[Ppnews] Mumia Abu Jamal - a response to the trailer for "The Barrel of A Gun"

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 2 20:59:53 EDT 2009

The Fantasies of Joe McGill - a response to the 
trailer for "The Barrel of A Gun"

by Michael Schiffmann | 10.02.2009

The trailer for the new film about the Mumia 
Abu-Jamal/Daniel Faulkner case, titled The Barrel 
of a Gun has just been released. The title refers 
to a quote from Mao Zedong, that Abu-Jamal made 
as the 15 year old information officer of the 
Philadelphia branch of the Black Panther Party in 
response to the murder of BPP members Fred 
Hampton and Mark Clark by the Chicago police and 
the FBI in December 1969: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

In this new article, 
author Michael Schiffmann confronts the film's 
pernicious title and explains why the scenario 
presented by prosecutor Joe McGill is ballistically impossible.

Note from Journalists for Mumia: Below is a new 
article by Journalists for Mumia co-founder 
Michael Schiffmann analyzing the trailer for the 
new documentary about the Mumia Abu-Jamal / 
Daniel Faulkner case, titled "The Barrel of A 
trailer here). The film is scheduled for release 
in December, and all available evidence about 
this new film indicates that it will be extremely 
biased against Mumia. In this new article, 
Schiffmann explains why the scenario presented by 
prosecutor Joe McGill (both his original scenario 
presented at the trial and his modified version 
recently presented on Michael Smerconish's radio 
show) is ballistically impossible. To complement 
the text, there are several photos and diagrams 
of the 13th and Locust crime scene included at 
the bottom of this article. You can also view 
pdf version of this article that includes 
additional graphics. Lastly, be sure and check 
out our recent flyer exposing the fraudulent DA 
<http://abu-jamal-news.com/docs/ballistics.pdf>View/Download the flyer here.

The Fantasies of Joe McGill


In December 2009, African American filmmaker 
Tigre Hill’s film The Barrel of a Gun will be 
presented to the public, purporting to be a 
documentary on the December 9, 1981 killing of 
Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, for which the 
Black journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was con­victed and sentenced to death in 1982.

Significantly, the working title of that film had 
been 13th and Locust, referring to the 
intersection in Philadelphia’s Center City where 
the incident took place, but that title has now 
been changed in a way that is by no means incidental.

The trailer of the new movie is now out, and put 
in a nutshell, it strongly implies that the 
killing of Officer Faulkner was the direct result 
of a long-harbored hatred of the police on 
Abu-Jamal’s part and maybe even a planned hit 
engineered by Abu-Jamal and his brother Billy Cook.

Hence the new title of the film, which alludes to 
a quote from Mao Zedong Abu-Jamal made as the 15 
year old information officer of the Philadelphia 
branch of the Black Panther Party (BPP) in 
response to the murder of BPP members Fred 
Hampton and Mark Clark by the Chicago police and 
the FBI in December 1969: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”
On its myspace webpage, the movie is hailed as 
presenting a new and “alternative view of the 
crime” at 13th and Locust so many years ago. But 
in fact the thesis presented in the trailer – 
that Abu-Jamal acted out of sheer hatred for the 
police and may even have set the officer up 
together with his brother with the deliberate 
design to murder him – is neither new nor alter­native.

It has already been presented by Abu-Jamal 
prosecutor Joseph McGill in tandem with Officer 
Faulkner’s widow Maureen’s lawyer, Michael 
Smerconish, in the context of the latter two’s 
publication of the book Murdered by Mumia. A Life 
Sentence of Loss, Pain, and Injustice in December 
2007. Days after the publication of the book, 
Smerconish broadcast a 35 minute interview with 
McGill on his radio show “The Big Talker.”

Many of the factual claims jointly presented 
there by McGill and Smerconish are plainly false, 
and accordingly, their main speculations based on 
them are patently absurd. All the same, this 
“new” film now seems to be very much based on 
McGill’s and Smerconish’s core conclusions 
presented in that show: Abu-Jamal shot Faulkner 
out of pure ideological fanaticism and may have 
even planned to do so beforehand in conjunction with his brother Billy Cook.

It is thus exactly the right time to deconstruct 
the McGill/Smerconish story a bit.

McGill’s Tale I: Setting the Scene

McGill’s reconstruction of the December 9, 1981 
events at 13th and Locust begins with an outright 
invention. He claims that Billy Cook “was driving 
his old Volkswagen the wrong way on 13th Street 
and he goes on towards going south, takes a left 
turn on Locust,” where he was “picked up 
literally by a police officer,” because this “was a traffic violation.”
This is sheer fantasy. There is no evidence that 
shows that Cook approached the intersection of 
13th and Locust by driving along 13th Street the 
wrong way. After the shooting, police radio 
traffic reports a security guard just north of 
the intersection 13th and Locust talking about “a 
small compact car” going that way on 13th Street, 
and moreover, the police radio transmissions 
characterize that movement as going “south on 
13th from Locust” (my emphasis) several times.

That is, whoever drove the wrong way on 13th 
around that time crossed Locust and went further 
south rather than making a turn onto Locust, a 
fact that was, and surely still is, known to 
Abu-Jamal prosecutor Joseph McGill. Even so, the 
mere – and unfounded – suspicion that the 
unspecified car observed by the unknown security 
guard might have been Billy Cook’s VW made it 
into the papers the very next day, creating a 
long-lived myth Abu-Jamal’s detractors now try to 
capitalize on – and in rather shameless ways, as 
we will see later on (see below).

Apart from the above, McGill certainly also has 
to know there is positive evidence for the 
falsity of the “one-way” thesis. Prosecution 
witness Albert Magilton, a pedestrian who 
testified to not having seen the shooting himself 
but said he first saw both Faulkner and Cook 
approaching the intersection and, a while later, 
Abu-Jamal running across the street, stated at 
Abu-Jamal’s trial that Cook had approached the 
intersection 13th and Locust driving on Locust, not 13th Street.

Thus McGill must be aware that his claim about 
Cook’s “traffic violation” is false.

And his claims about this become doubly dishonest 
given the fact that he was also the prosecutor in 
Billy Cook’s trial for aggravated assault on 
March 29, 1982, two and a half months before 
Abu-Jamal’s murder trial began in which he also 
served as the prosecutor. Nowhere in this trial 
(nor in Abu-Jamal’s own trial) did McGill make 
the slightest allusion to Cook having driven the 
wrong way on 13th Street, even though proving a 
traffic violation on Cook’s part would have 
certainly made it easier to have Cook convicted for his alleged offense.

McGill’s Tale II: How Faulkner Got Shot in the Back

McGill then claims that Faulkner took Billy Cook 
to the sidewalk on the southern side of Locust: 
“He took him right over to the sidewalk, this is 
police procedure.” Then, according to McGill, 
Cook punched Faulkner “in the mouth,” after which 
Faulkner turned Cook around to arrest him. At 
Abu-Jamal’s trial, the star witness and 
prostitute Cynthia White had testified to exactly this version.

And then, “while this was occurring, and almost 
simultaneous to when this was occurring, which 
was rather curious,” Abu-Jamal allegedly started 
running, “with his gun out,” from the parking lot 
on the north side of Locust and started to shoot at Officer Faulkner.

The scurrilous thing about this is that the shot 
that hit Faulkner in the back exited just below 
his throat and that if Faulkner arrested Cook 
turning his back towards the street, it would 
have required almost a mi­racle for Cook to escape that bullet.

But there is more: Assuming the direction from 
which Abu-Jamal approached the scene according to 
McGill, the gunshot traces found at the scene are totally inex­plicable.

One full bullet was found quite low in the right 
part of the door frame of the building Locust 
1234, the entrance of which we see on the 
photograph. Apart from this, a bullet fragment 
entered the upper part of the entrance door and 
ended up in a wall of the vestibule 2 meters 
within the building, and sharply to the right of 
the position where the bullet struck the door.

For the first one to be the one which struck 
Faulkner in the back, there is almost no 
imaginable position (being on his knees and 
bending forward would come closest, but there is 
no evidence for this). Any possible relation of 
the second gunshot trace with McGill’s scenario 
is even more mysterious as it was only one 
quarter of a full bullet, found sharply to the 
right from Abu-Jamal’s alleged direction towards the scene.

That is troublesome enough, but a quarter century 
ago, McGill had presented a witness at both the 
trials of Cook and Abu-Jamal whose testimony was 
just as problematic – and in flat contradiction with Cynthia White’s testimony.

At Cook’s assault trial, where Joe McGill also 
acted as the pro­secutor, but never asked Cook 
whether he committed a “traffic violation” by 
driving down 13th the wrong way, the central (and 
together with Cynthia White only) pro­secution 
wit­ness Michael Scanlan claimed that Faulkner, 
stan­ding in the street roughly facing in the 
direction given by the left-hand arrow, had 
spread-eagled Cook on the hood of Cook’s own VW 
when Abu-Jamal shot him in the back, an 
achie­vement hardly feasible even for a 
professional body artist given the fact that 
Abu-Jamal approached the building we see on the 
photo above from a parking lot on the other side 
of the street. If Faulkner had indeed managed to 
spread-eagle the recalcitrant Billy Cook on the 
hood of Cook’s own VW as claimed by Scanlan at 
Cook’s assault trial, and if therefore his own 
back pointed to the car parked in front of Cooks 
VW, it is a mystery how Abu-Jamal could

·         approach the scene without Faulkner noticing him
·         circle him and get in his back, with 
him, Faulkner and Cook all crowding in between 
the car in front of the VW and the VW itself, and
·         manage to shoot Faulkner, who was 
presumably bent over Cook in order to handcuff 
him, in the back without hitting Cook or the shot leaving traces on Cook’s VW.

At the Abu-Jamal trial, all this had changed, but 
not too much. Scanlan now placed the same scene, 
not in front of the VW, but in front of 
Faulkner’s police car: closer to where White 
claimed things had happened, but in the 
recounting of events still squarely at odds with White’s.

But in his chat with his long-time ally to get 
Abu-Jamal executed, Michael Smerconish, close to 
three decades later Joseph McGill doesn’t really 
care. He just ignores Scanlan, and settles for 
the equally absurd version of Cynthia White that 
places events, not in the street, but on the sidewalk.

Among many others, this is a part of the events 
the prosecution has never given a plausible 
account for. Only two prosecution witnesses ever 
claimed to have seen how Faulkner was shot in the 
back by Abu-Jamal, Cynthia White and Michael Mark 
Scanlan. Even if in his account for the 
Smerconish show, McGill opted for the White 
account, the contradictions between her account 
and Scanlan’s remain irreconcilable, and what is 
more, given the ballistic facts at the scene her 
own account cannot possibly be true, even 
disregarding many glaring contradictions in her 
own statements made from December 9, 1981, to 
Abu-Jamal’s 1982 trial which can’t be analyzed here.

McGill’s Tale III: How Faulkner Got Killed

But then comes the crunch, McGill describing to 
Smerconish in an all-excited tone how Faulkner 
was allegedly killed. This passage starts like this: Faulkner

“fell to the ground. He was on his back. And then 
what Jamal does [
] at that point, Jamal just 
stands over him, like you see in the television. 
He puts his two hands together, as in so many of 
these TV shows, and he points down, and fires, 
remember, he had five bullets in there [
], and he just kept firing.”

This is simply untrue. As McGill has to know 
perfectly well, none of the three prosecution 
wit­nesses who claimed to have seen the deadly 
shots at Faulk­ner – Cynthia White, Robert 
Chobert, and Michael Scanlan – described the 
shooter as firing with both hands. After he had 
White graphically demonstrate in court how 
Abu-Jamal allegedly shot Faulkner, McGill himself 
summarized her performance like this: “Indicating 
for the record this time using her right arm she 
was pointing and going up and down with her right 
arm three times towards the floor.”

On the prodding by McGill, prosecution witness 
Robert Chobert made the very same demonstration in front of the trial court.

Why, then, does McGill resort to this barefaced 
lie? Of course simply to even better achieve the 
whole purpose of this interview, namely, to 
present Abu-Jamal as a cold-blooded, deliberate 
executioner who leaves nothing to coincidence when it comes to killing a cop.

Even more importantly, having set the scene in this way, McGill continues:

“At that point, Jamal just stands over him, just 
like you see in the television, he put his two 
hands together, as in so many of these TV shows, 
and he points down, and fires. Remember he had 
five bullets in there [
], and he just kept 
firing. One of those bullets hit Danny Faulkner 
between the eyes. And the other one went through 
part of the clothing, and the other was remiss.”

He describes Faulkner as having fallen down and 
lost his gun, now allegedly lying prone on the 
sidewalk, “literally immobile and unable to do 
anything.” Then “this coward steps over him, and 
with his high velocity bullets kills him and 
continues to fire until he has no more shots.”

This is a point McGill repeats on and on in many 
of his public performances, namely, Abu-Jamal 
firing three to four shots at the prone and 
defenseless of­ficer at point blank range.

This is the central and most appalling lie the 
prosecution started out with right away and has 
clung too rigidly over the years.

Miraculously, at no point in their 
investigations, either the police or the 
prosecution made any at­tempt to explain what had 
happened to the two to three bullets Abu-Jamal 
had allegedly fired at the prone Faulkner but that had missed him.

And with good reason: The trouble with McGill’s 
oft-pronounced version of the killing and the 
testimony of the three prosecution witnesses upon 
which it is based is that all the eight known 
photographs of the area around the spot where 
Officer Faulkner’s head finally came to be 
located do not show the slightest trace of any of 
these bullets. Such traces, however, would 
inevitably be visible and impossible to overlook.

This would even be more true had someone shot 
several .38 caliber bullets with a weight of more 
than 140 grain (the weight of the incomplete 
bullet found in Faulkner’s brain) into a concrete 
sidewalk with a velocity of 900 feet/sec 
(allegedly the data for Abu-Jamal’s Charter Arms 
1382 revolver), +P ammunition propelling the 
bullets to greater speed and impact (which the 
prosecution claimed Abu-Jamal had used) and at point blank range.

The interesting thing in the McGill/Smerconish 
interview is that McGill even has the audacity to 
mention the bullet that – and this is one of the 
few things about which there is no doubt in this 
case – entered the right upper shoulder part of 
Faulkner’s police jacket from the front and 
exited it at the back without even touching the 
officer’s body, and which according to his 
scenario should have hit the sidewalk im­mediately afterwards.

Assuming from the picture on the previous page 
(and the one to the left) as well as from the 
descrip­tions of the position of Faulkner’s body 
by police who found him on the scene, that the 
pool of blood within the oval en­circlement on 
the first picture marks the po­sition of 
Faulkner’s head (and the arrow the general 
position of Faulkner’s body), for this bullet we 
even know exactly where to look for it, but there 
is absolutely nothing on any of the photographs.

Even if one moves the assumed position of 
Faulkner’s head to a point further towards the 
curb from where the blood from his head might 
have streamed both towards the building and the 
curb, the picture doesn’t change: There is no 
bullet, or bullet fragment, or gunshot trace, in 
a spot where at least one of these three should 
be easily detectable. Note that this is also true 
for the metal grid next to the blood stain: for 
the shooter to get the bullet that went though 
Faulkner’s jacket’s garment through the open 
spots offered by the grid without visibly 
damaging the metal would already be miraculous in 
this single case, and certainly even more so if 
one adds two more shots that by accident also 
ended up in the grid area rather than elsewhere.

According to common sense, it is impossible for a 
seasoned prosecutor such as Joseph McGill (who 
rightfully boasts of his experience in murder 
trials even before the 1982 Abu-Jamal trial) not 
to have been, and still be, painfully aware of 
this glaring inconsistency. The ballistic facts 
on (in this case literally) the ground simply do 
not bear out, but rather, squarely contradict 
what the prosecution had its so-called eyewitnesses testify in court.

For almost three decades now, Joe McGill’s 
response to this has always been to simply 
increase the volume of his loudspeaker about a 
crazed Abu-Jamal firing away like mad at the 
prone officer as he lay defenselessly on the 
ground, in the hope that the noise created 
thereby will drown out the two very simple 
questions any decent defense lawyer would have 
asked from the start if only Abu-Jamal had had one in 1982:

·         Where are the missing bullets, bullet 
pieces, or bullet traces in the sidewalk?
·         How is it that the prosecution can’t 
account for shooting traces that would have had 
to be there had there three core witnesses told the truth?

That this very simple and very obvious question 
is not hotly debated – or for that matter, even 
asked – in the U.S. media in general and the 
dominant media in Philadelphia in particular is 
only testimony to the fact that their 
self-perception as being critical, cantankerous, 
and a pain in the ass for the forces of the 
status quo is quite out of place in more than one place.

McGill’s Tale IV: A Conspiracy to Kill an Unsuspecting Cop

Prodded by the right-wing talk show host, death 
penalty advocate and long-term champion of 
Abu-Jamal’s execution Smerconish, McGill finally 
also explicitly brings in something that 
apparently had been lingering in the background 
of the thinking of the “Fry Mumia” crowd up to 
that time for quite a while: namely, that the 
killing of Officer Faulkner was the result of a 
deliberate plan on the part of the long-time and 
fanatic cop hater Abu-Jamal and his bro­ther 
Billy Cook. The story line is supplied once again 
by the interviewer, Michael Smer­conish, himself, 
who can barely contain his greed to push his 
partner into a maximally sensationalist direction:

“Joe, you earlier made reference to the fact that 
Abu-Jamal was, I think you used the word 
“coincidentally,” at this intersection [
] when 
Danny Faulkner pulled over his brother. Have you, 
you must have given consideration to the 
possibility that the whole thing was perhaps a 
set-up to execute a cop, a set-up perhaps to 
execute Danny Faulkner in particular!”

And McGill takes the bait more than willingly. 
After rather lamely explaining why he decided not 
to bring Abu-Jamal’s brother Billy Cook into 
this, and then raving against Abu-Jamal’s 
allegedly “terrible” radical leanings, he 
continues in a very upset mood matching that of 
his host: “NOW, it was awfully coincidental, that 
his brother is stopped going the wrong way on 
13th Street, I mean, how dumb is that, in an area 
where there are cops, but all of a sudden he 
does! He goes down 13th Street, the wrong way, 
south, and he is stopped by a police officer!”

And he continues: “All of a sudden, William Cook 
is STOPPED. And then he stops and he’s getting 
out. And again, Mr. Jamal, the coward he was, 
would wait until his back was to him, and then he 
ran across, and it almost happened 
simultaneously, and it just seemed to me, 
although I couldn’t prove it, that it was AWFULLY 
coincidental.” Then, given Abu-Jamal’s alleged 
past proven hatred of law and order and of the 
police, he claims he still has to ask himself: 
“Yet – Was  it coincidental or not? Michael, I 
still wonder.” (italics mine, capitals reflecting McGill’s emphases)

Here we are back at the alleged – but imaginary, 
see above – “traffic violation” committed by 
Abu-Jamal’s brother Billy Cook, which is now 
presented as the first part of a sinister scheme 
to lure a police officer – and perhaps this 
particular one – into a situation where his back 
is unprotected to give a long-term cop-hating 
beast such as the ex-Panther Abu-Jamal an opportunity to finish him off.

Except that it never happened, as Joseph McGill, 
who jovially and joyfully indulges in these 
unfounded and false speculations fed to him by 
the equally unscrupulous Smerconish, knows 
perfectly well. To this day, nobody knows why 
Officer Faulkner stopped Billy Cook that fateful 
night, but what we do know squarely tells us that 
it was NOT for committing a traffic violation by 
driving down 13th the wrong way.

What Cook himself now says in the other, now no 
longer brand-new but still extremely informative, 
exciting, and much more balanced and objective 
documentary than the present one on the Abu-Jamal 
case, In Prison My Whole Life, is that what he 
got was the all-too usual (not only) nightly 
treatment of a black driver in an American city 
controlled by a disproportionally white police 
force. Asked what had happened after the stop, he 
says he was subjected to “slurs,” and pressed 
further as to what these where, he respond: “Well the usual. The nigger.”

Given the behavior of the police in America’s 
cities to this day and the frame-up trials both 
Billy Cook and his brother Mumia Abu-Jamal were 
subjected to (and which I analyze thoroughly 
elsewhere), this statement has much plausibility, 
whereas McGill’s and Smerconish’s conspiracy 
thesis is a combination of a flat lie (Cook 
committing a traffic violation by driving on 13th 
in the wrong direction, contradicted by the 
prosecution’s own witness Albert Magilton) and 
malicious speculation (he did what in fact he did 
not do to lure Faulkner to his death).

But at least we now know why the core of the 
fanatics who want to see Abu-Jamal executed 
rather today than tomorrow in their publications 
keeps insisting on such seemingly irrelevant view 
on why Billy Cook was stopped.

McGill’s Tale V: Abu-Jamal, the Disrespectful and 
Cruel Hater of Any Civilized Order

Above, I have sketched some of the core lies and 
fantasies in the McGill/Smerconish interview. The 
list can’t be complete without mentioning 
McGill’s attribution to Abu-Jamal himself of a 
quote the latter made from the works of Mao 
Zedong in order to characterize the brutality of 
the American political system, a quote the young 
Abu-Jamal had used to characterize the United 
States’ police forces following the assassination 
of Black leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark: 
“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Before I come to the full maliciousness of that 
attribution, I want to add another new fantasy 
presented by Joe McGill in his Smerconish 
interview which, given his solid knowledge of the 
facts, must count as another probably conscious lie.

Towards the final third of the interview, McGill 
rants and raves for more than a minute about how 
Abu-Jamal, after he had read, before the 
sentencing phase, a statement to the jury 
concerning the jury’s finding him guilty, 
al­legedly fought with Judge Sabo to not go to 
the witness stand for the cross-examination 
prosecutor McGill claimed he was now entitled to 
on account of Abu-Jamal’s address to the jury. It 
was this cross-examination that provided the 
con­text that enabled McGill to bring in the Mao 
quote about poli­tical power growing out of “the barrel of a gun”:

“Jamal then says, he doesn’t even move, he sits 
down, he had stood for his five pages [of the 
statement he had read], and then Judge Sabo says, 
Mr. Jamal, you’re being cross-examined, so please 
will you go up here to the witness stand. And 
then, nothing! He didn’t even hear it, he was 
looking right through Judge Sabo. He does not 
recognize anyone. Judge Sabo did this for five times! (my emphasis)”

In the Smerconish interview, McGill claims he 
then made the suggestion to let Abu-Jamal where 
he was, at the table of the defense rather than 
having him enter the witness stand, because he 
wanted to have the opportunity to cross-examine him.

Of course, Abu-Jamal had indeed had run-ins with 
the presiding judge over Abu-Jamal’s right to 
represent himself and many other issues and was 
thrown out of the courtroom for more than half of 
his trial for these reasons. Everybody who has 
looked at that trial even superficially is bound 
to know that, but what most people can’t know or 
realize when listening to the Smerconish/McGill 
diatribes is that everything McGill says in the 
quote above is to 100 percent invented. The 
actual full quote from the trial transcripts for 
the period between the end of Abu-Jamal’s 
personal statement and the beginning of McGill’s 
cross examination reads like this:

“Defense lawyer: I have no further questions, 
Your Honor. – Mr. McGill: May I proceed, Your 
Honor? – The Court: Go ahead. – Mr. McGill: 
Perhaps it would be better, Your Honor, if I 
would stand over here and direct my comments to 
him. – The Court: I don’t care. – Mr. McGill: It 
seems kind of silly if I turn to the right 
(whereupon the District Attorney stands at the 
witness box, directing his cross-examination to 
the defendant). – [A sidebar conference follows 
in which only the lawyers and the judge are 
involved, and it is followed by the cross examination of Abu-Jamal.]”

So McGill’s whole anger directed against 
Abu-Jamal even a quarter of a century after the 
facts is caused by an event that is only of a 
figment of his own imagination, or as we should 
rather, his wishful fantasies, as of all people 
concerned with this case, McGill must be one of 
those who actually knows the facts best, which 
also means that he must have known the story he 
told Michael Smerconish in December 2007 to be patently untrue.

McGill’s Tale VI: “The Barrel of a Gun”

One of the worst and most mendacious parts of 
McGill’s tale as told to Smerconish is the part 
that immediately follows the one just sketched, 
the one where McGill proceeds to subject Abu-Jamal to cross-examination.

Almost exactly twelve years before the shooting 
death of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, there 
was another shooting that led to the death of two 
young Black activists and that became famous and 
notorious to this day. In the early morning of 
December 4, 1969, fourteen cops of the Chicago 
Department of Police (CDP) broke into the Chicago 
Black Panther Party (BPP) chairman Fred Hampton’s 
apartment on Monroe Street which doubled as the local BPP’s headquarter.

During the raid that later on turned out to be 
organized by the FBI on false charges of the 
possession of illegal weapons based on reports by 
an informer who also supplied a floor plan of the 
apartment for the attackers, the police fired 
close to a hundred rounds whereas the lone person 
in the flat who was able to get off a single 
shot, BPP security officer Mark Clark, was 
already dying in a hail of police bullets as he 
reflexively pulled the trigger of his shotgun to 
defend himself and the other dwellers.

Hampton, who was sleeping in his bed, and Clark 
were killed, and four other Panthers were 
woun­ded. The seven survi­vors of the raid, 
including Fred Hampton’s eight and a half months 
pregnant wife Deborah Johnson, were then 
bru­tally abused, arrested, and charged with the 
at­tempted murder of the attacking police officers.

But due to both the diligent efforts of the BPP 
to rec­tify the record and the brilliant work of 
some local jour­na­lists, the official story 
rapidly collapsed, and it became clear to all but 
the most blinded observers that the real victims 
in this case were the Panthers, and that they had 
been set up as the targets of a state operation 
that the famous linguist and political activist 
Noam Chomsky has called “a Gestapo-style murder.” 
Not too long after the operation, it turned out 
that it had been organized not just locally, but 
on a national level, namely, by the FBI.

Shortly afterwards, on December 8, 1969, the Los 
Angeles Police Department (LAPD), as it turned 
out later once again in conjunction with the FBI, 
mounted an eerily similar early morning attack on 
the LA offices of the BPP, including the party’s main office on Central Avenue.

Once more the pretext was a search warrant gained 
on false information about guns and imminent 
danger, and once again the source was an informer 
who also supplied the attackers with a floor plan 
including the location of local BPP leader 
Geroni­mo Pratt’s bed on which fire was to be 
concentrated ac­cording to the police plan. 
Luckily for Pratt, due to his painful back wounds 
suffered as a GI in Vietnam, he slept on the 
floor instead in his bed and was thus able to survive.

Different from Chicago, in Los Angeles the 
Panthers were able to fight back against the 
police, but of course they, too, finally had to 
surrender, with six occupants of their 
headquarters wounded and thirteen arrested. The 
above photograph shows how the office looked like 
after the LAPD and the FBI had finished their work.

A similar attack on Panther premises in Seattle, 
Washington, planned for January 1970 by federal 
agencies was canceled only after Seattle’s 
Democratic Mayor Wes Uhlman blocked it, 
expressing concern over “Gestapo-type tactics” 
that could lead to a time when every citizen 
would have to fear “the knock on the door at 2 o’clock in the morning.”

This was the situation when a young BPP member 
was assigned to report on the state terror 
directed against the BPP. This young Panther was 
none other than the then fifteen year old Mumia 
Abu-Jamal, then still carrying his original name 
Wesley Cook. In this function, he flew to 
Chicago, personally inspected the blood-soaked 
bed in which Fred Hampton had killed at point 
blank range by agents of the state, reported on 
the event for the party newspaper, and finally 
gave the keynote speech at the memorial for the 
slain Panther leader in Philadelphia in December 1969.

It was in this function that he talked to the 
Philadelphia Inquirer’s reporter Acel Moore in an 
interview that was published on the paper’s front 
page on January 4, 1970. And it was, quite 
obvious to anyone, in this interview that he 
approvingly quoted Mao Zedong’s dictum that 
political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, 
arguing that the recent events had indeed shown 
that Mao had been right about this. This is what Acel Moore reported:

“‘Since the murders,’ says West [for Wesley] 
Cook, Chapter Communication Secretary, ‘Black 
brothers and sisters and organizations which 
wouldn’t commit themselves before are relating to 
us. Black people are facing the reality that the 
Black Panther Party has been facing: Political 
power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ Murders, 
a calculated design of genocide, and a national 
plot to destroy the party leadership is what the 
Panthers and their supporters call a bloody two 
year history of police raids and shootouts.”

“Although there have been no shootouts between 
Philadelphia Panthers and police, Cook [
] says 
there could have been,” continues the article, 
and the young Cook/Abu-Jamal is quoted as saying 
that during yet another raid carried out on 
weapons charges, this time in Philadelphia, the 
police “would have shot us then. Except we were 
all out in the community working at the time.” 
Adds the reporter Acel Moore: “There were no 
visible weapons in the Headquarters, ‘but we 
can’t hope to exist’ he said ‘without some kind of protection.’”

 From this, the contextual meaning of the “barrel 
of a gun” quote as an analysis of the brutal 
actions of the state that had happened so 
recently, together with conclusions about the 
necessity of self-defense, NOT as a strategic 
slogan guiding the actions of the Panthers, should be very clear.

But just this quote from exactly this article was 
brought in by prosecutor Joseph McGill during the 
sentencing hearing of Abu-Jamal’s trial, when he 
started to cross-examine the defendant, and in 
the final parts of his Smerconish interview, he 
is still so proud of this that he drifts off in 
the fantasy mode with a vengeance and rhapsodizes 
about (1) Abu-Jamal being the author, not the 
interviewee of the article in question, (2) the 
Acel Moore article that quoted Abu-Jamal quoting 
Mao Zedong being a Panther publication authored 
by Abu-Jamal and most importantly (3) Abu-Jamal 
toting this slogan as a line of action for the 
Panthers, and particularly for himself.

The inevitable conclusion is that while (1) and 
(2) are just laughable – and fantastic – 
distortions, (3) is a deliberate and toxic lie 
which, it appears now, will be the core thesis of 
an equally mendacious and toxic film.

All of the above, basically coming out of the 
mouth of Abu-Jamal’s super-biased and 
super-partial prosecutor Joe McGill is not a huge surprise.

After all, in the Abu-Jamal case, as well as in 
so many others, the prosecution has mangled the 
facts right from the start to an extent where it 
requires an almost equally maniacal energy to try 
to set the distortions straight.

But turning to Tigre Hill, as the trailer of his 
film on Abu-Jamal already shows ten weeks before 
the expected release of the film, the facts were 
obviously also not very high on the list of those 
who framed the film as the movie, judging from 
the trailer, uncritically adopts all the basic 
premises (or should I say primitives) of the 
Mc­Gill/Smerconish narrative sketched in above.

It seems this film will be hammering home, in an 
extended and embellished form, a message that was 
already laid out in the Maureen Faulkner/Michael 
Smerconish book Murdered by Mumia and the 
subsequent interviews with the pro-prosecution 
people most involved in the case, two of the most 
important of which I have discussed here:

    * NO doubts about Abu-Jamal’s 
perpetratorship, belief in his system- and 
cop-hating motive, and his eligibility for the 
death-penalty because of his fanatic single-mindedness.

But if the trailer gives any direction as to what 
the final film will be, the film’s case will be 
built on sand. It seems clear that the main 
sources that have fed what one can watch now are 
interested parties such as Michael Smerconish, 
Joe McGill and a few assorted right-wing 
reactionaries – and as the trailer thankfully 
makes clear, what they are armed with is 
fantasies and lies of the type sketched above. 
That, however, doesn’t make all of this any less dangerous.

Michael Schiffmann, Journalists for Mumia, September 29, 2009


The Crime Scene


(1) Parked Ford sedan, officially unrelated (2) 
Billy Cook’s VW (3) Faulkner’s police car (4) 
Abu-Jamal’s taxi (5) Michael Scanlan’s car (Short 
Arrow at 1234 Locust) The trajectory of the 
bullet fragment, weighing 39.4 grains, inside the 
vestibule. The trajectory is based upon the 
alignment of the hole in the glass where the 
bullet entered and where it stopped in the wall. 
(Long Arrow From 4) Abu-Jamal’s most likely 
direction when he approached from his car. 
Abu-Jamal’s direction contradicts the trajectory 
of the bullet fragment in the wall. Faulkner was 
more likely shot through the back by someone 
standing on the curb next to Billy Cook’s car, 
with the bullet traveling North, away from 1234 
Locust, after exiting Faulkner’s body.
The bullet(s)?


(1) Inserted police photo at far left of diagram, 
in front of Billy Cook’s VW, designates where 
Faulkner’s body was found (2) Billy Cook’s VW (3) 
Faulkner’s police car (The “X”-Marks, From Left 
to Right) X Entry location of bullet fragment, 
weighing 39.4 grains, found inside doorway 
vestibule, 6 ft., 10 in. south of the front door 
X unexplained copper bullet jacket on sidewalk X 
.38/.357 whole bullet, weighing 151.3 grains, 
with officially indeterminable rifling traits, 
found in the frame of entrance door, 3 ft., 7 in. 
up from the sidewalk (Schiffmann argues that the 
bullet is too low and too far away from 
Faulkner’s body, to have exited Faulkner’s 
throat) X  7 small lead fragments, total weight 
18.2 grains, found in the lower wall, seven inches up from the sidewalk.

Michael Scanlan's account at Billy Cook's trial


The straight arrow shows where Police Officer 
Daniel Faulkner was allegedly standing and the 
direction he was facing when shot. The curved 
line shows Mumia’s approach before allegedly 
shooting Faulkner. Accordingly, while Faulkner 
was standing in front of Billy Cook’s VW and 
facing west up Locust St., Mumia passed by 
Faulkner’s right side and looped around before shooting him in the back.
Cynthia White's account at Billy Cook's trial


The straight arrow shows where Police Officer 
Daniel Faulkner was allegedly standing and the 
direction he was facing when shot. The curved 
line shows Mumia’s approach before allegedly 
shooting Faulkner. Accordingly, while Faulkner 
was standing in front of his police car and 
facing east down Locust St., Mumia came in front 
of Faulkner and looped around before shooting him in the back.
The Missing Divots


Complementing the newly discovered crime scene 
photos taken by press photographer Pedro 
Polakoff, this official police crime scene photo 
(not taken by Polakoff) shows that on the 
sidewalk, where Officer Faulkner was found, there 
are no large bullet divots, or destroyed chunks 
of cement, which should be visible in the 
pavement if the prosecution scenario was 
accurate, according to which Abu-Jamal shot down 
at Faulkner at close range – and allegedly missed 
several times – while Faulkner was on his back. 
German author Michael Schiffmann writes: “It is 
thus no question any more whether the scenario 
presented by the prosecution at Abu-Jamal’s trial 
is true. It is clearly not, because it is 
physically and ballistically impossible.”

To further analyze the pavement for bullet marks, 
journalist Dave Lindorff hired Robert Nelson, a 
senior research astronomer at NASA’s Jet 
Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, who is an 
expert in photo analysis and enhancement, 
currently assigned to enhance and analyze the 
photos taken by the Cassini space probe that is 
orbiting Saturn. Lindorff explains that he sent 
Nelson one of the photos taken by Pedro Polakoff, 
showing “the bloody spot where Officer Faulkner 
had been lying on the sidewalk,” asking Nelson to 
try and “spot any divots in the area, such as one 
would certainly see if someone were firing 
high-velocity bullets from just a few feet above 
the cement directly into the ground.” Nelson 
utilized the “same edge enhancement and contrast 
enhancement work that he does typically with the 
photos that are sent back from the Cassini probe, 
and replied to me that the concrete appeared to 
be ‘completely smooth’ with no pitting or divots.”


© 1999–2008 Philadelphia Independent Media Center
Unless otherwise stated by the author, all 
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