By Parker Cramer | LSU Student
The morning of July 18, 1973, was supposed to be a normal day for Milton Scott. The former LSU Athletic Department employee said good-bye to his pregnant wife and daughter as he left to distribute newspapers in the early morning hours.
A brass plaque centered on the front door of his Alaska St., Baton Rouge, duplex read "Milton X." Scott was a 21-year-old Black Muslim.
What the Baton Rouge native did not know was he was under surveillance by an FBI stakeout team.
Scott returned home later in morning. Shortly thereafter FBI Special Agents Delbert Hahn and Bill Woods knocked on his door and told him he was under arrest for desertion from the U.S. Army.
Scott shut the door in the agents' faces, only to have it kicked in a few seconds later. The two agents -- each exceeding six feet and weighing more than 200 pounds, according to witnesses -- dragged an unarmed, barefoot 5-foot-5, 140-pound Scott out of his home onto the driveway.
Scott yelled at the agents that they had the wrong man. The agents arrest warrant accused him of deserting at Ft. Ord, California. In fact, Scott, because he was a Black Muslim, was a conscientious objector and would not have enlisted. Records later showed he had not enlisted.
But the agents believed otherwise. "Army records show ‘a M.L. Scott' was declared AWOL from Ft. Ord Oct. 24, 1972, and declared a deserter on Nov. 22, 1972," reported the July 20, 1973 edition of The Morning Advocate.
A scuffle ensued. Scott was hit in the head with blackjacks and then shot twice by Agent Hahn. In a matter of minutes, Scott bled to death in front of his family and neighbors. His widow claims one of the shots came while Scott was on the ground and incapacitated.
The agents threatened to do the same to Scott's wife and two-year-old daughter if they did not keep back, according to Beverly (Scott) Shabazz.
His widow and two-year-old daughter witnessed the shooting, as did some unidentified neighbors. They believe the FBI used excessive force.
The Advocate also reported that Scott was employed by LSU "fulltime and continuously" from Sept. 5, 1972 until Nov. 22, 1972, making it impossible for Scott to have deserted from California on Oct. 24, 1972.
It was a case of stolen – then mistaken – identity.
Scott's family believes his wallet was stolen around 1970 during a hitch-hiking trip to see his brother in Portland, Ore. The man enlisted in the Army under Scott's name, according to Shabazz, and he apparently deserted under the stolen Milton Scott name. At the time of Scott's shooting, some three years later, the man was serving time in California's San Quentin Prison for an unrelated fraud charge, she said.
There are several events which place Scott in Baton Rouge during the period of 1972-1973, including his work, change of residence and application for a marriage license.
Prior to Scott's death, he sold Muhammad Speaks newspapers, a publication for the Nation of Islam community. Scott had informed his wife he was being watched by "two white guys" as he went from corner to corner each day. Shabazz said Scott reported several incidents when he was being watched or followed.
These men never spoke to Scott, only followed him for two weeks. He didn't know they were FBI agents. "Whatever corner I go to, I look and they're there," his wife recalled him saying. "But they're just staring. They don't bother me."
Scott believed he was being watched or even targeted by the government because of his religious affiliation. Black Muslims were accused of inciting deadly riots in Baton Rouge months earlier in which seven persons were killed in a gun battle with police. WBRZ anchor/reporter Robert Johnson was injured so badly that he spent the remaining years of his life in a nursing home. He died in 2011.
The Baton Rouge riots were protests organized by members of the African-American community, including Black Muslims organizers, many from Chicago.
The political climate in Baton Rouge in 1973 was not hospitable to blacks, most especially Black Muslims.
There has been no public inquiry into the shooting and no further acknowledgement of the matter by any government agency.
Shabazz says she hired a total of five lawyers to look into her husband's death, three of whom died in questionable accidents while investigating the case. "It was very strange how every lawyer I obtained, something happened to them."
Scott's family is looking for closure in the matter and believe their husband and father never received the justice he deserved.
"We have always heard that justice delayed is justice denied," said Maryam Bennett, Scott's second daughter, who continues to investigate the incident.. "It has been 40 years, but the fact that we are making progress in Milton's death is giving us new hope."