Murdered cop's son opposes pardon for KC Black Panthers founder

Panther 1969 newspaper article still bothers son

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The son of Kansas City Police Officer John Dacy, who was shot and killed in 1969, opposes a presidential pardon for Kansas City Black Panther founder Pete O'Neal.

Chris Dacy's opposition comes as there's a renewed push to get that pardon for O'Neal as President Obama's term in office is winding down.

In 1969, Chris Dacy was 5 years old when he answered a life changing phone call.

Officer John Dacy

 

He was told his father, while off duty, was shot and killed trying to stop a robbery.

The Black Panther's published an article about the event with the headline "Off-duty pig's last act of terror" with a picture of the fatally wounded Dacy. Dacy was also a Marine Corps veteran.

The first sentence of that article reads, "The people of Kansas City are in an ecstatic state today following the execution of a pig".

In a statement Chris Dacy re-released from 1999 when a similar push for O'Neal didn't result in a pardon, Dacy writes, the result of his father's death was "three fatherless children and a young widow."

Dacy also writes in the statement, "I have little sympathy for Pete O'Neal.  The fact is he's a fugitive."

O'Neal has been living in exile in Tanzania for more than 40 years after a federal gun law conviction in 1970.

In his 2004 documentary A Panther in Africa, Aaron Matthews tells his story.

Fifty years ago, the Panthers were formed in California as a militia group to protect African-Americans from police. In 1967, they gained notoriety when - armed and dressed in their characteristic black berets - they marched into the California state capital.

"It started out as self-defense," said Charlotte O'Neal, Pete O'Neal's wife. "But then we saw all the things that needed to be addressed."

Shortly after Pete O'Neal formed the Kansas City Panthers, his future wife Charlotte O'Neal joined as an 18-year-old.

"After I met him, after I saw the commitment that he had to uplift the community, it was over for me," said Charlotte O'Neal. "That's what I wanted to do in my life."

That service included feeding hundreds of children breakfast each morning. Kansas City's St. Mark's Church, where Charlotte O'Neal spoke to 41 Action News, was one of the locations. Other Panther public service efforts included a free health clinic, sickle cell anemia testing, political education classes and literacy classes. 

In 1969, police arrested Pete O'Neal based on a new law for bringing a shotgun from Kansas City, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri. Even though he wasn't found with the weapon, a picture of Pete O'Neal with the shotgun in Missouri helped convict him.

A judge sentenced him to four years in federal prison.

"The only reason he was charged with that was because he was the leader of the Black Panther Party," Charlotte O'Neal said.

Concerned he might be killed in custody after fellow Panther Fred Hampton was killed in Chicago, instead of appealing his case, Pete O'Neal and his young wife fled the country.

They ultimately wound up in Tanzania where they've lived since 1972.

"It's no joke being in exile, it isn't," Charlotte O'Neal said.

"I see the way people revere him in Africa," said former Kansas City Star reporter Steve Penn. "He's just a great, great, great person."

In his 2012 book, Case for a Pardon, Penn says Pete O'Neal should be judged by his whole life, including decades of public service in Africa providing food, water, shelter, education and transportation to locals and visiting Americans.

Pete O'Neal has also adopted 23 Tanzanian children.

"I knew that people would be looking at Pete's case and I knew that in order to actually get someone to give him a pardon, you would need to tell the whole story, the good, the bad and the ugly," Penn said.

Penn does not shy away from the bad or the ugly in his book. He discusses a 1969 riot at Kansas City's Linwood Methodist Church the Panthers started after their demands of the all-white church to serve blacks in the urban core where the church was located were unmet.

Penn also writes about what he calls the hateful article about Officer Dacy's fatal shooting. Pete O'Neal has since apologized for the article.

But in his statement, Chris Dacy writes, "As a leader of the militant Black Panther Party, Mr. O'Neal openly promoted racial violence, going against the beliefs and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  His violence-promoting rhetoric had the potential of harming many innocent people and their families."

Penn also writes about Pete O'Neal's national interview on ABC News discussing an investigation of the Panthers chaired by Missouri Rep. Richard Ichord.

"I would like very much to shoot my way into the House of Representatives and take the racist, lying Ichord's head," Pete O'Neal told the interviewer in January 1970.

"If that's how I felt then, it's not a reflection of how I feel now," Pete O'Neal said in 2004 in A Panther in Africa.

But Chris Dacy argues in his statement, "The crime for which Mr. O'Neal was convicted may seem somewhat minor.  However, given the climate of our country in the late 1960's and the circumstances surrounding Mr. O'Neal at the time, the offense was serious."

Chris Dacy with his sisters Melaney and Melissa just before their dad’s death in 1969.

 

Dacy also writes, "The justice system must be allowed to prevail in this case.  The conviction should stand.  If Mr. O'Neal truly wishes to return to Kansas City, then he should take his punishment as a man."

"I don't want anybody to believe that I think Pete was some kind of saint," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II. "Pete made mistakes, most of them were big verbal mistakes," he said.

Cleaver, who is a third cousin to Pete O'Neal, has been trying to get him a pardon for 25 years dating back to Cleaver's days as Kansas City mayor. He's now petitioning the outgoing Obama administration.

"This is a non-violent man at age 75, who's done remarkable things, even in Tanzania, for Americans," said Cleaver. "This is it, President Obama is the last chance," he said.

"I would love for it to happen," said Charlotte O'Neal. "I represent him, but it would be better if he could come and represent himself."

Pete O'Neal has made it clear his life is now in Tanzania. But he'd like to come and visit family, including his 95-year-old mother, Florene, who's now in a Kansas City nursing home. He'd also like to see children from his first marriage he hasn't seen in more than 40 years.

There's no timetable or guarantee the Obama administration will take up his case.

------

 

Andy Alcock can be reached at anderson.alcock@kshb.com.

Follow him on Twitter

Connect on Facebook

 
Print this article Back to Top