[Ppnews] J. Edgar Hoover and the Framing of the Omaha Two
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 29 10:19:21 EST 2011
J. Edgar Hoover and the Framing of the Omaha Two
Dec. 28, 2011
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, the leaders of
the Omaha chapter of the Black Panther Party in
the early 1970s, were framed for the murder of
Omaha Police Officer Larry Minard as part of J.
Edgar Hoovers clandestine, illegal
counterintelligence operation known as COINTELPRO
that targeted Black Panther Party leaders all
over the United States. Although neither man had
any connection to the murder of the young
officer, both remain imprisoned for life.
The murder of Omaha, Nebraska policeman Larry
Minard over 40 years ago and the
CONINTELPRO-inspired investigation that followed
landed two Black Panther leaders Ed Poindexter
and Mondo we Langa in prison for life . The
scapegoats came to be known as the Omaha
Two. In order to pin the police officers
murder on the two leaders of Omahas Black
Panther Party, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover gave
a secret order to withhold a crime laboratory
report on the identity of the anonymous caller
that lured the 29-year-old policeman to his death.
Hoover directed the Federal Bureau of
Investigation from 1924 to his death in 1972. He
also directed a secret, illegal,
counterintelligence operation within the FBI from
1956 to 1971, code named COINTELPRO that targeted
radical groups such as the Panthers, Students for
a Democratic Society, and the American Indian
Movement. COINTELPROs stated aim was to
destabilize these groups by either murdering
their leaders or getting them convicted of
felonies. (CONINTELPRO is an acronym for Counterintelligence Program.)
Attorney Paul Wolf, author of the report
COINTELPRO: The Untold American Story, has
written, At its most extreme dimension,
political dissidents have been eliminated
outright or sent to prison for the rest of their
lives. Wolf explained one FBI tactic involved
the arrest and prosecution of targeted individuals for spurious reasons.
The FBI made use of informants, often quite
violent and emotionally disturbed individuals, to
present false testimony to the courts, to frame
COINTELPRO targets for crimes they knew they did
not commit. In some cases the charges were quite
serious, including murder, says Wolf.
The roots of COINTELPRO go deep as J. Edgar
Hoover established his career with the infamous
Palmer raids and cases against anarchist Emma
Goldman and Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey.
In 1926, Hoover wrote to Special Agent John Dowd
in the Boston FBI office: I would like to be
able to find some theory of law and some
statement of facts to fit it that would enable
the federal authorities to deal vigorously with
the ultra-radical elements that are engaged in
propaganda and acts inimical to the institutions of our country.
Hoover finally created his own theory of law and
thousands of groups and individuals were targets
of COINTELPRO over the years as Hoover expanded
the clandestine operation to keep pace with
tumultuous events as the civil rights and
anti-war movements grew in the mid-1960s.
FBI headquarters set policy, assessed progress,
charted new directions, demanded increased
production, and carefully monitored and
controlled day-to-day operations. This
arrangement required that national COINTELPRO
supervisors and local FBI field offices
communicate back and forth, at great lengths,
concerning every operation, explains attorney
Brian Glick, author of the book War at Home.
So-called Black Nationalist Hate Groups were
added to COINTELPRO assignments on August 25,
1967 with the mandate from Hoover, to expose,
disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise
neutralize specified organizations and 1,246 FBI
agents were given racial intelligence assignments.
By 1968, Hoover had 1,678 agents assigned to
COINTELPRO around the country and had established
a Rabble Rouser index of domestic political
activists. The Black Nationalist COINTELPRO had
been expanded from 23 to 41 FBI field offices on
March 4, 1968, including Omaha, Nebraska.
On August 5, 1968, J. Edgar Hoover ordered
COINTELPRO agents to conduct media campaigns
against the Black Panthers. He directed his
agents to encourage reporters to investigate the
group and furnish FBI background data to
interested reporters. Hoovers memo specifically
listed Omaha as one of the cities where he
expected a counterintelligence operation using the local news media.
On September 8, 1968, Hoover told The New York
Times the Black Panthers were the greatest
threat to the internal security of the country.
Two weeks later, on September 27, George Moore,
head of Racial Intelligence, sent William
Sullivan, head of Domestic Intelligence and third
in command of the FBI, a COINTELPRO memorandum
advocating an accelerated counterintelligence
program against the Black Panthers. Moore
described the Black Panthers, It is the most
violence-prone organization of all the extremist
groups now operating in the United States.
Moore elaborated on one of the goals of Black
Nationalist COINTELPRO actions, Our
counterintelligence program may bring about
results which could lead to prosecution of these
violence-prone leaders. Moore had a willing
ally in his effort to accelerate COINTELPRO
against the Black Panthers in William
Sullivan. Sullivan was a veteran of
counterintelligence and had orchestrated the FBI
wiretap campaign against Martin Luther King Jr.,
including a sex-tape blackmail scheme to encourage King to commit suicide.
In 1970, J. Edgar Hoover stepped up his
clandestine operations with the Key Black
Extremist Program directed at those black
activists who were particularly agitative,
extreme, and vocal in their demands for terrorism and violence
Noam Chomsky, a long-time COINTELPRO critic,
charges, FBI provocateurs repeatedly urged and
initiated violent acts, including forceful
disruptions of meetings and demonstrations on and
off university campuses, attacks on police,
bombings, and so on. Chomsky says there is plenty of blame to go around.
Chomsky is blunt: The criminal activities of
the FBI were initiated under the liberal
Democratic administrations and carried further
under Nixon. The programs were (partially)
exposed during the Watergate period, and though
incomparably more serious than anything charged
against Nixon, they were virtually ignored during
this period by the liberal national press and
journals of opinion, and only marginally discussed since.
David Cunningham, author of Theres Something
Going On, a detailed study of COINTELPRO, wrote
in his book, The repression of the Panthers
marked the most savage incarnation of
COINTELPRO. Hoovers intense assault on the
Black Panthers was an outgrowth of a lifetime of
racist ideology that kept the FBI virtually an
all-white agency during Hoovers rule.
William Sullivan described COINTELPRO to a Senate
sub-committee investigating the illegal
operation, This is a rough, tough, dirty business, and dangerous.
On January 30, 1969, Hoover sent a COINTELPRO
memo to Special Agent-in-Charge Marlin Johnson in
Chicago authorizing an anonymous letter to Jeff
Fort of the Blackstone Rangers street gang to
provoke a dispute with Fred Hampton, leader of the Illinois Black Panthers.
In mid-November 1969, FBI agent Roy Mitchell
recruited Fred Hamptons bodyguard William ONeal
in Chicago, ultimately paying him $10,000. Two
weeks later ONeal supplied Mitchell with a
diagram of Hamptons apartment, identifying the
location of Hamptons bed. Mitchell then met
with officers from the States Attorney special
police unit and planned an armed raid on Hamptons apartment.
On December 4, 1969, 14 heavily-armed members of
the prosecutors special unit surrounded Fred
Hamptons apartment at 4:45 a.m. Police fired 90
bullets into the apartment specifically targeting
Hamptons bedroom where the Panther leader was
asleep with his pregnant girlfriend. Peoria
Panther leader Mark Clark, who was on security,
fired one shot as he died during the
fusillade. Hampton, wounded during the attack,
was shot at point blank range in the head twice
as he lay bleeding on his bed. Attorney Jeffrey
Haas, who was Hamptons lawyer, minces no words
recently authoring a book about the killing
titled The Assassination of Fred Hampton.
In Los Angeles, on December 8, 1969, a FBI
informant, MelvinCotton Smith provided inside
information on the residence of Black Panther
security head Elmer Gerald Geronimo Pratt. A
pre-dawn FBI coached raid by the Los Angeles
Police Department, instead of killing Pratt,
resulted in a four-hour gun battle. Thirteen
Panthers were arrested after the firefight,
putting Pratt in Hoovers cross-hairs.
Attorney Paul Wolf draws a comparison: The
similarities between the Chicago and Los Angeles
raids are undeniable, with a special local police
unit closely linked to the FBI involved in both
assaults, spurious warrants seeking illegal
weapons utilized on both occasions, predawn
timing of both raids to catch the Panthers asleep
and a reliance on overwhelming police firepower
to the exclusion of all other methods.
In June 1970, Hoover authored a secret Special
Report 5 for the White House where Hoover called
the Black Panthers the most active and dangerous
black extremist group in the United States.
Meanwhile, in July, Omaha police learned of three
men selling stolen dynamite. A buy was set up.
Omaha Police Captain Murdock Platner would later
testify in Washington, D.C. to the U.S. House
Committee on Internal Security that the dynamite
had been stolen in Des Moines, Iowa and was
suspected to be the source of explosives used in recent Omaha bombings:
We received information from a party that had
been approached to buy dynamite. We had him buy
it and he bought 10 sticks. It was 2 and-a-half
by 16-inch sticks. He came back later and said
he could buy more of this dynamite. So we set
for him to buy and then
we did move in and
arrested three young men in a car. In their
possession they had 41 sticks of this same type of dynamite.
Platner called the owner of Quick Supply Co. in
Des Moines, Iowa where dynamite of that size was
stolen earlier in the summer. According to
Platner, he was almost positive it had to be
their dynamite. Platner investigated further,
Sergeant Gladson checked back with the
manufacturer of the dynamite, and they told him
that was the only shipment of that size dynamite in the year 1970.
Luther Payne, Lamont Mitchell, and Conrad Gray
were arrested in possession of dynamite during a
planned traffic stop. Eager to escape felony
charges the three men told police a story that found an interested audience.
The three men in jail denied any involvement in
the Des Moines burglary. Instead, they claimed
they found the dynamite in the back room of a
local anti-poverty agency. The lead detective
working the case was Jack Swanson, who was the
complaining witness against the men in court.
The day after the trios first court appearance
in Omaha, the U.S. Senate Committee on Government
Operations began hearings in Washington, D.C. on
the Black Panthers and bombings around the country.
Payne, Mitchell, and Gray remained in jail,
unreported by the local news media, unable to post bond.
On August 7, 1970, in Marin County, California, a
courtroom rescue attempt by Black Panther George
Jacksons brother, Jonathan, resulted in a
shootout killing four people including Judge
Harold Haley. The bloody courthouse shootout
captured national attention and helped demonize
the Black Panthers to many. Angela Davis had a
warrant issued for her arrest in the aftermath of
the California bloodbath, accused of supplying a
weapon and ammunition. Hoover would soon add her
name to the FBIs famed Ten Most Wanted List.
Two days after the Marin County fiasco, a paper
sack containing 10 sticks of dynamite was found
along a street in Bellevue, an Omaha suburb. The
news media, silent about the arrest of Payne,
Mitchell, and Gray, snapped to action and duly
reported on the sack of dynamite.
Special Agent-in-Charge Paul Young had been the
recipient for the preceding year of a series of
COINTELPRO memos from J. Edgar Hoover demanding
results against the leadership of the Black
Panthers in Omaha. The lethal ferocity of
Hoovers secret operation had already been
revealed in Chicago COINTELPRO operations against Fred Hampton.
Before a week had passed since Hamptons death,
Hoover sent a COINTELPRO memo to Paul Young,
complaining about a lack of action against the Black Panthers in Omaha.
On December 10, 1969, Hoover sent Young a
critical memorandum. Hoover wrote, You
the United Front Against Fascism (UFAF),
the successor to the Black Panther Party (BPP) in
Omaha, is composed of approximately eight to 12
members, and their only activities have been to
sell The Black Panther, BPP newspaper, and publication of a UFAF newsletter.
Hoover continued: While the activities appear
to be limited in the Omaha area, it does not
follow that effective counterintelligence
measures cannot be taken. As long as there are
BPP activities, you should be giving
consideration that type of counterintelligence
measure which would best disrupt existing
activities. It would appear that some type of
counterintelligence aimed at the disruption and
publication of their literature would be in order.
The FBI director told the Omaha office to target
the leaders of the UFAF for counterintelligence
action. Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa had
stepped up to lead the affiliate Black Panther
chapter in the Nebraska city and were now the focus of Hoovers attention.
Ed Poindexter was a six-year Army veteran who
voluntarily served in Germany and Vietnam. He
went to work for the Post Office upon his
discharge from the service. Poindexter joined
the Panthers to help the community after being
informed of the group by his sister; however his
membership in the Panthers led to his departure
from the Post Office after his picture was
published in the daily newspaper as a member of the group.
Mondo we Langa was an outreach worker with the
Greater Omaha Community Action agency whose
self-stated motive for joining the Panthers was
love for his brothers and sisters. Mondo was
popular at Holy Family church where he played
guitar and developed a following as a writer for
two alternative newspapers, Asterisk and Buffalo
Chip. Mondo became a regular fixture at Omaha
City Council meetings where he monitored local issues.
Hoover wrote to Young: It is also assumed that
of eight to 12 members, one or two must certainly
be in a position of leadership. You should give
consideration to counterintelligence measures
directed against these leaders in an effort to
weaken or destroy their positions. Bureau has
noted you have not submitted any concrete
counterintelligence proposals in recent
months. Evaluate your approach to this program
and insure that it is given the imaginative
attention necessary to produce effective
results. Handle promptly and submit your
proposals to the Bureau for approval.
Paul Young got the message. Young replied to
Hoover within days by registered mail promising
to go after the UFAF newsletter and the leaders
of the Omaha chapter. Young wrote to Hoover, In
addition to this information, indications are
that the UFAF is planning to start a liberation
school at its headquarters in Omaha in the near future.
Young continued: In response to the referenced
Bureau letter, the identities of the UFAF
leadership are known to the Omaha office. Omaha
is presently giving consideration to some type of
counterintelligence activity aimed at disruption
of the UFAF newsletter or its distribution and
counterintelligence measures directed against the
leaders of this organization.
However, on February 24, Paul Young had to tell
Hoover he was unable to establish a pattern of
Panther activity and was unable to plan a
counterintelligence operation. On April 3,
Hoover sent approval to Young to send an
anonymous letter about Ed Poindexter to Black
Panther headquarters accusing Poindexter of
ripping off the community and directed Young to
coordinate the letter with the San Francisco office.
On August 15, 1970, Paul Young, under a
continuing mandate from Hoover to the Omaha FBI
office, was plotting a smear campaign against Ed
Poindexter using another bogus letter addressed
to Black Panther national headquarters in
Oakland, accusing Poindexter of collaborating
with Whiteys newspaper, the Omaha
World-Herald, in an effort to create a rift in the organization.
The Black Panthers in Omaha were not the lumpen
or street criminals that filled the ranks in some
cities. In Omaha, the group worked with
anti-poverty agencies, on a petition drive,
operated a liberation school for children, and
worked on a breakfast program. The chapter also
published a newsletter. None of the surveillance
showed any involvement in criminal activity, thus
Young faced a limited opportunity for a counterintelligence action.
However, the murder of Omaha patrolman Larry
Minard suddenly presented Paul Young with the
perfect opportunity to please Hoover if he could
make a case against Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa
The crime that rocked Omaha was triggered with an
anonymous 911 phone call on August 17,
1970. Dawn broke over the city to an overcast
drizzle on a Monday morning. The weather matched
the mood in the stunned, saddened city. An
ambush bombing at 2:11 a.m. had taken the life of
a policeman, the father of five young children.
Minard and seven other officers had responded to
a 911 call placed by an anonymous male caller
with a deep voice who reported a woman screaming
at a vacant house. Instead of a screaming woman,
the eight officers who converged at 2867 Ohio
Street only found an open empty house and a
suspicious suitcase just inside the front door.
After a quick search of the house,while examining
the Samsonite suitcase, Officer Minard was killed
instantly by a powerful, deafening blast that
shook the neighborhood and partially destroyed
the vacant house. The coroner described severe
traumatic injuries to Minards skull and torso in the autopsy report.
Omaha Mayor Eugene Leahy heard the explosion from
his home 40 blocks away, telling a reporter the
next day, That was a terrific blast. Leahy
called police headquarters after the bombing and
was briefed on what happened. The mayor toured
the crime scene on his way to work in the morning.
Larry Minard had only been on duty since midnight
when he reported for the A shift after telling
his wife not to worry. Police arrived at the
Minard residence about a half hour after the
bombing to deliver the terrible news but by then
the newly widowed Karen Minard had been awaken by
Larrys police scanner which was blaring reports about an officer down.
The police investigation began immediately as
officers sifted through debris looking for
clues. Larry Minards mangled and burned body
lay where he died until 3:50 a.m. while crime
scene technicians scoured the premises. Finally,
Minards body was removed by rescue personnel after a light rain began to fall.
First light brought the start of what would be a
day-long procession of motorists slowly driving
by the crime scene. A crowd of neighborhood
onlookers was also on hand much of the time as
people spoke in hushed tones and muted voices.
At 6:05 a.m. off-duty policeman Harold Flemmer
called police headquarters after learning of
Minards death. Flemmer reported he had been
pulling guard duty at room 318 of the County
Hospital over a prisoner named George
McCline. Flemmer said that McCline, who was
being held for a July 29th shooting, told him the
dynamite obtained from July arrests of three men
had been meant for the new police
station.Flemmer also said that McCline told him,
that at least 12 policemen were going to get it.
Flemmer related what McCline told him while
recovering from surgery: He further bragged
that the policy had been changed and there would
be no more burning and looting, from now on it
was to be blowing up things. He bragged that
Component Concepts had been blown as the owner
was a Uncle Tom. Component Concepts Corporation
was a black-owned defense subcontractor that was
bombed July 2, 1970, in an unsolved crime.
At police headquarters, a hastily convened
meeting of a multi-agency task force called
Domino was called to order. Principals present
were agents from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation and the Division of Alcohol,
Tobacco & Firearms, detectives from the Douglas
County Sheriff and the Omaha Police Department.
Governor Norbert Tiemann had also ordered the
Nebraska State Patrol to send two troopers to work the case.
Retired ATF agent James Moore, from the Kansas
City, Missouri ATF office, told about the Domino
meeting in his book Very Special Agents: This
meeting has one mission: to catch the cop
killers. Preliminary discussion was brief and
pointed. The weapon, the method and the target
suggested extremists. Panthers and Weathermen
murdered policemen this way. The Negro voice on
the dispatchers tape suggested Panthers.
Then Moore gave a big surprise: One of the FBI
agents told the group We have excellent informer
coverage of the Panthers, and our key informer
advises us that two white males were observed
running from the scene shortly before the blast.
Moore raised the possibility the tip was only a
ruse to throw off ATF agents competing to crack
the case. However, if the FBI informant had a
role in the crime he may have told the agents
about two white males. Or, maybe two white men really were the bombers.
Although the FBI told the Domino group about
white men, SAC Paul Young wasted no time in
privately talking with Assistant Chief of Police
Glen W. Gates, who was in charge of the investigation into the deadly ambush.
According to a confidential FBI airtel
memorandum, Paul Young and Glen Gates discussed a
piece of crucial evidence the police had the
recorded voice of the anonymous caller captured by the 911 system.
Gates was already working with the ATF laboratory
on dynamite analysis from other bombings in Omaha
earlier in the summer so it would have seemed
natural to accept the help of the FBI laboratory
to analyze the 911 recording. However, the FBI
offer was conditional: no written report which
might end up in court as evidence.
At noon following the bombing, 13 off-duty Omaha
policemen led by Captain William Pattavina
cornered Mayor Leahy in his office to complain
about a lack of support for police. Pattavina
and two sergeants, Keith Lant and Robert Pfeffer,
met with the mayor for a half-hour while the
other 10 officers occupied the lobby.
At 4:05 p.m. the administrator of Girls Town,
Harold Youngren, called police headquarters and
reported a pushy black book salesman named Frank
Fortino who was selling books on Black Studies.
Fortino claimed to be a demolitions expert and an
officer in the Black Panthers. He threatened to
blow up the school if books were not purchased, said Youngren.
Despite the FBI tip about the two white males
seen fleeing the bomb scene, Omaha police
concentrated on arresting members or associates
of Omahas Black Panther affiliate group. By
weeks end, the dragnet begun on Monday through
the Near North Side would net 60 black suspects.
At five oclock in the afternoon,Detective Jack
Swanson, head of the OPD Intelligence Unit,
reported a call from an FBI agent named
Hayes. He has a witness in the neighborhood of
the bombing, who states that there was White
Cadilac [sic] which left the scene shortly before
the blast at a high rate of speed.
Swanson continued, Hayes said he got this
information second hand, and that the actual witness was a young Negro male.
The record of the call from the FBI concluded,
This white Cadillac was supposed to have been
occupied by one Negro male, and one white male.
Swanson also made up a list of 39 members or
associates of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, for questioning.
While Swanson worked on his list of NCCF
suspects, Sergeant Joseph Boan went to County
Hospital to interview prisoner George McCline and
finished his report at 9 p.m. McCline gave Boan
an earful about alleged dynamite sellers in the
Omaha area. McCline said dynamite could be
bought from a Mafia-member named Leroy Chiles,
from Yano Caniglia at the Cheeta Lounge strip
club, and from Bubbles, a dancer at the club.
McCline also said the kingpin of the explosion
was Bussie, an uncle of Vivian Strong. Vivian
Strong was a 14 year-old girl shot to death by
Omaha policeman James Loder in 1969, whose
killing led to several days of rioting. McCline
said Bussie drove a 1967 silver-black Cadillac
and that a man named Luther Payne was arrested
taking dynamite to Bussies house.
Tips kept rolling in. At 9:30 p.m. Omaha officer
D. Howard reported an informant overheard a
conversation at the Hilton Hotel with a bartender
where a hotel employee allegedly said he knew who
sold the dynamite and planted the bomb that
killed Larry Minard. Howard was unable to locate
the hotel employee for questioning.
The day after the bombing in Omaha, a powerful
blast at the Federal Building in Minneapolis,
Minnesota at 3 a.m. injured a night watchman and
caused $500,000 damage. Investigators later
determined the bomb had the force of 20 sticks of
dynamite. Suddenly the Midwest was on the front
line of guerilla warfare. The Minneapolis crime remains unsolved.
Back in Omaha, the round-up of suspects on the
Near North Side continued on Tuesday with 11 more
arrests bringing a total of three dozen people in
custody by the end of the second day of the dragnet.
Glen Gates barred reporters from police
headquarters fourth floor squad room where
police and reporters normally chatted about the
daily arrest log as the investigation intensified.
Douglas County Assistant Prosecutor Arthur
OLeary moved in to police headquarters to help
coordinate the logistics of the arrests, telling
reporters he was there on routine business.
At 8:25 a.m. Sheriff Ted Janning called a police
captain and stated that a security guard from his
office overheard either prisoner George McCline
or Lamont Mitchell, who had been arrested with
dynamite in July, at the County Hospital where
the inmate stated Vivian Strong had an uncle
named Busby who drove a 1967 Cadillac and that
he had something to do with triggering the bomb
The departure from Omaha of the primary piece of
evidence the recorded voice of Larry Minards
fatal caller was noted with a front-page Omaha
World-Herald article. The newspaper headlined,
Voiceprint in Bombing to FBI Lab.
The Omaha World-Herald quoted Acting Police Chief
Walter J. Devere: A copy of the telephone tape
in the booby-trap killing of Patrolman Larry
Minard has been sent to the Federal Bureau of
Investigation in Washington for voiceprint analysis.
Voiceprinting using voice sounds to establish
identity is relatively new and not admissible
evidence in court. But it is a good investigative tool, Chief Devere added.
Jack Swanson got another call from FBI Agent
Hayes which he reported at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday,
the day after the bombing. Hayes says that this
was supposed to be a Black Vinel/White 66
Cadillac, [sic] bearing green license
plates. The witness did not [see] the number of
the plates, nor the state which it was
from. This auto was seen going north from Ohio,
on 30th at a high rate of speed, and ran the red
light at 30th and Binney Sts. It was supposed to
have been occupied by one white male, and one Negor [sic] male.
Swanson dug into his files and at 7 p.m. reported
on information he obtained on June 12 about two
suspicious white males from FBI agent
Hayes. Hayes told Swanson that David Lawrence
Coyle was involved with the SDS [Students for a
Democratic Society] and was extremely
militant. Coyle was reportedly recruited by John Herold.
Swanson elaborated, Also, according to Agent
Hayes, FBI, he [Coyle] had stated to one of his
sources that they were going to [do] something
really big to make people sit up and take notice.
The FBIs white Cadillac was not the only
Cadillac police were looking for. At 7:45 p.m.
another Omaha policeman, Patrick J. John,
reported an informant told him about a dirty red
older model Cadalic [sic] with loud mufflers
seen in the neighborhood of the bombing driving
suspiciously and then departing at a high rate of
speed a few minutes before the explosion.
At 11:30 p.m. a Social Security card belonging to
Johnnie Lee Bussby was turned over to the
property room. The card was found at the scene
of the crime in the blast debris the day before
by ATF agents and given to Lt. James Perry.
The next day, August 19, at 6:30 p.m. Jack
Swanson observed a White 1966 Cadillac occupied
by one Negro male, one White male and one Negor
[sic] female. Swanson radioed for a uniform
cruiser to make a stop and bring the occupants in
for questioning. The two men spotted by Swanson
were James Boose and Lannie Hicks.
According to Swansons report, Boose was a
former member of the Black Panther
Party. Lannie Hicks was just a suspected house
burglar. Nothing came from the interrogations
ordered by Lt. James Perry at Swansons request
At the Omaha FBI office, Paul Young anxiously
awaited word from Washington, D.C. on his request
to withhold a lab report on the identity of the
anonymous 911 caller who lured Minard to the
deadly ambush. Young wanted to use the bombing
as an opportunity to satisfy J. Edgar Hoovers
mandate to destroy the local Black Panther
leadership. The presence of an unknown caller
presented a problem in making a case against the Panther leaders.
With Larry Minards death Young finally had an
opportunity to direct counterintelligence
measures against Ed Poindexter and Mondo we
Langa. When Youngs confidential memo to Hoover
was received by COINTELPRO supervisors at FBI
headquarters, a second memo was written for Ivan
Willard Conrad,director of the FBI crime lab.
A COINTELPRO agent at FBI Headquarters named W.W.
Bradley authored the confidential memo to Conrad
following up on Youngs proposal to withhold
evidence. The heavily redacted memo, released
under the Freedom of Information Act, spelled out
that no written report on Minards killer was to be furnished.
Bradleys memo to Conrad, dated August 19, 1970,
was sent to top FBI officials including William
C. Sullivan. Sullivan was head of Domestic
Intelligence and helped create COINTELPRO for Hoover.
Charles D. Brennan also got Bradleys memo on
Larry Minards fatal caller. Brennan was a senior
member of the daily COINTELPRO directorate that
issued illegal commands to the field
offices. Brennan had worked in the Omaha FBI
office before his transfer to FBI headquarters
where he reported to William Sullivan.
Brennan was the most vocal critic of Martin
Luther King Jr. within the FBI and had authored
an 11-page internal monograph on
counterintelligence measures against King leading
to the elaborate operation conducted against
King. Brennan was aggressive on counterintelligence actions.
A mysterious Mr. Shimota also appears on the
Bradley memo copy list. FBI Special Agent John
E. Shimota was a relatively obscure agent who
ended his FBI career working prostitution cases
in Fargo, North Dakota. Shimota, who also worked
on the Wounded Knee FBI task force in South
Dakota, was possibly the agent assigned by Paul
Young to coordinate COINTELPRO actions in the
Omaha office. The identity of the COINTELPRO
agent in Omaha has never been officially disclosed.
Bradley wrote: By airtel 8/17/70 the Omaha
Office has advised that the Omaha Police
Department has requested laboratory assistance in
connection with a bombing which took place in
Omaha 8/17/70. This bombing resulted in the
death of one police officer and the injuring of
six other officers and is apparently directly
connected with a series of racial bombings which
the Omaha Police have experienced. The Police
were lured to the bomb site by a telephonic
distress call from an unknown male.
Blanks appear in the COINTELPRO memo where text
has been crossed out: [REDACTED] of the Omaha
Police has requested [REDACTED]. The SAC
[Special Agent-in-Charge], Omaha strongly
recommends that the examination requested by the
Omaha Police Department be conducted.
[REDACTED] It is felt, in view of the SACs
recommendation and the significance of this case,
an exception should be made in this case in order
to assist the Omaha Police in developing
investigative leads. The results of any
examination will not be furnished directly to the
police but orally conveyed through the SAC of Omaha., wrote Bradley.
The confidential memo concluded with a
recommendation: [REDACTED] Omaha Police in
developing investigation leads. If approved, the
results of any examinations will be orally
furnished the police on an informal basis through the SAC, Omaha.
The memorandum to Ivan Conrad bears his initials
twice. Once, when he reviewed the request, and a
second time after he talked to J. Edgar Hoover
confirming the lab was not to issue a formal
report on the recording of the anonymous 911
caller who lured Larry Minard to his death.
Conrad talked with Hoover the same day Bradley
sent the COINTELPRO memo. Conrad wrote on the
document, Dir advised telephonically & said OK
to do. Conrad then initialed and dated the note
about Hoovers command on withholding formal
identification of the anonymous 911 caller.
Detective Jack Swanson, now working the Minard
case, was still in the middle of the
investigation of the three men arrested with
stolen dynamite three weeks earlier on July 28, 1970 .
Several days after a cancelled federal raid on
the headquarters of the Omaha Black Panther
affiliate chapter, the Omaha Police Department
got a lead on stolen dynamite being sold in the city.
Based on a tip from an adolescent, agents of the
Division of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms had
sought to search the Panther headquarters looking
for machine guns and explosives. Omaha was on
edge after a series of bombings including one at
a police substation in North Omaha and ATF agents
suspected the Black Panthers were involved.
The Omaha FBI office, under pressure from Hoover
for action against the Panthers, put a stop to
the rival agencys search with a phone call to
the Justice Department and initiated their own investigation.
Paul Young had no interest in becoming the object
of Hoovers wrath. FBI agents then began their
own canvass of the neighborhood where the Panther
office was located in a futile effort to learn
about a purported stash of machine
guns. Assistant U.S. Attorney William Gallup
later resigned his position as a federal
prosecutor in Nebraska in protest against FBI
interference with the planned ATF raid.
After Larry Minards murder, Luther Payne got
word out of the jail he could help the
investigation. Payne told Omaha officer Arnold
Dailey that one of four men--Lonnie Woods,
Maurice Reedus, Eddie Bolden, or Thomas Bick--was
most likely responsible, implying they were the
source of the explosives he had been arrested
for. One of the men Payne named, Eddie Bolden,
was the former head of the local Black Panthers
who had been replaced by Ed Poindexter.
Officer Minard was buried on Thursday following
one of the largest funerals in the citys
history. The father of five was buried on his
30th birthday, August 20, 1970. The day before
Minards funeral Hoover had given the order to
let the anonymous 911 caller go unidentified.
On Friday, August 21at 2 a.m. a man arrested at a
disturbance call, Anthony Sanders, was in custody
and offered information on Minards
murder. Sanders, on Federal probation, wanted
help leaving Omaha in exchange for his
information about two white men, Gary and
Darrell, who hung out at Rocket
Billiards. Sanders told police the pair quizzed
him about militants in the past. More recently
Sanders claimed the two men are now bragging of
knowledge about two Germans from Iowa, who are doing the bombings.
Sanderss Germans were responsible for the
Components Concepts Corporation blast and also
the North Assembly, a police substation bombed
on June 11 in North Omaha. Sanders was shown
several hundred photos out of the Indmo 55
group of police mug shots and identified Darrell as Henry Casperi.
Henry Casperi, who had been arrested in Omaha at
the bus depot, had an FBI file which documented
an arrest in Laguna Beach, California for assault against a police officer.
At 8:45 a.m. a police informant, Tyrone Stearns
alias Turner, told police that Luther Payne, who
had been arrested in July possessing dynamite,
was a Black Panther. The informer also said he
was present at a Black Panther meeting on
Wednesday after the Components Concept
Corporation bombing and the operation was described as a success.
Paul Young, special agent-in-charge, called FBI
Headquarters and requested a FBI Laboratory
supervisor travel to Omaha for the purpose of
furnishing technical guidance to local
police.Meanwhile, police got a visitor to
headquarters at 1:50 p.m. when a taxi-driver
named Richard Gibson asked to speak to an officer about the Minard murder.
Gibson lived on Ohio Street three blocks from the
bombing and told police he was a former member of
the Omaha chapter of the Black Panthers who had a
falling out with then-leader Eddie Bolden. A
police report says Gibson stated that he felt
that some of the group still has it in for him
and may be trying to involve him in the bombing.
Gibson told police he had just delivered a fare
and drove to the sound of the explosion but was
stopped at 30th & Ohio by police who had already
cordoned off the crime scene. Gibson ended his
visit by telling police the Black Panthers had
also worked with Caucasian members of the Peace
and Freedom Party in Lincoln, Nebraska.
At 8 p.m. Detective Swanson was busy going over
surveillance photos his intelligence unit had
taken of NCCF headquarters in July looking for
clues. Tracking down the license number of one
car containing two white men, Swanson got names,
Donald Stirling and Roger Duncan. Duncan was
questioned about his coming and going from the
Panther office. Duncan said the two were
volunteers for United Methodist Ministers
investigating reports of police harassment.
Swanson wrote in his report: DUNCAN further
said that he did not think the Panthers were
.Duncan said that party policy was
strictly defensive right now. He indicated that
they would need authority from National Headquarters to place a bomb.
DUNCAN has said that in his opinion, the person
who committed the crime would be one party who
feels that he is alienated from society.
Swanson noted that pinned to the wall were
several scorched draft cards. Swanson reported,
This information was given to Agent HARRIS, FBI.
Officer Arnold Dailey was also working late and
at 10:20 p.m. filed a report about an interview
with a Mrs. White and a Mr. Jerks earlier in the
evening. Both White and Jerks said they had seen
Duane Peak with a light gray Samsonite suitcase
which looked like it was heavy.
Mrs. White added that Duane did not own a
suitcase and had only a few clothes. Daileys
report said Peak throws them over his arm
whenever he moves from place to place.
The next day he stated that he has to lay low
because they (Police) has a warrant and they are
looking for him. He was also bragging about
bombing the house at 2867 Ohio St.
Daileys report on Peak also said Duane stole a
police riot gun, burglarized a gas station and
fire bombed a shack behind the gas
station. Duanes night of crime against Erikson
filling station was with Russell Peak according
to the police report. Russell PEAK is also the
one responsible for shooting a white male on 30th
Street, Mr. Jenks and Mrs. White stated.
Sgt. Robert Pfeffer interviewed Annie Morris at
police headquarter. According to Pfeffers
report of the session Morris said Duane Peak had
asked for the phone number of the police station
a day or so before the bombing. Morris also told
of an exchange between Duane and Donald Peak on
Monday night after the explosion.
Pfeffers report gives Morriss account: Duane
PEAK was setting [sic] with her on the couch in
the front room and DONNIE came to the front
window and scared her, DONNIE said that at this
time the Police were trying to scare the ones who
did it and that DONNIE then asked DUANE, whats
the matter boy, cant you get any sleep? Then,
don [sic] let that bother you.
At 10:33 p.m. Pfeffer took Morris to the sixth
floor Communications Room where the 911 tape was
played for her repeatedly. Morris initially said
she thought the voice was Duanes then she
switched brothers. However, after listening to
the tape, two and three times, she stated it
sounded like Donnie PEAK, disguising his voice, or trying to do so.
A public break in the case came the next day when
a warrant for murder was issued on August 22,
1970, against 15 year-old Duane Peak. At 6 p.m.a
teenager, Theresa Peak, was brought in for
questioning. Theresa told police that shortly
after sundown on August 16 her two brothers
Donald, Jr. and Duane got into her car and that
Duane was carrying a suitcase. After an hour of
intense questioning Theresa told of Duanes confession to her.
The police report states: Theresa said that on
Monday 17 Aug. 70 her brother Peak, Donald Jr.
told her that Peak, Duane had put the bomb in the
house, also that one day just before the funeral
of Minard, Larry her brother Duane Peak was at
her home and told her that he had put the bomb in
the house that killed the policeman.
The report continues: Theresa said that both
brothers told her it was Nitro glyerine use [sic]
in the bomb. She further stated that Duane Peak
told her that he had carried the suitcase from the Panther headquarters.
While Theresa was being questioned, her sister
Delias boyfriend, Willie Lee Haynie, was
undergoing interrogation. Haynie admitted giving
Duane Peak a ride with a suitcase to the alley
behind Ohio Street near the bombing site but said
he had no knowledge of any bomb.
The police report goes on with Haynies story,
when he got up the next morning he did hear
PEAK, Donald, negro male, 20 years, and PEAK,
Duane, laughing and talking about the bombing and
stated that [Minard] had got blowed up and how
many they sent to the hospital, both were making jokes about this incident.
Chairman of the National Committee to Combat
Fascism Ed Poindexter was also arrested. The
headquarters of the Black Panther affiliate chapter was raided that same day.
Poindexter had been subjected to regular police
harassment and talks candidly about the
experience: Part of the COINTELPRO project was
to harass party members around the clock seven
days a week. Never let up, try to break us or
cause us to snap or drop out under the pressure.
"At no time, not a single day went by that the
police didnt threaten to kill us
I would be
careful not to be at the same place every night,
to be so predictable that they could pull the
same stunt they did on Fred Hampton on me.
If the two Black Panther leaders were to be
convicted they would need to be implicated by
Duane Peak and tied to the crime by some type of physical evidence.
On the evening of August 22, Mondo we Langas
home was raided and dynamite was purportedly
found in the basement by detective Jack Swanson,
the OPD liaison with the FBI. Mondo was in
Kansas City speaking at a rally for Black Panther
Pete ONeal who was facing federal gun charges
brought by ATF agent Moore over the transport of a shotgun over state lines.
The search of Mondoshouse began with a canvass
for Duane Peak and grew into a hunt for
explosives. The police attempted to explain the
search of the dwelling by claiming they had gotten a lead from Peaks family.
Mondo we Langa denies any dynamite was ever in
his home: Swanson says that when he and the
other cops showed up at the house the door was
open and the lights were on. I dont really have
a clue yet exactly what happened but apparently
what happened is police went through the house
but did not have a search warrant, that we know,
they did not have a search warrant, what they had
was an arrest warrant for Duane Peak. Aside from
the fact he was in the party or associated with
it, they had no reason to look for Duane Peak at
my house. Duane Peak was 15 years old. He wasnt somebody I hung with.
It is interesting to say the least that the
police say we found dynamite in the basement next
to the furnace. But they took a picture, they
took a photograph of my basement. There is not
dynamite in the photograph. But they also took a
photograph of a box of dynamite in the trunk of a
police cruiser. They took a photo of my basement
and they claimed there is dynamite there, why not
have a photo of dynamite in the basement?
There are all kinds of things about the case
that are really pretty basic and pretty
outrageous that are part of the record that
people dont know about, says Mondo.
While the search for Duane Peak was underway, the
police had older brother Donald in custody and
played for him the 911 call that sent Larry
Minard to his death. Donald was interrogated in
Room D of the Criminal Investigation Bureau on
the 4th floor of the police headquarters. Donald
told Sergeant P. Foxall that Duane admitted
killing Larry Minard. Foxall played the 911
recording for Donald to see if he would identify
his brothers voice. Donald said he thought
Duane was lying when he admitted killing a policeman.
In Washington D.C., FBI agent Bradley followed up
on the COINTELPRO memo written three days earlier
about the killer of Minard. Bradley wanted to
make sure the targeted people were charged with
the murder and recommended approving Youngs
request to send headquarters staff to Nebraska to steer the investigation.
In a heavily redacted COINTELPRO memorandum, not
released until years later, Bradley wrote to
Conrad: In referenced memorandum [8/17/70] the
Director approved a request to assist the Omaha
Police Department in captioned case through the use of [REDACTED].
More redactions follow, then the memo
continues: The SAC [Special Agent-in-Charge]
noted that he had been instructed by the Bureau
to suggest steps of possible assistance to the
Omaha Police in solving the bombings. He advised
technical guidance of the type requested would
provide maximum immediate assistance particularly since the [REDACTED].
The confidential memo was sent to the same
distribution list as Bradleys earlier
memorandum. The plan was reviewed by Hoover
personally and the memo bears his OK and distinctive H initial.
The COINTELPRO plan to help Omaha police solve
the crime by sending out headquarters staff
followed the withholding of a laboratory report
on the identity of the 911 caller showing the
true purpose of assistance was not aiding a
search for truth or to catch Larry Minards
killer but instead was a counterintelligence
operation approved by J. Edgar Hoover to bring down Poindexter and we Langa.
Also signing the memo sealing the plot to direct
the course of the case was George Moore. Although
not on the copy list, George Moore was the head
of the Racial Intelligence division and daily
helped manage the COINTELPRO operation.
Both Bradley and Conrad initialed the
document. When Hoover gave his blessing to a
counter-intelligence proposal his subordinates
acted quickly, putting their signatures or initials in place.
Back in Omaha, the round-up of suspects continued
through the weekend. On Sunday there was a rally
at Kountze Park to raise bail money for those in
custody. A group of 200 listened to community activist Ernie Chambers.
Just before noon at police headquarters Russell
Peak, cousin of Duane, was brought in to the Room
D interrogation room for questioning. Russell
told the police that in the previous month Duane
told him how to construct a suitcase bomb. Duane
did not identify a target or discuss police officers said Russell.
Monday morning at 3:42 a.m., a week after the
Omaha bombing, the math-science building at the
University of Wisconsin in Madison was bombed,
killing a graduate student. Recent Midwest
bombings shattered the heartland in Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska putting law
enforcement officers and the public on edge.
While the police sweep of the Near North Side
continued in Omaha, Raleigh House, the NCCF
treasurer, got unusual treatment from Arthur
OLeary in the prosecutors office. House was
arrested on a conspiracy to commit murder charge
but released after one night in jail on a
signature bond by OLeary who refused comment on
the reason for Houses release.
Meanwhile, Hoover got around to reviewing the
COINTELPRO action being planned against Ed
Poindexter that was proposed before Larry
Minards murder. On August 15, 1970, Paul Young
wrote to Hoover proposing to exploit an article
in the Omaha World Herald about the local Black
Panther chapter. Young wanted to get Poindexter
in trouble with the national headquarters for his
purported cooperation with Whiteys newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald.
Hoover gave approval to the bogus letter plan but
advised: It is suggested you include several
misspellings to make the letter appear more
.Take the usual security precautions to
insure this letter and mailing cannot be traced to the Bureau.
Hoover concluded his authorization, This should
be an excellent disruption technique.
On Friday, August 28, 1970, Duane Peak now in
custody and following a visit from his
grandfather, Rev. Goodlett Foster, and his
father, Donald Peak Sr. gave a statement to
Sergeant Foxall at police headquarters. Foxalls
report of the interview was made out at 3:20 p.m.
Peak claimed he had a desk at NCCF headquarters
and dropped by Sunday afternoon before the
bombing. Peak told Foxall that he found a white
envelope addressed to him in green ink. Peak
said that inside was a note that said: DONT
TELL ANYONE ABOUT THE NOTE. KEEP IT QUIET. A TOP SECRET.
Peaks secret note gave him instructions to go to
Lothrop Drug Store and pick up a suitcase that
contained highly classed confidential papers
which he was directed to deliver to an alley
behind a house between Lake and Ohio
Streets. Peak claimed the note then instructed
him to a phone booth on 24h Street where he was told to burn the note.
Peak said when he got to the phone booth at 2
a.m. the phone rang and a womans voice told him
to call police and report a woman
screaming. Peak said the woman told him to
forget he ever saw a suitcase and hung up.
Foxalls report continues, DUANE said that he
made the call but he used a different tone of voice.
On September 5, Sgt. Robert Pfeffer went to the
Dodge County Jail to interview Duane
Peak. Peaks lawyer, Thomas Carey, had talked
with Lt. Perry and said that Duane had
information for police. Peak told Pfeffer that
Ed Poindexter approached him on August 10 with a
beautiful plan to blow up a pig.
Peak said that Poindexter met him at Frank Peak
Jr.s house. Frank, a cousin of Duane, was the
defense captain of the NCCF. A man named Raleigh
House brought Poindexter over to Franks house at
9:30 p.m. according to Peak. From there Peak,
Poindexter and House drove to Mondo we Langas
home where Poindexter got out, according to Peak.
Peak then went with Raleigh House to pick up
dynamite and a suitcase and returned to
Mondoshouse where the bomb was assembled by Ed
Poindexter according to Pfeffers report.
Pfeffer wrote that Peak said that Poindextertold
me that he couldnt plant the bomb, because they
had his description and would know that he was
the one who did it, so he asked me to do it, and he told me how to do it.
Duane Peak said he waited several days before
following the order allegedly given him by Ed
Poindexter. Peak claimed he was given a ride to
Mondos house by a white woman, Norma Aufrecht,
who also gave him a ride with the suitcase bomb after he picked it up.
Norma Aufrecht, a Black Panther supporter, would
sometimes give party members rides in her
fathers car. When police searched her residence
some of Duane Peaks clothing was
found. Aufrecht was arrested during the sweep
following the bombing but was released for insufficient evidence.
On October 12, 1970, William Sullivan, made his
only public statement on the Omaha Two case.
Sullivan monitored COINTELPRO daily for Hoover
and was on the copy list of the COINTELPRO memos
involving the Omaha Two. Sullivans remarks came
up in a rare public speech to a United Press International conference.
Sullivan falsely denied any FBI role in any
conspiracy against the Black Panthers. About
Minards death, Sullivan said to the gathered
reporters and correspondents: On August 12,
1970 [sic] an Omaha, Nebraska police officer was
literally blasted to death by an explosive device
placed in a suitcase in an abandoned
residence. The officer had been summoned by an
anonymous telephone complaint that a woman was
being beated [sic] there. An individual with
Panther associations has been charged with this crime.
Sullivan went on describing a variety of violent
acts for which he blamed the Black Panthers,
including the deaths of rival group members that
later would be discovered to be
COINTELPRO-instigated shootings. Sullivan
dismissed the growing body of evidence that there
was some sort of coordinated national effort
against the Black Panthers that used illegal tactics.
Panther cries of repression at the hands of a
government conspiracy receive the sympathy not
only of adherents to totalitarian ideologies, but
also of those willing to close their eyes to even
the violent nature of hoodlum revolutionary acts, said Sullivan.
The next day Paul Young, at the Omaha FBI office,
sent a COINTELPRO memo to J. Edgar Hoover
following up on the 911 recording of Larry
Minards fatal caller he had sent to the FBI Laboratory.
Young updated Hoover on the case: Assistant COP
GLENN GATES, Omaha PD, advised that he feels that
any uses of this call might be prejudicial to the
police murder trial against two accomplices of
PEAK and, therefore, has advised that he wishes
no use of this tape until after the murder trials
of Peak and the two accomplices has been completed.
The COINTELPRO memo continued,
efforts are being made at this time to secure
additional recordings of the original telephone call.
Meanwhile, in New York, FBI agents located Angela
Davis and arrested her for the Marin County
jailbreak in California. Davis would remain
jailed for months awaiting trial where she was
found not guilty while at the same time in Omaha
the two Panther leaders sat in jail.
The day after Youngs memo to Hoover about the
911 tape, Murdock Platner was in Washington, D.C.
to testify before U.S. House Committee on
Internal Security about the Omaha Two case.
Platner was under oath and testified to a
different source for the dynamite than that
alleged by Duane Peak at the preliminary hearing two weeks earlier.
Peaks story was that Black Panther treasurer
Raleigh House, who was never prosecuted, was the
supplier of the dynamite that killed
Minard. Captain Platner told a different story to the Committee:
Duane Peak, a [now] 16-year old boy who was
arrested, testified in a preliminary hearing. It
is from this preliminary hearing you are bound
over to the district court to stand trial. In
the preliminary hearing he testified that David
Rice [Mondo we Langa] brought a suitcase filled
with dynamite to his house or to somebodys
house, Im not for sure just which place; that
they removed all the dynamite from the suitcase
except three sticks, made the bomb, the
triggering device, and so on, and put it
together; and then packed the suitcase with
newspapers and that he left with this suitcase.
Platner continued his testimony: "On July 28,
1970, three young Negroes, one who is an
ex-Panther, were arrested with 41 2 ½ inch by
16-inch sticks of dynamite in the car. This is
also similar to the dynamite taken in burglary in Des Moines of Quick Supply."
Platner then quit answering questions from the
Committee, "Now I am a little hesitant to go into
the rest of this because there is a trial yet to
be held. I don't know what I should say."
Platner would also travel to Washington to
testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary
Committee where he would tell a similar story but
with different amounts of dynamite confiscated by
police from the three men detective Jack Swanson
was investigating from the July arrests.
Neither of Platners trips, nor his conflicting
dynamite testimony, was ever reported by the
Omaha news media or mentioned in the trial of Ed
Poindexter and Mondo we Langa.
At the April 1971 murder trial the jury never
heard the 911 recording of Minards
killer. Duane Peak alleged he planted the bomb
and made the anonymous phone call. Peak
testified he was supplied with the dynamite by
Raleigh House and claimed the bomb was
constructed at Mondo we Langas home under orders of Ed Poindexter.
Norma Aufrecht moved from Omaha soon after her
release from jail and was not called to testify
at the murder trial about Duane Peaks clothing
found at her residence or Peaks claim she gave
him a ride to Mondo we Langas house.
The jury never knew that three men had been
arrested several weeks earlier in the city before
the bombing with a cache of stolen dynamite in their car.
Nor did the jury know the detective in charge of
the seized explosives later allegedly found
dynamite in the Minard case. The jury was also
not told that Captain Platner testified twice in
Washington, D.C.to two different Congressional
committees about the dynamite, leaving dynamite
unaccounted for by giving a different amount seized in his two versions.
Jack Swanson was the star police witness against
the two Panthers at trial with his claim of
discovery of dynamite in the basement of Mondo we
Langas residence. Swanson's claim was supported
by fellow detective Robert Pfeffer who testified
he first saw the dynamite when Swanson carried it
up the stairs from Mondo's basement. Pfeffer has
since contradicted his own trial testimony and
now claims under oath that he, not Swanson, found the dynamite.
Lieutenant James Perry testified Peaks sister
Delia said the teenager might be found there.
Perrys testimony was carefully reviewed by U.S.
District Judge Warren Urbom in a later appeal by
Mondo we Langa. Judge Urbom dismissed the police
story: Lt. Perrys testimony that Delia Peak
told him that Duane Peak, Edward Poindexter and
David Rice [Mondo we Langa] were constant
companions is in no way corroborated by the remainder of the record before me.
Judge Urbom concluded the police account of the
search warrant was unreliable. On the basis of
the entire record before this court and having
heard and seen Lt. Perry testify, it is
impossible for me to credit his testimony.
Jack Swansons role in the Minard case was good
for his career. On November 26, 1972, he was
promoted to lieutenant and was again promoted on
August 22, 1975 to Deputy Chief of Police. In
1981 Swanson was named Chief of Police in Omaha.
Raleigh House was never prosecuted for supplying
Peak with the dynamite, adding to speculation he
was the FBIs informer inside the Panther group
because of his get-out-of-jail free treatment in
the police dragnet after the bombing.
Luther Payne, Lamont Mitchell, and Conrad Gray
all quietly had their dynamite possession charges
dropped a week after the murder trial ended.
Duane Peak made a deal with prosecutors, escaping
punishment as an adult and walked free from
juvenile detention when he turned 18 years
old. Peak is now living on the West Coast under
the name Gabriel Peak and refuses all comment on
the case. Arthur OLeary confirmed the deal with
Peak in an interview with the Washington Post on January 8, 1978.
COINTELPRO was officially terminated 10 days
after the Omaha Two were convicted, following
disclosure of secret FBI files after a March 8,
1971 break-in of the Media, Pennsylvania satellite FBI office.
A group of unidentified activists called the
Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI made
their way under the cover of darkness with
crowbars into the non-alarmed second-floor office
and emptied desks and file cabinets, including 1,000 classified documents.
Hoover was furious and ordered chief inspector
Mark Felt, Watergates Deep Throat, to go to
Media and get a first hand report. Despite an
intense effort for a year with a massive
investigation to catch the burglars, the crime
was never solved. Meanwhile, the activists were
busy leaking the documents to media and government officials.
By the end of March, COINTELPROs dirty tricks
were coming to light despite Attorney General
John Mitchells efforts to muzzle the national
news media. Hoover kept the lid on his
counterintelligence operation during the Omaha
Two trial before cancelling the clandestine
operation late in April. The jury never knew of
COINTELPROs existence or that Ed Poindexter and
Mondo we Langa were personal targets of J. Edgar Hoover.
J. Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972 without ever
making a public statement about his role in
letting one of Larry Minards killers escape justice.
Also unknown to the jurors, Arthur OLeary, the
chief courtroom prosecutor who stood before them,
did not care about the truth. The transcript
from an interrogation of Peak by OLeary soon
after Peaks arrest reveals the prosecutor said,
As a practical matter, it doesnt make any
difference what the truth is concerning you at all.
O Leary continued, You realize now that it
doesnt make any difference whether you did or
didnt. That doesnt really make one bit of
difference at all at this stage of the game but I
want to make sure concerning somebody else that
might have been involved. Because you see what
it amounts to, Duane, is that eventually you are
going to have to testify about everything you
said here and it isnt going to make one bit of
difference whether or not you leave out one fact
or not, as far as you are concerned. Do you
understand what I am trying to tell you?
Peak got OLearys message and after a half-dozen
different versions of his story finally
implicated the two Panther leaders. In the
solitude of his jail cell, the young killer would
express remorse in a letter to a relative,
intercepted by his jailers but kept from the
defense attorneys at trial. The letter would
later emerge and become part of the appellate court record.
Peak wrote: 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: 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.
At Dune Peaks preliminary hearing in September
he refused to implicate Ed Poindexter or Mondo we
Langa. The prosecution called for an early
recess to the morning hearing. When the session
reconvened after the lunch hour Peak returned to
the witness stand wearing sunglasses and shaking
nervously. 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 dont know.
Defense Attorney: You had a conversation between
the time you were placed on the witness stand
this morning and the present time now, isnt 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, isnt that correct?
Duane Peak: I didnt have a chance.
Defense Attorney: You didnt have a chance did you?
Duane Peak: No.
Defense Attorney: You are doing what they want you to do, arent you?
Duane Peak: Yes.
In California on June 5, 1972, Angela Davis was
found not guilty of involvement in the Marin
County jailbreak but her experience in jail gave
her a connection with Black Panthers arrested
under COINTELPRO, in particular the Omaha Two, who she says should be released.
Geronimo Pratt did not fare as well. On July 28,
1972, Pratt was convicted in Los Angeles of the
December 18, 1968 shooting of Caroline Olsen
during a robbery. Pratt was fingered by a FBI
informant, Julius Carl Butler. Pratts alibi was
he was in Oakland attending a Black Panther
meeting which was corroborated by Kathleen
Cleaver. Pratt sought FBI wiretap records which
also could confirm his innocence of the
robbery-murder by establishing his presence in
Oakland. Pratt was falsely told by the FBI that
wiretap transcripts were lost or destroyed and
during the trial it was denied that he was a COINTELPRO target.
Geronimo Pratt was finally released after 27
years in prison, eight years of it in solitary
confinement, when his conviction was vacated on
June 10, 1997 over FBI and prosecutorial
misconduct withholding relevant information about
the FBI informant and targeting of Pratt. Pratt
later won $4.5 million dollar lawsuit against the
Los Angeles Police Department and FBI for false imprisonment.
Ivan Willard Conrad resigned from the FBI on July
12, 1973. In December 1975, Conrad was
questioned over missing FBI laboratory equipment
and initially denied any knowledge. Conrad then
changed his story and returned $20,000 worth of
equipment. The disgraced former lab director
escaped prosecution because of the statute of
limitations and paid the FBI $1,500 for use of the equipment.
On July 5, 1974, U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom
ordered a new trial in the Minard case, tossing
out the dynamite evidence allegedly found by
Swanson in Mondo we Langas home. The state appealed.
The Eighth Circuit U. S. Court of Appeals had a
three-judge panel review the case and they
unanimously upheld Judge Urboms ruling. The
federal appellate court wrote: Testimony before
Judge Urbom suggests that the purpose of
searching for explosives was an afterthought
conceived after the police arrived at the house,
rather than an urgent emergency, and that they
decided to apply for a warrant to search for
explosives in the petitioners house only because
they had not discovered dynamite in any of the
other locations they had searched earlier in the day.
The court continued: We consider it necessary
to point out that the record discloses a
widespread search for the suspects Peak and
Poindexter and which evinced at least a negligent
disregard by the Omaha police for the
constitutional rights of not only petitioner but
possibly other citizens as well.
With four federal judges now calling for a new
trial, the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme
Court. The appeal arrived at the court as Warren
Burger, the chief justice appointed by Richard
Nixon before the President resigned in disgrace
over Watergate. Burger was busy seeking to
overturn earlier decisions of his predecessor,
Earl Warren. Mondos case was consolidated with
another murder appeal, Stone v. Powell.
However, judicial scrutiny of the facts of the
case was over, the two political prisoners of J.
Edgar Hoover next had their case examined by the
nations highest court through a political lens.
Time magazine called the case important and
described the jockeying of the justices in a
campaign over rights of criminal
defendants. Authors Bob Woodward and Scott
Armstrong discuss Stone v. Powell in their book,
The Brethren, To Burger, these seemed perfect
cases: two murderers were trying to overturn
their convictions by raising technical Fourth Amendment claims.
Woodward and Armstrong continued, Under the
Constitution, any state prisoner has a right to
petition the federal courts for a writ of habeas
corpus, which required the state to show that the
imprisonment did not violate the federal Constitution.
The authors wrote: Burger had long wanted to
cut off habeas petitions on Fourth Amendment
claims. He believed they were almost always
frivolous, and they clogged the federal
courts. To preclude such petitions and to
overrule an important Warren Court precedent would be a major victory.
The Supreme Court refused to hear the merits of
the case, creating new restrictive precedent for
prisoner appeals and returned the matter to
Nebraska courts where the outcome was already
foreshadowed by media attention hostile to the
Black Panthers. No new trial was ever granted
despite requests from both convicted men and the
revelation of manipulation of evidence by J. Edgar Hoover
The U.S. Senate appointed a committee to
investigate the intelligence agencies of the
United States. The sub-committee of the
Judiciary Committee was chaired by Frank Church
[D-Idaho] which became known as the Church Committee.
The Church Committee conducted an investigation
and issued a damning report on the practices of
the nations intelligence agencies. COINTELPRO
got particular attention and illegal actions of the FBI were documented.
The Church Committee concluded in part: Legal
issues were often overlooked by many of the
intelligence officers who directed these
operations. Some held a pragmatic view of
intelligence activities that did not regularly
attach sufficient significance to questions of
legality. The question raised was usually not
whether a particular program was legal or ethical, but whether it worked.
The full story of COINTELPRO will never be
known. Neither Congress nor the courts seized
the COINTELPRO files and they were left in the
custody of the FBI which began destruction of the
incriminating documents after 20 years with many never seeing the light of day.
Over the years Angela Davis continues to make
trips to Nebraska to visit the Omaha Two. Actor
Danny Glover has also made the trip to Lincoln
and has called for the release of the two former
Panther leaders.A citizen group, Nebraskans for
Justice, formed to support a legal battle for a new trial.
Lincoln attorney Robert Bartle, head of the
Nebraska Bar Association, has worked for a
half-decade to obtain a new trial untainted by
COINTELPRO manipulation. Omaha attorney Tim
Ashford, who grew up on Ohio Street a few blocks
from the murder scene, has joined the effort to
secure a fair trial. Bartle represents Ed
Poindexter and Ashford represents Mondo we Langa.
Robert Bartle says: The whole COINTELPRO
operation under the late J. Edgar Hoovers
administration was unknown to the folks at the
time. The whole COINTELPRO focus on Ed and
and the efforts to discredit them in the
Omaha community were a separate conspiratorial
operation that was not known to either Ed or Mondo.
Bartle continues: The fact that the tape was
withheld from the defense at the time and the
fact that the FBI under the auspices of the
COINTELPRO program, first offering to do a voice
analysis and then retreated from that position
because it might prejudice the prosecution we
believe is critical information
that would likely
have led to an acquittal in this case.
Tim Ashford is sharp with his criticism of
COINTELPRO, They withheld, the FBI, the mighty
FBI, withheld a memo regarding the 911 tape
these are political prisoners
The recording of the 911 call that lured Larry
Minard to his death was destroyed by Lt. James
Perry several years after the trial without the
jury that convicted the Panther leaders ever
hearing the voice of the deadly caller.
Years after the murder trial, a copy of the 911
call was found in the personal effects of a
deceased police dispatcher who had secretly made a copy of the recording.
In 2006 and 2007 the tape was subjected to
sophisticated scientific analysis by audio
forensics expert Tom Owen. Owen is an
internationally recognized analyst and he
listened to exemplars of the 911 call and a
contemporary recording of Duane Peak repeating the same words.
Owen, who frequently works for the prosecution
and conducts professional seminars for police on
voice analysis, concluded the voice on the 911
call was not that of 15 year-old Duane Peak. The
Omaha World-Herald described the voice as deep and drawling.
Owen testified in May 2007 that the voices did
not match with a detailed phrase-by-phrase
courtroom explanation of the
discrepancies. However, Judge Russell Bowie
denied a new trial in a decision that was upheld
by the Nebraska Supreme Court. Despite the new
forensic evidence about the identity of the 911
caller, federal courts have declined review
because both prisoners have exhausted their
appeal rights during their lengthy incarceration.
The anonymous 911 caller is still unidentified
and at large with Donald Peak considered a prime
suspect by a number of people familiar with the case.
At the time of trial, Nebraska law had the jury
determine both guilt or innocence and the
sentence. Prosecutors sought the death penalty
for the two Panther leaders but the 11 white and
one black juror opted for life sentences
instead. Some observers attributed the sentence
to the lone black juror while others felt the
outcome reflected doubt in the minds of the
jurors. The impassioned closing arguments by
Public Defender Frank Morrison have also been
credited for the jurys refusal to execute.
Morrison, a former three-term governor of
Nebraska, later described the verdict as the
biggest disappointment of his legal career: As a
citizen, as a former prosecutor, and governor of
this state, I abhor, detest and condemn the
cowardly, cruel, and unjustified murder of
officer Minard. My heart aches for his
family. The guilty parties should pay the
penalty. The self-confessed murderer was turned
loose after a slap on the wrist.
I now believe and always have believed that the
true role of law enforcement is truth. Real
justice can only be built on truth. I hope the
Congress and other policy makers will reestablish
this policy. I feel both I and the system failed Ed Poindexter.
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa remain
imprisoned at the maximum-security Nebraska State
Penitentiary serving life sentences, while they
continue to deny any role in the fatal bombing.
Mondo we Langa explains his situation: We
didnt know about COINTELPRO
but what we did know
in the party is that in 69 Fred Hampton and Mark
Clark had been murdered by the police in
Chicago. We knew that all over the country
Panthers were being targeted by the police, the
FBI and so forth. Even though we didnt know
about the existence of COINTELPRO we did know
that some things were going on that shouldnt
have been going on in a supposed democracy. It
is about paranoia. And when you think about it
the U.S. government had a right to be
paranoid. They were doing wrong to people every day.
But there were a couple of agendas working hand
in hand. One, you had the Omaha Police
Department. Two, you had the FBI. Now the FBIs
agenda was probably more related to the
destruction of the Black Panther Party
solely. The Omaha Police had that as part of
their agenda as well as finding the killer or
killers of Minard. You can believe those cops
wanted somebody. But when you put the two
agendas together, that is where we ended
up. Somebody had to pay for Minards killing, so
they got that taken care of. At the same time
they were able to essentially kill the head so the body would die.
Ed Poindexter says simply, I have been unjustly
accused of a crime I had nothing to do with.
Authors note: Elmer Geronimo Pratt changed his
name to Geronimo Ji Jaga but Pratt has been used
in the article to avoid reader confusion. David
L. Rice changed his name while in prison to
Wopashitwe Eyen Mondo we Langa which has been
shortened to Mondo we Langa for reader
convenience. Mondos new name combines four
African languages and means natural man.
522 Valencia Street
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