Recently I have seen entries in the FPK website re:  MLK, Palm Lane and other “memorable” streets, and sites in the Firestone area. This reminded me of the Black Panther house in Willowbrook, on Stockwell Ave. Did you ever wonder if this house was actually well fortified as rumored, or was it just another Willowbook “garden home” with an over exaggerated reputation?  Remember, the front door was always open, although the front screen door was kept closed. Also the inside lights were rarely turned on at night.  Supposedly a shotgun was pointed at the front door, and rigged to go off, shooting the first person (deputy) that attempted to enter, via that door.


I don’t know if the shotgun story was true or not, but I definitely have no reason to disbelieve the story after having personally entered, and witnessed the layout of the house myself. This was probably around the 1972 – 1973 time frames. Driving down Stockwell Ave., where the Panthers hung out, was a daily, and nightly, routine for the Willowbrook crews. We also made our daily trips by the Panther’s house. As we drove by one morning, we saw a Willowbrook field crew parked in the driveway of the location. This was highly unusual. Two deputies were looking in the open side door of the house. The Panthers had moved overnight! Obviously in a hurry, as they left a lot of their propaganda material thrown all over the place. Before long a few more crews arrived and we started looking inside the interior of the house. This is what, and how I remember it looking. If any of you deputies reading this were one of those first crews on the scene please correct me, or add to it with your own recollection.


As you first entered the side door, there was a 4’-5’ deep trench, approx. 2’ wide dug out.  This trench continued under the house floor flooring. Directly alongside the foundation footing. The trench allowed the Panthers to utilize the concrete breath holes in the foundation footing as gun ports. The attic had 4’x 8’, and 2’x 8’ sheets of steel lined along the inside outer walls for protection. The sheets of steel also had openings in them so they could be used for gun ports. The interior walls of the home also had the same 4’x 8’ sheets spaced about in strategic locations. In addition, the trench connected to a tunnel that led North away from the location. I did not go into this tunnel, but I was told later that it led to a house, just North and East of the location. The next street over.


I would have liked to investigate the layout and tunnel further, but the house was blocked off for intelligence. I know they took pictures. It would be great if those pictures were still around to add to our FPK site.


We are also very fortunate that we (FPK Crews) never engaged the Panthers in a shooting at that location. With their fortification, and potential escape route, they realistically could have inflicted some serious injuries to us.