Little Known Black History Fact: Russell 'Maroon' Shoatz
by Erica L Taylor
January 6th, 2014
Russell “Maroon” Shoatz is a former Black Panther Party (BPP) member now serving two life sentences. Shoatz helped to found a revolutionist organization called the Black Unity Council in 1969. From August 1970 to January 1972, Shoatz was an active underground member of the Black Liberation Army, born from the BPP.
Then in 1970, Shoatz was convicted of murdering a police officer in Pennsylvania. He was part of an attack on a Philadelphia police station, leaving one officer dead. Seven years later, Shoatz escaped from a maximum security prison.
He had stolen a gun from a prison guard, Dale Rhone, later abducting him and his 5-year-old son. Rhone’s family was found physically unharmed later, tied to a tree. It was reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette later that Shoatz had built a wooden barrier in the street, to hide himself from unsuspecting drivers, one of which he would take hostage. He “lived on the land” for 27 days, finding food wherever he could. On October 11th, Shoatz took 27-year-old Calvin Reddings hostage, forcing him to drive him to a new location.
Shoatz was eventually located by his arresting officer, State Trooper Lawrence Szabo. The officer arrested Shoatz at gunpoint while standing on the hood of Redding’s car.
Shoatz attempted another escape from a Fairview prison after another priosoner obtained a machine gun and revolver for him. His attempt was unsuccessful and he was once again captured.
In 2005, Shoatz was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He is now serving two consecutive life sentences and has been held in solitary confinement since 1991. The lights in his cell never turn off. The prisoner has appealed his prison dwellings, the latest in May 2013. Rapper MI from the group Dead Prez has held a benefit in his honor to help Shoatz’ defense.
In April 2013, Russell Shoatz released “Maroon the Implacable: The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz” with a foreword by Chuck D.