“He was my informant. I developed him,” FBI agent, Burney Threadgill Jr. said in an interview. “He was one of the best sources we had.”
But, are these allegations really true? There seems to be a significant amount of evidence to the contrary.
Read more of the storyThe man who gave the Black Panther Party some of its first firearms and weapons training – which preceded fatal shootouts with Oakland police in the turbulent 1960s – was an undercover FBI informer, according to a former bureau agent and an FBI report.One of the Bay Area’s most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Legislature.
He joined the early Black Panther Party and was eventually promoted to the position of Field Marshal. Although there were several Asian Americans in the Black Panther Party, Aoki was the only one to have a formal leadership position.
Aoki was born in San Leandro, California in 1938 to Japanese parents. He and his family were interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah from 1942 to 1945. They moved to Oakland, California after World War II ended. Aoki spent eight years serving in the United States Army, first as a medic and later in the infantry. He attended Merritt College for two years, where he became close friends with his longtime acquaintances Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, the founding members of the Black Panther Party; the organization was founded in October 1966, one month after Aoki transferred to the University of California, Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1968 and a Master of Social Work degree in 1970.
It was originally reported that Aoki died at his home in Berkeley from complications from dialysis. Nearly a year later, it was publicly revealed that he had died of suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His life was chronicled in the 2009 documentary film.
The Aoki documentary film is now available on Comcast On-Demand
The man who armed the Panthers