“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.
“For 10 years I’ve carried this confession secretly in fear of what could happen to my family and myself if the government found out what I knew,” Reggie Wood said. Raymond Wood, he said, “lived in constant fear for 46 years, worried about what the NYPD and FBI would do to his family if he had told the dark secrets that he held that helped destroy Black leaders and Black power organizations.”
Unsure of how to handle the letter, Reggie Wood said he reached out to Crump, one of the nation’s leading civil rights attorneys, who told him to release a memoir detailing what he knew.
Speaking alongside Reggie Wood, Crump said a full re-investigation of Malcolm X’s assassination was warranted. “This was orchestrated, and the only way we get to justice,” he said, “is with the truth.”
Crump and representatives for Malcolm X’s family didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment Saturday.
When the letter was unveiled last week, the NYPD said it “has provided all available records relevant to the case” to the Manhattan District Attorney, which last year agreed to review the convictions of two Nation of Islam members who were held responsible in Malcolm X’s killing. The FBI said it will “continue to support the review in any way we can.”
In her interview with NY1, Kelly Wood said she was disappointed with the decision to release the letter. She claimed that the signature was forged and that an envelope used to justify its authenticity was “a fake.”
She also disputed allegations that her father was at the ballroom when Malcolm X was murdered. She noted that he had already been identified by news media as the undercover detective who handled the Statue of Liberty bombing case days before Malcolm X’s assassination and was a key witness in convicting the suspects.
“They were not going to run the risk of having him there,” she said.
Kelly Wood said that she empathized with Malcolm X’s daughters, who have long pressed prosecutors to reexamine the evidence related to their father’s murder.
“My heart goes out to you, and I’m so sorry because I know firsthand what it feels like when you want just answers, you want to find out exactly what happened,” she said.
But she called on the family to “find another way to get the answers that you need and the closure that you need.”
“I support you 100 percent,” she said, “but on this, with my father, I cannot.”
Sydney Trent contributed to this report.