Within hours of the August 17, 1970 bombing murder of Omaha policeman Larry Minard, leaders of the Federal Bureau of Investigation conspired to withhold a FBI Laboratory report on the identity of the anonymous 911 caller that lured Minard to his death.
Assistant Director Charles Brennan was alerted by an early morning call from the Omaha FBI office of Minard’s death. Brennan, in charge of the Domestic Intelligence Division, was pushing an escalation of counterintelligence actions under the clandestine COINTELPRO counterintelligence operation against so-called Black Nationalists. The FBI decided to help the Omaha police solve the crime.
Special Agent in Charge Paul Young in Omaha quickly conferred with Deputy Chief of Police Glen Gates and obtained a recording of the 911 call for the FBI Laboratory. Young stipulated the FBI could not be quoted nor would the Bureau issue a laboratory report. Young wrote to Director J. Edgar Hoover while detectives were searching crime scene rubble.
“Deputy Chief Gates inquired into the possibility of voice analysis of the individual making the call by the FBI Laboratory. He was advised the matter would be considered and that if such analysis were made and if subsequent voice patterns were transmitted for comparison, such analysis would have to be strictly informal, as the FBI could not provide any testimony in the matter; also, only an oral report of the results of such examination would be made to the Police Department. Gates stated he understood these terms and stated the Police Department would be extremely appreciative of any assistance in this matter by the FBI and would not embarrass the FBI at a later date, but would use such information for lead purposes only.”
William Sullivan, third in command of the FBI as Assistant to the Director, was appraised of the developing counterintelligence action in Omaha and gave his written approval. Sullivan was the principal architect of COINTELPRO and kept close watch on clandestine operations.
Paul Young alerted Hoover with a second memorandum that quoted informant OM T-7 about the Minard bombing. Young’s informant stated that Omaha’s Black Panther affiliate chapter did not seem to be involved. Lack of involvement did not stop Young from pushing his plan to please Hoover.
“On August 18, 1970, OM T-7 advised that the members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism were pleased over the death of the “pig” but that their actions did not indicate that they had any knowledge of who set off the blast, and at this time seemed unaware of who could have committed the crime.”
Assistant Director John Mohr, head of the Administrative Division, assigned supervisor William Bradley to write a memorandum to Assistant Director Ivan Willard Conrad at the FBI Laboratory.
“The SAC, Omaha strongly recommends that the examination requested by the Omaha Police Department be conducted.”
“If approved, the results of any examinations will be orally furnished the Police on an informal basis through the SAC, Omaha.”
Hoover was on vacation when Conrad called Hoover by phone for instructions. Hoover conducted limited FBI business while on vacation and was only called on important matters, however Conrad understood the significance of letting a policeman’s killer get away with murder necessitated making the call.
A handwritten, initialed notation by Conrad stated, “Dir advised telephonically & said OK to do.”
Hoover returned to Washington from his vacation trip to California and promptly gave both Sullivan and Mohr an unexpected $250 cash bonus for handling matters while he was gone. Although Hoover did not directly link the money to the case in Omaha in his correspondence citing “additional responsibilities” the timing of the unusual reward is suggestive of blood money offered to settle any troubled consciences for letting a policeman’s killer get away with murder.
While Sullivan and Mohr were getting their checks, a second memorandum was sent to Conrad at the FBI Laboratory about the Minard case. “In referenced memorandum, 8/19/70, the Director approved a request to assist the Omaha Police Department in captioned case through the use of voice comparison examinations by the Laboratory.”
“By telephonic communication 8/21/70, the SAC, Omaha has requested that a Laboratory Supervisor travel to Omaha for the purpose of furnishing technical guidance to the Omaha Police.”
“The SAC, Omaha, 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 existing recording of the false “bait” complaint to the police is the most important present tangible evidence in the possession of the police, and he recommended the Bureau send a Laboratory representative.”
The unidentified caller was an obstacle to placing the blame for the bombing on two leaders of the NCCF chapter, Edward Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa). J. Edgar Hoover put his own pen to paper and wrote “OK” followed with his distinctive “H” initial. The anonymous 911 caller that lured a policeman to his death would not be sought.
Young sent Hoover another memorandum two months later reminding the boss that the 911 recording was not to be used. Duane Peak, the confessed bomber, would say he made the fatal phone call solving the problem of the unknown caller. Peak got a deal for his cooperation and never spent a day in prison despite planting the bomb. “Assistant COP GLENN GATES, Omaha PD, advised that he feels that any use of tapes 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 jury that convicted Poindexter and Rice in April 1971 never heard the 911 recording. The tape was never introduced as evidence and a killer’s voice went unheard. The two Black Panthers received life without parole sentences at hard labor. Rice died in March 2016 at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary where Poindexter remains imprisoned and continues to proclaim his innocence.
The story of the flawed investigation, prosecution, and trial is now available in my new book, FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and in ebook format at Kindle. Portions of the book may also be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.