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Retired Carbondale police officer talks about Black Panther attacks

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The shootout between Carbondale police and members of the Black Panthers on November 12, 1970 was just the final note in a long battle. The shootout between Carbondale police and members of the Black Panthers on November 12, 1970 was just the final note in a long battle.
Hill recalls how things changed in Carbondale after the Black Panthers arrived in town. Hill recalls how things changed in Carbondale after the Black Panthers arrived in town.
Larry Hill of Makanda joined the Carbondale Police Department in November of 1967 as a young veteran returning from the battlefields of Vietnam. Larry Hill of Makanda joined the Carbondale Police Department in November of 1967 as a young veteran returning from the battlefields of Vietnam.
CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) -

The shootout between Carbondale police and members of the Black Panthers on November 12, 1970 was just the final note in a long battle.

Larry Hill of Makanda joined the Carbondale Police Department in November of 1967 as a young veteran returning from the battlefields of Vietnam.

Hill recalls how things changed in Carbondale after the Black Panthers arrived in town.

"Late '68 and that's when it started. No one had shot and anybody until they got here," Hill said. "We hadn't shot at anybody and no body had shot at us."

"They didn't make any bones about who they were," he said. "They walked around with their berets, and their black jackets and their guns with their bandoliers. They let people know who they were. They put out a little newspaper. We knew who they were."

Hill said the attacks on his fellow officers and himself carried on for more than a year and half. He remembers one shooting just a month before the shootout on November 12.

"They hit two of our officers and hit one pretty badly. The two Panthers had used a stolen vehicle. And the officers tried to make a traffic stop. When the two guys in the car saw the squad car, they came out shooting a semi-automatic carbine. And just blew the squad car away," Hill said. "I was the first officer on the scene and Larry Davis had been hit in the leg. And he was on the ground calling for help."

"We had quite a few cars in the area there around South Washington," he continued. "But they got away. And then the gun they were using turned up a month later in the Panther shootout. It was matched by ballistics."

In the early morning hours of November 12, just past 5 a.m. that morning the call came out over the police radios about a shooting on the SIU campus. Two of their officers had been shot while checking on a vehicle sitting on the railroad tracks at Grand and Illinois Avenue.

"The two officers were shot immediately as they pulled up behind a vehicle. It was a Volkswagen van as I remember," Hill said. "That started it our officers were notified."

The Carbondale police officers on duty at the time reported that they had seen a black male in a trench coat running north along the railroad tracks.

He was spotted several times within minutes of the shooting on the SIU campus.

"And then Officer Maurizio, that was a new officer was with Sergeant Stone, they were just sitting in an alley along Marion Street watching and the got shot. Bang right through the window of their squad car barely missing Officer Maurizio. And Sergeant Stone was hit in the chin by double-ought buckshot," Hill said.

Moments later other officers in the area reported seeing the suspect running into the two story house at 401 North Washington Street.

"Officers pulled up and there was gunfire, high powered rifles everything came pouring out of that house. They disabled a couple of squad cars and that started it," Hill said.

A gun battle that lasted for more than two hours, and one that ended only after more than 700 rounds had been fired by both sides back and forth at one another.

"They were given several opportunities to quit. And they were told here comes the gas. And they still didn't quit," Hill said. "And they didn't like that either. And then when a couple of them got hit pretty hard, they quit."

Hill was one of the first police officers to enter the rooms on the second floor of the house, where the Panthers had barricaded themselves inside.

"The floors were covered with spent rounds and empties, you could barely walk. And weapons were laying all over the place, some of the weapons still had rounds in the chambers."

"They had drugs, and drug paraphernalia, first aid kits, gas masks and water in GI water cans," Hill said. "They had gotten a hold of four by eight or ten foot sheets of corrugated metal sheets. They had put that underneath the windows. Then they had stacked cinder blocks up against the sheet metal. So they were fairly barricaded in there."

The list of weapons police removed from the house were 7-12 gauge shotguns, a .30-06 Springfield rifle, a .7 mm Savage rifle, an .8 mm Mauser rifle and a .30 caliber semi-automatic carbine.

"Several of them were stolen. But who were we going to charge? There were four people in that room," Hill said.

"At the very least they could've been convicted of some gun crimes, because they didn't have firearms owners identification cards," he said. "They could've been convicted of some mob action, because all of them were in those rooms where the guns were."

The six members of the Black Panthers were all charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. Those charges were later dropped against all of the men.

"A couple of them came into the police department one day. Because I remember how surprised we were to see them. They came in and said they were hoping that we wouldn't be trying to kill them anymore. And our new chief said we weren't trying to kill you. We never tried to kill you until you tried to kill us, late in the game," Hill said. "And they hung around another year or so and then they just disappeared."

No other Carbondale Police Officers, to this day, have ever been shot in the line of duty since that day in 1970.

The Black Panthers were dissolved in 1982.

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