless, Hampton spent some time in prison.
When it comes to how O’Neal was recruited by the FBI…King said he heard “multiple stories” that O’Neal walked into a bar, flashed a fake FBI badge, and stole a patron’s car. He agreed to become an informant in exchange for immunity, according to the report.
“I’ve heard multiple stories. That’s one of them,” King said. “I’ve heard multiple stories that corroborate the FBI badge story.”