Black and white, young and old, approximately one hundred marchers paraded down North Twenty-fourth Street in Omaha seeking freedom for Edward Poindexter from the Nebraska State Penitentiary. Poindexter, former chairman of the local Black Panther Party affiliate chapter, has been imprisoned fifty years for the August 17, 1970 murder of Patrolman Larry Minard.
Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) were leaders of the National Committee to Combat Fascism and targets of a clandestine counterintelligence operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation code-named COINTELPRO. FBI agents worked behind the scenes during the murder investigation and steered detectives toward the men who have come to be called the Omaha Two. The FBI Laboratory was ordered by Director J. Edgar Hoover to withhold a report on the identity of an anonymous 911 caller that lured police into a bomb ambush. The COINTELPRO operation was successful and resulted in the conviction of the Poindexter and Rice after a controversial trial marred by conflicting police testimony and apparently planted evidence.
Omaha was recently the scene of a similar but more somber event, a prayer vigil for families of racial violence. Prayers were offered for both the families of Larry Minard and Ed Poindexter. The Nebraska Board of Pardons has a pending request from Poindexter to have his sentence commuted to make him eligible for parole.
The March For Ed proceeded to Kountze Park where organizer Preston Love and others spoke. Retiring Senator Ernie Chambers participated in the march and spoke briefly calling for Poindexter’s release from prison. Freelance writer Kietryn Zychal, long an advocate for Poindexter’s freedom, also called for immediate release.
Chambers, who was named on a police suspect list in the bombing murder, has always insisted that innocent men were wrongfully convicted in April 1971. Chambers once took a trip to Spokane, Washington with City Councilman Ben Gray to obtain a voice sample of Duane Peak, the confessed teen-age bomber. Peak, who planted the bomb that killed Minard, made a deal with Douglas County Attorney Donald “Pinky” Knowles and escaped prison. In exchange for his freedom, Peak claimed that Poindexter and Rice built the bomb and put him up to delivering it to a vacant house.
Preston Love had a message for Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts. “Part of the change we need and part of the reform is to let our political prisoners go.”
One marcher, Rikki Payne, has a personal interest, Ed Poindexter is her uncle. “You can’t talk about the overpopulation of the prison and keep this man, who is innocent, in prison. Please write Pete Ricketts and ask him to put my uncle on the Pardons Board agenda for October. He’s in a wheelchair, he can’t hardly see. He is not a threat to this society.”
Poindexter, in poor health, remains imprisoned under maximum-security and continues to maintain his innocence. Mondo, also sentenced to life in prison, died in March 2016.
Members of the public that want to share an opinion with the Nebraska Board of Pardons may write to them at P. O. Box 95007, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509. Those that want to talk to someone may call Governor Pete Ricketts and give him an earful at 402-471-2244.
For more information see 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.