A Black Panther who spent the past 30 years behind bars for his role in the deadly Brinks armored car robbery and for trying to kill six police officers during a Queens shootout was paroled Tuesday from an upstate New York prison, DNAinfo reports.
The man, Sekou Odinga, 70, also known as Nathaniel Burns, a leading member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army during the late 1960s, left Clinton Correction Facility, a maximum security prison, and was welcomed by family and friends at the National Black Theater, the report says.
He was arrested on charges of attempted murder in 1981 after a shootout with six officers in Queens that investigators believe was related to the Brinks robbery in which two officers and a security guard were killed in Nanuet, N.Y., the report says.
He was also accused of liberating fellow BLA member Assata Shakur, who was convicted of killing a New Jersey State Trooper, from a New Jersey prison. He was convicted of both crimes in 1984. Shakur, who lives in Cuba and is on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, is a step-aunt and godmother to rapper Tupac Shakur.
For friends who think of Odinga as a freedom fighter, Tuesday was a moment of celebration.
“It’s an emotional day for us,” said Yaseem Sutton, 64, a Black Panther who frequently visited Odinga in prison. “I think you can compare it to Nelson Mandela being released.”
But for law enforcement officials, Odinga’s release was a bitter pill to swallow.
“Society says he has paid his dues, but this reminds me of letting al-Qaida members out of jail and they immediately join ISIS,” said Kenneth Maxwell, former FBI case agent on the Brinks robbery case.
Some of supporters saw Odinga’s release as an important time for reflection, especially after Monday’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo., Police Officer Darren Wilson’s case, which ignited protests across the country over police violence in the Black community.
“It’s kind of ironic that after a night of rebellion we have one of our soldiers coming home,” Sutton said, according to DNAinfo.