On April 6, 1968, two days after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Oakland police officers gunned down 16-year-old Black Panther Bobby James Hutton.
According to the account of Panther Terry M. Cotton, who was present during the incident, Hutton was a participant in a local food drive for the “Free Huey Newton” defense committee barbecue. Cotton, Hutton, Donnell Lankford, Charles Bursey, John L. Scott, David Hilliard, Eldridge Cleaver, and one other Panther were visiting homes to pick up supplies when a police cruiser began following their car. The Panthers were then cornered at 1218 28th St. at about 7:30 p.m., when a shootout erupted.
Cotton states in his account of the ensuing event: “Gunfire erupted at once, two wild shots were followed instantly by a deluge of lead that riddled the squad cars and shots were fired by police into the rear window of the 1954 Ford in which I was riding.”
During the exchange of gunfire, Cleaver and Hutton ran for cover in the house basement. Reports of the event say police followed the pair and shot tear-gas bombs in the building, causing the two to surrender, as officers hurled racial insults.
Young Hutton, the first to emerge, stripped down to his underwear, according to some accounts, to demonstrate that he was unarmed. But the officers shot him twelve times.
Panther supporters believed the event was an ambush, part of a mission to exterminate the Black Panther Party, whose members were known for carrying weapons in plain view and for policing the police. As a result of these and other events, the Mulford Act made it illegal for individual citizens to carry arms in public in California.
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