Forty-nine years ago, August 17, 1970, Omaha police received a 911 call about a woman screaming in a vacant house. Eight officers arrived at the scene where a bomb waited. Patrolman Larry Minard was killed and the others injured. Omaha’s Black Panther Party known as the National Committee to Combat Fascism was immediately suspected and before the day was out its leaders were marked for blame.
Edward Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa (former David Rice) headed the local NCCF chapter and were targeted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under the illegal counterintelligence operation code-named COINTELPRO. One thing stood in the way of the plot to pin the crime on the two leaders, a recording of the fatal 911 call. FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul Young met with Deputy Chief of Police Glen Gates and they conspired, the day of the bombing, to withhold an audiological report by the FBI Laboratory on the identity of the anonymous caller.
A fifteen year-old, Duane Peak, confessed to the crime but never served a day in prison because he got a deal from the prosecutor, Donald Knowles. Peak implicated Poindexter and Mondo and they went to prison instead. Peak’s older brother, Donald Peak, was a FBI informant and led police to Duane’s hiding place. Donald may have brokered the deal for his brother.
At the preliminary hearing a month after the bombing, Duane Peak denied Poindexter and Mondo had any involvement in the crime. Knowles called for a continuance and sent for Donald Peak and the grandfather, Rev. Foster Goodlett. When Peak returned to the witness stand hours later he changed his story and said the two leaders put him up to the crime and helped him.
One of Donald Peak’s sisters said the voice on the 911 recording sounded like Donald but the police did not follow up the lead. With the Peak brothers out of the way, the case against Poindexter and Mondo went forward. Both men were convicted following a controversial trial marred by conflicting police testimony, withheld evidence, and perjury.
Don Kleine, the current Douglas County Attorney, was hired by Donald Knowles and accepts as adequate the work of his supervisor. Kleine has refused a request to reopen the murder investigation in light of information about the secret role of the FBI in the case that was unknown to the jury.
Mondo died in March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Ed Poindexter remains imprisoned, forty-nine years after the bombing, serving a life without parole sentence while continuing to proclaim his innocence. Duane Peak is living in Spokane, Washington under an assumed name. Donald Peak was never charged and lives in Omaha. Don Kleine is seeking reelection.
Parts of the article are excerpted from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at NorthOmahaHistory.com. The book is also available to patrons of the Omaha Public Library.