[Pnews] The day the story changed about the Black Panthers and an Omaha policeman’s murder

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 28 18:47:21 EDT 2018


  The day the story changed about the Black Panthers and an Omaha
  policeman’s murder

September 28, 2018 
- Michael Richardson

The Omaha Municipal Court preliminary hearing for Ed Poindexter and 
David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) was called to order on 
September 28, 1970. Both defendants asked their murder cases be severed 
and tried separately but were denied. County Attorney Donald Knowles and 
Arthur O’Leary represented the prosecution, Public Defender A.Q. Wolf 
and Thomas Kenney represented Poindexter, with David Herzog representing 

The two men were leaders of Omaha’s affiliate chapter of the Black 
Panther Party called the National Committee to Combat Fascism. The pair 
were charged with the bombing murder of Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard, 
Sr. on August 11, 1970 
Peak confessed to planting the bomb and after six versions ended up 
implicating the Black Panther pair during his preliminary hearing 
testimony, however only after contradicting himself.

Thomas Kenney later described the hearing held at Omaha City Hall. “It 
was a few blocks from the Courthouse, but the preliminary hearing was a 
real circus. There was a mob of people there, and screaming and 
hollering. There were mobs of people, news media, pro-police factions, 
you know, a number of black people.”

David Herzog began by immediately objecting to any testimony by Peak 
because he was a co-defendant, unreliable, and a minor. The judge 
overruled the objection stating he did not know anything about Peak.

Arthur O’Leary asked Peak about seeing Ed Poindexter a week before the 
murder. Peak couldn’t remember. “I don’t think I remember seeing him.”

Peak also couldn’t remember seeing Poindexter at the American Legion on 
the Friday before the bombing as he earlier claimed. Peak couldn’t 
remember giving a deposition to O’Leary a month earlier where he 
purportedly did remember. Nor did Peak remember giving O’Leary a 
statement during an interrogation a week earlier.

County Attorney Donald Knowles had enough and stopped the questioning. 
“I note, Your Honor, from looking around the courtroom, that this 
witness’ lawyer is not here. I would like your permission for a 
continuance to the time that we can get his lawyer here. I think he 
should be here with him.”

When the preliminary hearing resumed in the afternoon, Knowles made a 
statement, apparently because Peak was still not ready to cooperate with 
the prosecution. “I understand that the Court’s ruling was that we were 
allowed to withdraw the witness that was on the stand this morning due 
to the fact that he had taken us by surprise and we are allowed to 
proceed now with other witnesses.”

Finally, in mid-afternoon, Duane Peak returned to the witness stand, 
wearing sun glasses. The /Omaha World-Herald /reported that Peak’s hands 
trembled and his answers were whispers.

Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers interviewed Peak years later about 
the case and that day in court. Peak described removing his sunglasses 
upon instruction from the judge at the preliminary hearing. “The stress 
and the pain and all that I went through, it showed in my face.”

“If you had known, you could have felt the inside of my heart, you know, 
it just like someone took a big bass drum and took it inside me and just 
started beating away. You know, I could feel like…uhh…as I sat on the 
witness stand, my heartbeat. I felt that everyone could see my entire 
body pulsating, you know. The way my heart was beating and I was under a 
lot of hurt and I was under a lot of stress. I had a big concern for my 
family. I didn’t want to see my family suffer for anything they had 
nothing to do with, and that was very important as well.”

Peak admitted conferring with three people during the morning recess; 
his lawyer, his brother Donald, and his grandfather, Foster Goodlett. 
Objections were made against any further testimony by Peak because of 
the visits. The judge allowed Peak to testify. “The young man is 
represented by competent counsel and I don’t know what he advised him 
but he has been represented and he has also conferred with his 
grandfather, who is a minister and whom I have known for a long time and 
I don’t know what advice he gave him but your motion is overruled and we 
will see what the defendant testifies to.”

Unknown to the defendants or their attorneys, Donald Peak was a paid FBI 
informant who reported to Special Agent in Charge Paul Young and later 
to prosecutor O’Leary. Poindexter and Rice were targets of the 
clandestine COINTELPRO 
counterintelligence operation and the subject of FBI Director J. Edgar 
Hoover’s personal attention. Donald Peak’s visit with his brother during 
the recess carried with it COINTELPRO taint.

Peak’s testimony changed during the recess. Now Peak remembered a 
conversation outside NCCF headquarters with Ed Poindexter about a bomb. 
“He called me outside and said he wanted to show me how to make a bomb.”

Peak said Poindexter told him to meet that evening at Frank Peak’s 
house. “He met me there with Rollie House.”

Duane claimed that from Frank’s home he went with House and Poindexter 
to Mondo’s residence where Poindexter got out of the vehicle. “We went 
up to Rollie House’s house. Rollie brought a suitcase out from the house.”

Peak said House returned him to Mondo’s home 
where Peak claimed that Poindexter opened the suitcase to reveal 
dynamite. “Poindexter took the dynamite out of the suitcase and put it 
in a box.”

Peak’s story about construction of the bomb changed from his earlier 
versions. Peak said he and Mondo assisted Poindexter. Peak also said 
that Poindexter wanted to plant the bomb that night but couldn’t get a 
ride. According to Peak, at an encounter with Poindexter about 11:00 
p.m. on Friday night at the American Legion Club, Peak was instructed to 
deliver the bomb to a vacant house on Ohio Street.

Peak gave yet a different version of the bomb construction to Ernie 
Chambers. “That thing was made in David’s basement. It was his 
basement.” Peak denied witnessing the construction of the bomb. None of 
Peak’s earlier versions of the crime supported his new claim to Chambers 
that the bomb was assembled outside his view in Mondo’s basement. At 
trial, the bomb was allegedly assembled by Poindexter in the kitchen 
while Peak watched on.

Peak said he retrieved the suitcase and took it to Olivia Norris’ house 
where he told his brother Donald to stay away from the suitcase. From 
there Peak took the suitcase to sister Delia’s apartment with sister 
Theresa giving him a ride.

Under cross-examination by Thomas Kenney, Peak admitted telling the 
police a different story when first questioned. Peak said he was 
threatened with the electric chair during his first interrogation.

David Herzog asked Peak about his arrest. Peak said he was taken to the 
police station where he met with police officers and one other person. 
“There was one from the FBI.”

“The FBI arrested me,” testified Peak.

Peak said police twice talked to him about being executed in the 
electric chair. “They said I was sitting in the electric chair so I had 
better tell the truth.”

“I didn’t have a chance.”

Peak admitted he had been coached about his confession by Arthur O’Leary 
in preparation for the hearing. Peak said his attorney was not present 
for the session with O’Leary. Herzog asked Peak to remove his 
sunglasses. Ernie Chambers was there and described the scene in an 
interview. “When he came back in the afternoon, his face was swollen 
around his eyes, he had glasses on….When Duane took his glasses off his 
eyes were red, you could see he had been crying, and there was an 
audible gasp in the courtroom.”

“His answers were scarcely audible. A young man who knew nothing about 
anything in the morning and suddenly gave the answers that the police, 
the prosecutors needed to implicate David and Ed.”

Kenney asked for a dismissal of the charges. “Your Honor, the case that 
the State has presented thus far was the testimony of a 16-year-old boy 
who admittedly was subjected to extensive psychological coercion on the 
part of the Omaha Police Department and therefore is unreliable.”

Herzog also sought a dismissal. “The witness has changed sides; has 
altered his story; has forgotten, claims to have forgotten some facts, 
and then comes back this afternoon and offers that testimony at the 
State’s own request and that witness has now impeached himself.”

“The confession itself or the statement here is of an unreliable nature; 
obviously coerced; obviously given under fear by the statement of the 
witness himself. He indicates he would give the police officer or police 
officers anything they wanted.”

The case was continued to trial where in April 1971 the FBI obtained the 
conviction they sought. Peak stuck to his story, got his deal and never 
spent a day in prison. Raleigh House was never charged for allegedly 
supplying the suitcase and dynamite for the bomb. Rice was convicted and 
died at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016. Poindexter 
remains behind bars at the maximum-security prison where he continues to 
proclaim his innocence.

The day after the preliminary hearing Peak wrote to Olivia Norris, a 
family friend, from his jail cell that he betrayed “two bloods” and 
deserved a life sentence or execution. The letter, censored by the jail 
staff, was shown to prosecutors but kept from the defense.

/This article is excerpted from the book /FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, 
COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story 
/The book is available in ebook by Kindle 
or print from Amazon 
The book is available for local readers at the Omaha Public Library. 
Portions of the book are also online for free at NorthOmahaHistory.com 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20180928/faf9453c/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list