Fifty years ago, April 12, 1971, two cousins of confessed bomber Duane Peak testified that he did not meet with Ed Poindexter to discuss bombing Omaha police as he claimed earlier in the trial over the death of Patrolman Larry Minard.
Poindexter and David Rice (later Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa) were leaders of Omaha’s affiliate chapter of the Black Panther Party called the National Committee to Combat Fascism. The August 17, 1970 bombing murder of Patrolman Larry Minard was quickly blamed on the two men who were arrested and charged with the crime. The pair were implicated in the murder by the confessed bomber, fifteen year-old Duane Peak, a Black Panther wannabe. Peak, who was implicated in the bombing by his sisters, made a deal with prosecutors and never spent a day in prison for the crime.
At trial William Peak was called to the witness stand as a defense witness. William said he was a third cousin to Duane Peak and gave some family history about how Duane came to be homeless and out of control. “Well, Duane’s daddy used to like to drink a lot and he would go down the street and come back and beat up his wife and the kids and he stabbed Jackie two or three times and they used to fight all the time and so one day he got mad and pulled a shotgun on all of them and told them to all get out and not come back.”
William Peak denied that Duane had met and left with Poindexter at the Peak house anytime during the week before the bombing contradicting the teenager’s testimony. William recalled an encounter with Duane and police explaining the young man’s hatred of police. “Duane was with me and the police stopped us, first one car stopped us and they put us both up against the car and then about six more cruisers came and they started to handcuff Duane and me so they grabbed me and threw me on the ground and commenced to beating me and kicking me and Duane told them to stop it, not to do that to his cousin, and so they grabbed Duane and hit him two or three times and threw him in the other car.”
William showed the jury three scars from the incident and he testified he also suffered from a torn ligament in his knee. “The police said, “We are going to kill these niggers,” and they grabbed Duane and they said, “We are going to kill this little fat nigger here.” They began beating on folks.”
William Peak denied being at the American Legion club on Friday night before the bombing and said he was at a party at Jim Grigsby’s house with Ed Poindexter, again contradicting his cousin. Peak also confirmed Poindexter’s account of Duane once shooting a gun at NCCF headquarters. “A sparrow flew in the window and so he started shooting and he shot seven holes, two through the floor, one through the ceiling, so I took the gun away from him before he grabbed the shotgun.”
Frank Peak, Jr., another cousin of Duane, also took the witness stand and denied that Duane and Poindexter were ever at his house together. Frank corroborated William’s testimony that Duane was not being truthful.
Virginia Rivers, Ed Poindexter’s mother, was the next witness. Rivers told how Ed joined the Army when he was seventeen years-old, just after high school. Ed’ mother testified he lived with her following his honorable discharge from the Army. She said Poindexter never had any explosives or bombs around the house.
Public Defender Frank Morrison conducted the examination of Ed Poindexter. Ed was confident and described his Army life. After discharge from the Army, Poindexter said he went to work for the Post Office in Atlanta but moved back to Omaha in February 1969 after his marriage soured.
Poindexter said he first met Duane Peak in November 1969 when Frank or William Peak brought Duane to the NCCF headquarters. Poindexter told of disciplining Peak for drug use. “Well, I never actually saw him take them but I remember sometime during the winter of ’69 and ’70 he was put on two weeks’ suspension for being out, for being on red devils.”
Poindexter said he never showed Peak how to make a dynamite bomb in a suitcase as Duane claimed. Poindexter also denied giving Peak any instructions about the bombing or meeting Duane at Frank Peak’s house. Poindexter denied going to Mondo’s home with Raleigh House, the alleged supplier of the dynamite and suitcase, or having anything to do with construction of a bomb.
Poindexter related that after his arrest, his clothes were confiscated and he was released from jail without them “I was almost naked.” The clothing was taken by ATF agent Thomas Sledge to deliver to the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Laboratory.
Poindexter said he did not know how particles of dynamite got into the pocket of his camouflage jacket. The jacket was acquired in Vietnam, Poindexter testified. He said he helped transport some dynamite while in Vietnam but had no other contact with explosives than that.
Poindexter denied being at the American Legion club as Duane Peak testified and said he was at a party instead. “I think I stayed there pretty late. I got drunk and I woke up after everybody was gone.”
Testifying in a clear and steady voice, Poindexter told the jury that he never talked with Duane Peak about “how to kill a pig” and never knew Larry Minard nor had any reason to kill him. “I was unjustly accused of a crime, or accused of a crime I haven’t had anything to do with.”
Poindexter testified he joined the Black Panthers during 1969. When the national organization disbanded the Omaha chapter later that year, Poindexter testified he joined a successor group, the United Front Against Fascism and later another group, the National Committee to Combat Fascism, which he headed.
Poindexter’s affiliations created hostility by police. “Well, they didn’t like me personal because I criticized them and because the organization criticized them, other members of the organization criticized them, you know.”
When asked directly about involvement in Larry Minard’s murder, Poindexter promptly replied. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Convicted of the murder, Poindexter and Mondo were sentenced to life in prison. Mondo died at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in March 2016. Poindexter remains imprisoned at the maximum security prison where he continues to proclaim his innocence. Poindexter has a pending commutation of sentence request pending with the Nebraska Pardon Board, chaired by Governor Pete Ricketts, which refuses to schedule a hearing date for Poindexter’s request.
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.