EDITOR'S NOTE - Only two newsmen were in the audience of a Harlem rally Sunday when gunmen shot and killed Malcolm X. UPI correspondent Stanley Scott and a local radio station (WMCA) reporter witnessed the assassination. This is Scott's eyewitness account.
NEW YORK -- Even before entering Harlem's Audubon ballroom Sunday to hear Malcolm X reveal an "action program" for the Negro people, I suspected trouble.
I asked a policeman stationed outside if he anticipated any incidents. His answer was "no." One of Malcolm's own lieutenants told me the militant Negro nationalist leader was "well protected."
But an hour later, from my twelfth-row seat I heard a terrifying volley of gunshots and screams and saw Malcolm bowled over by the bullets. His wife, Betty, cried hysterically, "they're killing my husband." and Malcolm lay bleeding and fatally wounded on the stage.
As I approached the entrance to the ballroom at 166th Street and Broadway I remembered what Malcolm X had said several days earlier after a firebomb attack destroyed his home.
"There is a conspiracy that leads to my death."
Wonders About Safety
I along with other newsmen, heard that at the headquarters of Malcolm's newly formed Organization for Afro-American Unity. It made me wonder now about his safety before an audience of 500.
When I entered the building at 2 p.m. one of Malcolm's lieutenants told me the press would not be permitted to cover the session. But, he said, "as a Negro you can come in as an interested citizen. But you will have to remove your press badge."
Two of Malcolm's judo-trained, six-foot guards stood at the outer entrance of the ballroom. Additional guards lined the front of the speakers platform and the aisles.
About 2:30 p.m. another of Malcolm's aides mounted the platform and began to address the audience. "You should support a man that is willing to lay down his life for you," he told them. "There are few man that are willing to die for somebody else."
A minute before 3 p.m. Malcolm himself entered and strode to the stage to loud applause.
The bearded spokesman of Negro militancy was formally introduced to his audience at 3:02 p.m. -- I had just checked my watch -- and then again there was a loud ovation. But as he approached the microphone, a man off to my left shouted, "get out of my pocket" and several burly guards rushed to the commotion that followed.
Malcolm, from the microphone, had just begun his address with the words "brothers and sisters." Now he interrupted himself to maintain order.
"Take it easy. Okay now, take it easy," he said in a soft voice.
Those were his last words. What sounded then like twenty or thirty shots rang out. Men and women, clutching small children ducked to the floor and crawled under tables as the rapid firing continued in what seemed like an eternity.
Malcom was sprawled on the platform, bleeding profusely. The audience, at first stunned and paralyzed, began streaming toward the rear exit, stampeding down the flight of stairs there and into the street.
Two Negroes Beaten
I dashed outside for a telephone and saw followers of Malcolm pummeling two Negro men and shouting "Don't let him get away. Get him. Don't let him get away." Onlookers screamed "Kill them . . . Kill them," but an eight-man police dragged the two away.
I was back in time to see the wheeled stretcher bearing Malcolm's blood-soaked body slowly emerge from the ballroom and head across to the Vanderbilt Clinic of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center half a block away.
Malcolm's guards moved protectively and reverently alongside the stretcher as it crossed Broadway. With them walked Malcolm's wife, still hysterical, following her husband's lifeless form and weeping.