NEW YORK — In parole hearing documents obtained by PIX11 News, the last member of the Black Panther Party who was still in prison for the 1971 assassination of two NYPD officers said he was traumatized as an 8-year-old by the police murder of his beloved uncle in California.
“I was a troubled child,” Anthony Bottom, now now 69, told parole commissioners during a video conference hearing on Sept. 11 from a room at Sullivan Correctional Facility.
“What I can recollect is that, at the age of 8, one of my favorite uncles was murdered by police. Shortly after, my great-grandmother — his mother — died as a result of what we felt was a broken heart,” he said.
Bottom’s back story, along with his acceptance of responsibility for the 1971 murders of patrolmen Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini in Harlem, was contained in a 100-page transcript of the September parole hearing.
Bottom has been going by the name Jalil Abdul Mutaqim since converting to the Muslim faith in 1973.
PIX11 obtained the documents Friday, after a request we made under the Freedom of Information Law.
We were first to report that Bottom had been approved for parole on Sept. 22.
He was quietly released from prison October 7th, after 49 years behind bars, and is now believed to be living in a suburb of Rochester.
Early in the September hearing, when one commissioner asked Bottom how old he was when the police assassinations were committed, he replied, “Nineteen. Nineteen years of age, and stupid. Nineteen and dumb.”
Bottom had been rejected for parole thirteen times in the past, and told the commissioners this time that he’d been getting therapy in recent years, “dealing with the fact that I killed two people.”
“And having to accept that, killing those two police officers, was something I had blocked over the years, trying to rationalize it and try and justify it in some kind of way.”
Bottom and two other BLA members had come to New York from California specifically to assassinate police officers.
One of the officer’s widows, Diane Piagentini, had been especially vocal about keeping Bottom in prison.
She said Bottom ruthlessly executed her husband, Officer Waverly Jones, who was Black, first.
“He shot him in the head and up and down the spine,” Piagentini recalled from trial testimony.
She said her husband begged for his life when one of the two gunmen grabbed Piagentini’s police weapon.
“He [Bottom] used Joe’s gun to complete the killing, because they were running out of bullets,” the widow said.
Anthony Bottom denied this at his fourteenth parole hearing.
But he acknowledged what he did was “criminal” — born out of a belief he was part of a revolution.
“It was screwed-up thinking at that time,” Bottom told the commissioners. “We thought we were defending the Black community. We thought at some point in time the Black community would rally to our cause.”
Bottom said he looked up to the other shooter, Herman Bell, who was several years older.
“I wanted to belong. I was the youngest kid in the group and in order to really be involved in the group, be part of the group, you had to act like you were part of the group. So that was more powerful than my conscience saying this is wrong. I’ve had to come to terms with that. It’s been part of my process of….atonement, coming to recognize the failing of that 19-year-old kid.”
Bell was paroled in 2018.
In September’s hearing, Bottom said he didn’t know the two police victims were lured to a Harlem housing project on May 21, 1971 by a phony 911 call.
Bottom said he’d flown to New York for a meeting with other members of the Black Panther Party.
A week before the shooting, he said they had a vague plan to target uniformed police officers, after they heard a Harlem teen was killed by cops in one of the public housing projects.
Bottom said he and his accomplice watched for Jones and Piagentini to return to a police car and then ambushed them.
Bottom told the commissioners he didn’t think Piagentini’s widow would be interested in an apology from him and he understood that.
“It would be like salt in the wound,” he said.
Bottom said he had actually mailed the NYPD murder weapon to California in 1971 and returned to his home state before getting arrested there on Aug. 28, 1971 of that year with a passenger in his car.
The passenger pointed a machine gun at officers, but the weapon jammed.
Bottom did five years in a California prison before being extradited to New York for the NYPD murders.
When Bottom was asked how he felt about law enforcement today, he responded, “I believe law enforcement has a very important role to play in society at large. I think they have a duty as civilians who take this oath to serve and protect. I did not understand that as a 19-year-old.”
When one commissioner asked Bottom if he knew, during this time of social unrest, of any organization operating presently with similar positions to the Black Panther Party, he responded, “Not to my knowledge, there’s no militant organization like Black Panther Party or an equivalent thereof in the United States today.”
Before being released earlier this month, Bottom explained how he’d spend his time as a free man.
“I’m going to cherish whatever time I have left with my family,” telling commissioners his mother is 85 years old, and his daughter was “in the womb when I came to prison.”
Bottom recalled that not long after his uncle’s death, when he was 8, his own parents split up, and he wasn’t permitted to live with his father.
He said that was a huge blow.
Although he was a good student at Catholic school, Bottom said his feelings of abandonment — coupled with some incidents of racism while riding a bus — set him on a course toward joining the Black Panther Party in California.
After a teenaged burglary arrest and time at a youth ranch, Bottom said he “gravitated toward the militant side of the party,” which was originally known as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. His mother and stepfather had moved to Utah, and his feelings of abandonment intensified.
He noted his mother had once joined the NAACP — but he chose a different path.
“I think every generation kind of rejects the old generation, and they try to find another way of doing things,” Bottom said. “The nonviolent practice of Martin Luther King and the NAACP and Roy Wilkins — people of that generation did not sit well with my generation.”
During his decades behind bars, Bottom earned a Master’s degree and two commendations for preventing prison riots.
In granting Bottom’s parole, the commissioners wrote:
“The panel considered the significant devastation you caused the victims’ families and colleagues. Your discretionary release is not granted merely as a reward for good conduct or efficient performance of duties while confined, but after determining that you would live and remain at liberty without violating the law, and that your release would not be incompatible with the welfare and safety of society. It is the decision of this Panel that you have demonstrated that you possess the necessary tools and principles to live a law-abiding life and to live peacefully within society.”