After the shooting, Hagan tried to flee the scene but he was shot in the leg. He was then captured and beaten by the crowd before the police got their hands on him.
Muhammad Abdul Aziz and Kahlil Islam were the two other men found guilty of the murder of Malcolm X. In 1966, all three received sentences of 20 years to life. However, Aziz and Islam both proclaimed their innocence. Hagan was the only one to admit his part in the assassination, and he testified at trial and subsequent parole hearings that the two other men were both innocent. Even at last month's parole hearing, Hagan again maintained that Aziz and Islam were not the other assassins. He said it was two other men who helped plot, plan and participate in the killing. He gave no names, however. Aziz and Islam both served their terms, the former being released in 1985, and the latter in 1987.
When asked, “Did they receive orders from the Nation to carry out the killing?”
"I can't say that anyone in the Nation of Islam gave us the idea or instructed us to do it. We did this ourselves for the most part, yes," Hagan told the parole board. "I understand a lot better the dynamics of movements and what can happen inside movements and conflicts that can come up, but I have deep regrets about my participation in that." He added, "Unfortunately, I didn't have an in-depth understanding of what was really going on myself to let myself be involved in anything like that. ... I can't really describe my remiss and my remorse for my actions -- basically a very young man, a very uneducated man." He added, that he felt the urge to kill Malcolm X because of his inflammatory comments about the Nation's founder. "It stemmed from a break off and confusion in the leadership," Hagan said. "Malcolm X broke with the Nation of Islam, separated from the Nation of Islam, and in doing so there was controversy as to some of the statements he was making about the leader."
He added, "History has revealed a lot of what Malcolm X was saying was true."
Last month, Hagan pleaded his case for freedom: To return to his family, to become a substance abuse counselor and to make his mark on what time he has left in this world. He was dressed in prison greens as he addressed the parole board. He had been before that body 14 other times since 1984. Each time, he was rejected.
Hagan, the only man who admitted his role in the 1965 assassination of iconic Black leader Malcolm X, was paroled Tuesday, New Year's Eve. Hagan, 69, walked out of the minimum-security Lincoln Correctional Facility at 11 a.m. The facility is located at the intersection of West 110th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. He was freed a day earlier than planned because his paperwork was processed more quickly than anticipated, according to the New York State Department of Correctional Services. To win his release, Hagan was required to seek, obtain and maintain a job, support his children and abide by a curfew. This he had done since he had been in a full-time work-release program since March 1992. The program allowed him to live at home with his family in Brooklyn five days a week while reporting to the prison just two days. He must continue to meet those conditions while free. He told the parole board he's worked the same job for the past seven years. He told the New York Post in 2008 he was working at a fast-food restaurant.
Hagan is still a Muslim but no longer a member of the Nation. He volunteers at a mosque to help young men. He told the parole board he hopes to become a qualified substance abuse counselor. Hagan received a master's degree in sociology while incarcerated and said that that has helped him deal with his actions from 45 years ago. Today, his primary mission is to help his four children, ages 21, 17, 14 and 10. He has two other grown children. "My focus is to maintain my family and to try to make things a little better for them. It's upward mobility, and to encourage my children to complete their education because it's a must."
The ballroom where he was killed has now been converted into The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. Board Chairman Zead Ramadan said the center doesn't have a position on Hagan's release.
"I personally find it strange that for a couple decades any person convicted in the assassination of such an iconic figure would be allowed such leniency," Ramadan said.
There's outrage among some African-Americans, he said, that he's being released. Would he be set free if he had killed an iconic white leader?
"It's really a struggle for Muslims to contemplate this issue, because our faith and our religion is full of examples where we have to exert mercy," he added. "The Malcolm X story has not ended. His popularity has grown in death. ... Only God knows why this was allowed to happen."
The center is preparing for a special service next month to celebrate what would have been Malcolm X's 85th birthday. Would the center welcome Hagan if he asked to attend?
"We'd cross that bridge if he called us," Ramadan said, "Think about that: How far-fetched is it that he could meet one of the daughters of Malcolm X? And what's going to happen then? Mercy, fury, anger, emotions -- who knows?"