Mutulu Shakur is a former Black Liberation Army member and resistance leader who received a 60-year prison sentence in 1987 for his role in the 1981 Brinks bank robbery. He’s also the stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950, Mutulu Shakur is a former Black Liberation Army member and convicted bank robber, and the stepfather of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. In 1980, Mutulu Shakur began the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America and became internationally known for his acupuncture treatments. The following year, Shakur and several other men—including Kathy Boudin and other members of the Weather Underground—held up a Brinks bank truck; two officers and a guard were killed during the robbery. Shakur went into hiding thereafter, remaining No. 1 on the FBI's Most Wanted list until his arrest on February 12, 1986. He went on trial in 1987 and was sentenced to 60 years in prison for operating a criminal enterprise, among other charges. He is incarcerated at the ADX Florence Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado, and is scheduled for release in 2016.
Mutulu Shakur was born Jeral Wayne Williams on August 8, 1950, in Baltimore, Maryland. At the age of 7, Shakur moved to Queens, New York, with his mother and younger sister. His mother, who was legally blind, often struggled to get her needs met through the federal social programs. As the eldest of two children, Shakur was often saddled with the responsibility of helping his mother navigate the social system, and his early experiences with assistance programs led him to develop a strong distrust of the American government.
By the age of 16, Shakur had become heavily involved with the Republic of New Afrikan (Black) Independence movement, which was focused on creating an African-American nation within the United States. Shakur became a member of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa, changed his name (to Matulu Shakur—a title he derived from the name of his hero, Saladin Shakur) and devoted himself to the teachings of Malcolm X. He also began working very closely with black nationalist groups, including the Black Panther Party and the Revolutionary Action Movement.
Activism and Work
As the resistance movement grew, the U.S. government struggled to keep the groups under control. In 1969, while attending an RNA meeting in Detroit, Michigan, Mutulu Shakur and more than 100 other RNA members became involved in a shootout with police. The conflict left one officer dead and led to the arrest of several RNA members, including Shakur. After his release from jail, the FBI began conducting heavy surveillance of Shakur and his family.
By 1970, Shakur had gained employment through the Lincoln Detox Community Program, providing counseling and treatment to heroin addicts. By 1976, he had become Dr. Shakur, having received his certification to practice acupuncture in the state of California, and began providing acupuncture treatment to addicts at Lincoln who wanted an alternative to the Methadone method of detoxification.
Meanwhile, Shakur's RNA group had allied themselves with the controversial Weather Underground, a group of mostly white, radical anti-war protesters who would later be connected to a series of bombings. To fund their movements, the groups combined forces and began planning elaborate robberies—the black members would rob the bank while the white members drove the getaway cars. Federal law enforcement agents believed that Shakur was using his acupuncture school as a front for these and other resistance activities. Despite having a lack of evidence, police shut down the institution in 1979.
In August 1980, Shakur moved to Harlem, New York, where he began the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America. He soon became internationally known in the medical community for his treatment methods, and many community leaders, political activists, lawyers and doctors came to him seeking treatment. He also became known for helping the poor, homeless and drug-addicted members of the community get back on their feet.
Arrest and Incarceration
In October 1981, Shakur and several other men—including Kathy Boudin and other members of the Weather Underground, in conjunction with the Black Panthers and the RNA—held up a Brinks bank truck. Armed with illegal weapons, including M-16s, they shot and killed a Brinks guard. The incident led to a shootout with police, which resulted in the death of two police officers and the wounding of another. Most of the perpetrators escaped, including Shakur. With the help of underground revolutionaries, Shakur went into hiding, and managed to evade authorities for nearly five years.
Shakur remained No. 1 on the FBI's Most Wanted list thereafter until his arrest on February 12, 1986. According to law enforcement agents, Shakur had been involved in 12 robberies that occurred between December 1976 and October 1981. In addition to robbery, he was charged with participating in the 1979 prison escape of his sister, activist Assata Shakur, who had been indicted on murder charges after a gun battle with police. Assata fled to Cuba, where she continues to live in exile to this day.
Shakur went on trial in 1987 and was ultimately sentenced to 60 years in prison for operating a criminal enterprise, among other charges; despite a lack of eyewitnesses or physical evidence linking him to the crime scenes, as well as the judge's declaration that Shakur had been unfairly targeted by the federal government, the jury found Shakur guilty on all counts. He is currently serving his sentence at the ADX Florence Federal Prison in Florence, Colorado, and is scheduled for release in 2016.
Mutulu Shakur is the father of six children. His stepson, famed rap artist Tupac Shakur, was assassinated in 1996. Mutulu has stated his belief that Tupac's murder was related to the late rapper's involvement in the New Afrikan movement, and to the continued surveillance of Mutulu's family by the federal government.