Deputy Douglas County Attorney Arthur O’Leary was the lead prosecutor in the Larry Minard murder trial. Minard, an Omaha policeman, was killed in an ambush bombing on August 17, 1970, at a vacant house on the Near-Northside. Two Black Panther leaders, Edward Poindexter and David Rice, were convicted in April 1971 for the crime following a controversial trial.
On August 28, 1970, Omaha police arrested sixteen year-old Duane Peak for the murder. Peak underwent a week-long interrogation of multiple sessions before he finally implicated Poindexter and Rice. The interrogations began at police headquarters by two black patrolmen known to Peak. The last interrogation, a week later by white detectives, was at the Dodge County Jail in Fremont, Nebraska where Peak was being held.
At mid-point in the questioning, prosecutor O’Leary conducted a formal deposition of Peak, complete with court reporter. In all, Peak gave six different versions of the crime. Every time Peak related the murder events he altered the facts. O’Leary and the detectives pushed until they heard what they wanted. Peak implicated :Poindexter, chairman of the local National Committee to Combat Fascism.
“It was on a Monday before the bombing….I went down to headquarters and Poindexter said he wanted to talk to me and he took me down the street and told me what he planned on doing. He said he was going to make a bomb and that he was going to plant it in a house and have somebody call the police up there.”
“He didn’t say exactly what I was supposed to do. He told me on that day to be at my cousin, Frank’s house at nine o’clock….I went over there and Poindexter was there and said he was going to David Rice’s house.”
“We went to the house and Poindexter went down in the basement and brought a suitcase up and there was a case of dynamite there and he took three sticks out and put them in the suitcase and he had a battery. I didn’t watch how he put it together but he said it was all set and he put paper around it and he shut it and he planned on doing it that night but he didn’t. I don’t know why.”
Peak did not know where Poindexter got the battery. Peak went on to describe the suitcase as “gray, real dark gray.” Peak was uncertain where the suitcase came from; first it was in the bedroom, then Peak changed the story saying he thought Poindexter had the suitcase with him. “He put a hole in the bottom of the suitcase and there was a blue insulated wire extending from the hole, about four inches.”
Peak claimed he had another rendezvous with Poindexter. “The next day.…we walked up Ohio to 30th and he spotted the house and he said, “That would be a good house right there. He walked up and he walked down the alley and looked at it.”
Peak stated he did not see Poindexter again until Friday evening at a nightclub. Peak was a member of a singing group and sang a couple of songs as an opening act. “Friday night we had a little group meeting and we were singing down at the Legion club. I saw Poindexter down there and Poindexter told me that he wanted to have it done by Sunday and I told him I didn’t want to be involved.”
Poindexter would not take no for an answer according to Peak. “Well, you have to follow orders, and if you don’t do it, something is going to happen to you….You take the suitcase up to the house.”
Duane got his older sister Delia Peak to give him a ride. “Delia drove me up there and she dropped me off in the alley….I took the suitcase out of the trunk and walked up the alley and Delia left and I walked in the house—there is a porch there and I walked in the house and the door was already open and I put it in the living room in the middle of the floor.”
Peak denied triggering the bomb. O’Leary pressed for details but Peak wanted out. “I want to hurry up and get out of this, I want out of this whole thing.”
O’Leary told Peak to repeat the story and tried to budge Peak from his claim he left the bomb not triggered in the vacant house. “I want to go over it once again. As a practical matter, it doesn’t make any difference what the truth is concerning you at all.”
O’Leary continued his attempt to extract information about the bomb. “It doesn’t hurt you one bit to tell me the rest, if there is any more….What I am getting at is, when you left the bomb or the dynamite there, all there was was the wire trailing out of it and you set it upright, is that correct?”
Again, O’Leary asked Peak about arming the bomb. “You didn’t arm it or attach it to the floor or anything like that?”
‘You realize now that it doesn’t make any difference whether you did or didn’t. That doesn’t 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 isn’t going to make one bit of difference whether or not you leave out one fact of not, as far as you are concerned.”
Duane Peak ended up listening to O’Leary and earned a get-out-of-jail-free card by implicating the two NCCF leaders. Peak testified at the trial Poindexter and Rice built the bomb and put Peak up to delivering it to the vacant house where Minard died. Rice, who changed his name to Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, died March 2016 at the Nebraska State Penitentiary serving a life without parole sentence. Poindexter, remains imprisoned at the maximum-security prison, where he continues to proclaim his innocence fifty years after the crime.
Poindexter has a pending commutation request before the Board of Pardons and a community march supporting Poindexter’s freedom is planned in Omaha for September 19th. A prayer vigil was recently held by ten ministers praying for the families of both Poindexter and Minard and other families of racial violence victims.
This article is excerpted from FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO & the Omaha Two story, in print edition at Amazon and available 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.