[Ppnews] 15 year-old "turned" in COINTELPRO case to escape execution in Nebraska

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 17 11:08:21 EDT 2008

Original Content at 

March 16, 2008

15 year-old killer "turned" Black Panthers in COINTELPRO case to 
escape threatened execution in Nebraska murder trial

By Michael Richardson

Duane Peak, a 15 year-old dropout with reported substance abuse 
problems, took out his angst against the world on August 17, 1970, 
when he killed an Omaha, Nebraska police officer, Larry Minard, the 
father of five young children.  Police had been lured to a 
booby-trapped vacant house with a false report of a woman 
screaming.  Instead of a rape victim, the eight responding patrolmen 
found only a suitcase.  Officer Minard was killed instantly when the 
dynamite-rigged suitcase blew up in his face.  Seven other officers 
were injured.

Two years earlier, J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the Federal 
Bureau of Investigation had ordered FBI field offices to "disrupt" 
the Black Panthers, a group Hoover had declared the most dangerous in 
America.  Code-named COINTELPRO, the secret operation against the 
Black Panthers used illegal tactics and engaged in a wide range of 
misconduct against numerous individuals around the nation.  When 
reports came in about the lethal trap that took Minard's life the 
Omaha district office sprang into action and assisted the Omaha 
Police throughout the investigation.

After an intensive police sweep of Omaha's Near-Northside and the 
arrest of over a dozen individuals, the investigation focused on Peak 
who had been seen by witnesses with a suitcase around the time of the 
bombing.  While under interrogation Peak gave a half-dozen different 
versions of the crime but failed to name the two individuals police 
wanted most.  Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) 
were leaders of Omaha's Black Panther chapter, the National Committee 
to Combat Fascism, and had been COINTELPRO targets for two years.

Finally, during his last interrogation, Peak implicated Poindexter 
and Langa as his accomplices.  That version of the crime was to be 
the script for Peak's preliminary hearing except that the murderous 
state's witness didn't stick to his story.  When Peak failed to name 
the two Panther leaders in his morning testimony the prosecution 
called for a recess.  When Peak returned to the stand he was wearing 
sunglasses and was "shaking and nervous."

When defense counsel David Herzog had Peak remove his sunglasses his 
eyes were red and puffy.  The courtroom testimony follows:

Defense Attorney:  What happened to make you shake and bring your 
nervous condition about now?

Duane Peak:  I don't know.

Defense Attorney:  You had a conversation between the time you were 
placed on the witness stand this morning and the present time now, 
isn't that correct?

Duane Peak:  Yes.

Defense Attorney:  And there were the same things that the police 
officers told you about what would happen to you, like sitting in the 
electric chair, isn't that correct?

Duane Peak:  I didn't have a chance.

Defense Attorney:  You didn't have a chance did you?

Duane Peak:  No.

Defense Attorney:  You are doing what they want you to do, aren't you.

Duane Peak:  Yes.

After implicating Poindexter and Langa, in the solitude of his jail 
cell, the young killer would express remorse in a letter, known to 
the prosecution but withheld from the defense.

"The Lord knows I tried but something happened which forced me to 
realize that I had no alternative but to say what I said.  No matter 
what anyone says from now on I refuse to call myself a man, or 
anything close to a man because I did what I did.  Even though there 
was no other way, because they already had enough evidence to convict 
those other two bloods."

Peak continued his lament trying to explain his testimony.

"I not only turned against those two bloods, but I turned against 
myself and my own people.  I could have denied everything and all 
three of us would have gone up to the chair.  And then again if I 
denied everything one of those other bloods would have gave them a 
story and sent me and the other dude up."

Peak ended up getting his deal and was sentenced as a juvenile 
delinquent serving just 33 months before his release.

Two Omaha detectives, Jack Swanson and Robert Pheffer, gave 
conflicting testimony both claiming to have been the one who 
discovered dynamite at Langa's house.  Pheffer would later contradict 
his own trial testimony and embellish his tale with finding wired 
suitcases that were never listed on any police inventory sheets and 
not seen by anyone else.

Assistant Chief of Police Glenn Gates later would ask the Special 
Agent-in-Charge of the Omaha FBI office to forget about a tape 
recording of the emergency call that led Minard to his death.  Gates 
had sent a tape into FBI headquarters for analysis but lost interest 
when it was determined the tape would be "prejudicial" to the 
prosecution because the voice on the tape did not match Peak, leaving 
an unidentified accomplice on the loose.

The police case against the two Panther leaders would unravel if a 
search for all involved was conducted.  The request by Gates to 
ignore the deadly tape recording was sent directly to J. Edgar Hoover 
who personally monitored developments in the COINTELPRO operation.

The supplier of the dynamite that killed Larry Minard was a suspected 
police informant, Raleigh House, who only spent one night in jail for 
the crime and was never formally charged or brought to trial.

Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were convicted of first degree 
murder and sentenced to life imprisonment and are presently 
incarcerated in the maximum-security Nebraska State 
Penitentiary.  Both men deny any involvement in the death of Minard.

A request for a new trial by Poindexter is pending before the 
Nebraska Supreme Court.  No date has been set for a decision.

Permission granted to reprint.

Authors Bio: Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in 
Boston. Richardson writes about politics, election law, human 
nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political 
consultant on ballot access.

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