Forty-eight years ago today, August 11, 1970, a suitcase bomb was allegedly constructed in the kitchen of David Rice at 2816 Parker Street in Omaha, Nebraska. Rice who changed his name in prison to Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, was convicted along with Edward Poindexter for the murder of Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard. The pair were leaders of the Black Panther affiliate organization National Committee to Combat Fascism and targets of harassment by both the Omaha police department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Omaha was a pent up racial powder keg with rioting the summer before after the police shooting of fourteen year-old Vivian Strong. The police had been actively harassing local Panthers since October 1968 according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation confidential memorandum. Meanwhile the FBI had targeted Poindexter with two bogus letters under the infamous clandestine COINTELPRO operation. Director J. Edgar Hoover had declared war on the Black Panthers and in December 1969 ordered Special Agent in Charge Paul Young to get both Poindexter and Mondo off the streets. Hoover demanded Young to be “imaginative.”
An August 17, 1970, fatal bombing attack on police presented the perfect crime to pin on the Black Panther leaders. An intense investigation turned up a fifteen year-old bomber, Duane Peak. However, Hoover did not want a teen bomber, Hoover wanted Poindexter and Mondo to take the rap. Peak was given a deal, no prison time in exchange for his testimony implicating the two leaders.
Although Peak gave police half a dozen different versions of the crime, including several of the bomb construction, the teen claimed at trial he helped Poindexter make the bomb in Mondo’s kitchen. The official version of the story was that Peak was at NCCF headquarters a week before the bombing when Poindexter told Peak he wanted him to help blow up a pig. Peak claimed he met Poindexter the following night at his cousin Frank Peak’s house and then went with Poindexter and Raleigh House to Mondo’s home. Peak then testified he went with House to pick up the suitcase and dynamite before returning to Mondo’s residence. Peak’s account is not only denied by Poindexter but also disputed by Frank Peak who said his cousin Duane did not meet Poindexter at Frank’s house.
Peak gave two versions of the ride with Raleigh House to get the dynamite and prosecutor Arthur O’Leary told the jury a third version. Peak’s two stories had House bring the suitcase out of his front door and alternatively, bring the suitcase around the house from in back. O’Leary’s version at trial during opening arguments had Poindexter accompany Peak to pick up the explosives. House was never charged with supplying the dynamite and suitcase for the bomb and only spent one night in jail until released on a signature bond by O’Leary. The trial contradiction between Peak’s story and O’Leary’s opening remarks was never explored by defense lawyers and not explained by O’Leary.
Peak gave several accounts of the bomb construction. Before trial, Mondo was in another room and possibly unaware of what was going on in the kitchen. At trial, Mondo helped with construction of the bomb by wading up paper to pad the suitcase. Years later, when Peak was interviewed by State Senator Ernie Chambers, the bomb was supposedly made by Poindexter and Mondo in the basement while Peak waited upstairs.
Before his death in March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary, Mondo steadfastly denied any role in the crime and said Peak was never in his kitchen as claimed at trial. Poindexter, who still is at the state maximum-security prison, also denies involvement in the murder of Minard and furthermore says he did not talk to Peak at NCCF headquarters as he had personally banned the youth from the building for shooting a pistol at a bird.
In exchange for his testimony Peak was declared a juvenile delinquent and never spent a single day in prison for the death of a policeman. Raleigh House, the purported supplier of suitcase and dynamite, was never prosecuted.
A more detailed account of the crime may be found in FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, available in print at Amazon and ebook at Kindle.