TikTok personality A’Niya Heckard shared a video on the platform that delves into how Martin Luther King, Jr. “really” died—and it’s gaining new virality on the holiday celebrating the slain Civil Rights leader, even though its origins are questionable.
Heckard posted the video to the platform, which shows her reacting to relevations from William F. Pepper, identified as the "King family lawyer" in a phone interview that appears to have been broadcast on controversial Russian media outlet RT News.
The interview segment has Pepper recounting that although King was wounded by a bullet fired by a "would-be" assassin, it was actually a doctor who made sure King wouldn't leave Memphis's St. Joseph's Hospital alive.
"He wasn't killed from the bullet," Pepper asserted, going on to say, "He was killed in the emergency room of St. Joseph's Hospital by the chief of neurosurgery." The doctor reportedly said, as medical personnel worked to save King's life, "Get out of here; let that fucker die."
At this point in the interview, Heckard dramatically covered her mouth with her hand for her TikTok audience.
Pepper went on to explain that the doctor took catheters out of King's body, took the pillow out from under his head, and smothered him with the pillow. He also recounted that the doctor and others in the ER were preparing to spit on King's body.
Pepper published a 768-page book in 2016, The Plot to Kill King, going into detail about the conspiracy.
Pepper did indeed, as RT News relayed, represent the King family in a wrongful death lawsuit that pinned the assassination in part on Loyd Jowers, who allegedly hired the hit on King. Pepper also notably served as the defense attorney for James Earl Ray, who pled guilty to murdering King in 1969. Ray soon recanted his confession, but died in prison in 1998 despite Pepper's efforts to prove his innocence.
According to Stanford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, writing on King's death and the legal proceedings that followed:
After recanting his guilty plea, Ray continued to maintain his innocence, claiming to have been framed by a gun-smuggler he knew as “Raoul.” In 1993 Ray’s lawyer, William F. Pepper, sought to build popular support to reopen Ray’s case by staging a televised mock trial of Ray in which the “jury” found him not guilty.
The Stanford account did note, however, that in 1997, "members of King’s family publicly supported Ray’s appeal for a new trial, and King’s son Dexter Scott King supported Ray’s claims of innocence during a televised prison encounter."
Though Heckard, who has 1.5 million followers on TikTok, dropped the video in September by saying, "Imma leave this here," she did hashtag it #mlkday to allow it to be found on the Monday holiday.