This is Chapter 14 of FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, and the Omaha Two story, a tale of injustice and two innocent men sentenced to life in prison because they were leaders of a Black Panthers affiliate chapter. Edward Poindexter is currently serving his life sentence at the maximum security Nebraska State Penitentiary, fifty-two years behind bars. Co-defendant Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa [David Rice] died at the prison in March 2016.
Raleigh House was released from jail on a signature bond authorized by Arthur O’Leary after one night in custody. House had been held with $10,000 bail after being booked on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder. O’Leary would not comment on House’s release.i
Mondo later wrote about House. “Of course, it’s possible he was an informant. I haven’t given that much thought, he was one of four people who could have been charged.”ii
Dwight Thomas, head of the Omaha office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, told a reporter that tests at the ATF Laboratory provided Omaha agents “with some further specific leads” by identifying dynamite as the explosive used in the Minard bombing.iii
The ATF supervisor said that “similar explosive devices” all made with dynamite were used in bombings at Ames and Des Moines and in Omaha at the Component Concepts building and the police north assembly station.iv
J. Edgar Hoover approved Paul Young’s request to mail an anonymous letter against Ed Poindexter. Young’s bogus letter proposal was sent two days before Larry Minard’s murder while Hoover was on vacation. Hoover did not mention Young’s more recent request to withhold a laboratory report which could clear Poindexter of making the 911 call. “You are authorized to prepare and mail typewritten letter on plain bond paper as enclosed….It is suggested you include several misspellings to make the letter appear more authentic. You are also authorized to include with such letter a copy of the article entitled, “Panthers Cut Omaha Link” which appeared in the 8/14/70 edition of the “Omaha World Herald” newspaper. Take the usual security precautions to insure this letter and mailing cannot be traced to the Bureau.”
“Advise the Bureau and San Francisco of any positive results obtained by means of this letter.”v
In a redacted note, Hoover provided background information. “8/14/70 edition of the “Omaha World Herald” newspaper quoting [Poindexter] that the letter appearing in the 7/25/70 BPP newspaper was forged and that it should be up to the people of Omaha to decide whether they should be declared defunct and not BPP national headquarters. The article further quoted [Poindexter] as saying there are individuals within the Central Committee who should be purged from the ranks.”
“Omaha, as a counterintelligence measure, has proposed the preparation and mailing of a letter from…an anonymous individual, to David Hilliard….The letter indicates [Poindexter] has been telling this to “Whitey’s newspaper” in Omaha and that a copy of [Poindexter’s] remarks in an Omaha newspaper is enclosed.”
“This should be an excellent disruption technique.”vi
Meanwhile, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Omaha office, Tom Dugan, called FBI headquarters and cancelled analysis of the 911 recording. William Bradley noted the call with a handwrittten memorandum notation. Bradley’s note is the smoking gun of the FBI conspiracy. The bombing was just one week earlier and Duane Peak was still a fugitive. The later, official explanation for no test, Peak’s confession to making the phone call, is made a lie by Bradley’s note. The search for the anonymous 911 caller was called off just four days after Larry Minard was buried. The Omaha FBI office saw to it that the man who lured a policeman to his death would get away with murder.
Police identification technician Paul Klotz was assigned to vacuum the interior of the trunk of Delia Peak’s car. Klotz removed three bags of litter debris, containing paper, dust, leaves, and miscellaneous material. Klotz also filled one vacuum cleaner bag with litter and debris.vii
After logging the contents of the trunk on a report form, Klotz released the four bags to Thomas Sledge for delivery to the ATF Laboratory.viii
A Wanted Person report was completed on Mondo for “Conspiracy to commit murder & Keeping Explosives.” The FBI entered the report on the National Crime Information Center system.ix
A Wanted Person report was also made on Duane Peak. The Peak alert contained the warning, “CAUTION: Party armed and dangerous.”x
Paul Young sent a teletype message to J. Edgar Hoover about information learned from Al Pattavina, the Public Safety Director, regarding the arrest of Ed Poindexter and others. A rubber-stamp entry at the bottom of the message, added at FBI headquarters, states the White House and Attorney General had been advised of the arrests.xi
“[REDACTED] advised it appears probable that members of above group were responsible for bombing of Omaha PD substation, June eleven last, and bombing of Components Concept Corporation, July two last, both in Omaha. He advised members of his command are pursuing investigation in all three bombings.”xii
“Close liaison is being maintained with Omaha PD, and the Omaha Office has furnished and is furnishing helpful info to PD to aid them in this investigation.”xiii
The Omaha World-Herald published an editorial, “Are the Police Handcuffed?” The editorial was in response to criticism of police tactics on the Near North Side. The editorial stated no restraint had been placed on the officers involve in the Minard investigation and arrests had been carried out unhesitatingly and efficiently.”xiv
On August 25, Glen Gates and Thomas Sledge flew to Washington, D.C. Gates wrote a report after he returned to Omaha. “Thomas SLEDGE and Deputy Chief Gates took certain articles of evidence to the A.T.F.D. Laboratory in Washington, D.C. in order to get a preliminary report more quickly to enhance the investigation into the death of Officer MINARD.”xv
Eddie Bolden, Robert Cecil, and Ed Poindexter were released from jail for lack of evidence.xvi
Paul Young informed J. Edgar Hoover by teletype that agents were searching for Duane Peak and Mondo. “Omaha intitiating intensive investigation to locate and apprehend fugitives [Duane Peak] and David L. Rice.”xvii
The next day, Norma Aufrecht was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder and suspicion of being an accessory after the fact. Of the sixty people arrested during a week-long police dragnet, Aufrecht was the only white person arrested. The Omaha office notified FBI headquarters quoting Captain Bruce Hartford “that she was an acquaintance of militants and civil rights activists.”xviii
Young wrote to Hoover that besides FBI informant OM T-7, agents were using an Omaha police informant whose identity should be kept confidential. Young also wrote that the persons arrested on suspicion charges by police would get FBI attention. “Special consideration will be given to the possibility of developing informants among these indivduals.”xix
The Omaha FBI office also noted an interview with a male individual who provided three pages of information about the case. “The foregoing information was immediately furnished to the Intelligence Division of the Omaha Police Department.” The man’s name and all three pages of narrative remain redacted by FBI censors.xx
A FBI letterhead memorandum outlined the close involvement of the Bureau in the Minard murder investigation. “On a continuing basis the Omaha Division has exchanged information with the Intelligence Division of the Omaha Police Department, regularly furnishing that department information pertinent to their investigation when same can be done without compromising Omaha informants. Background information obtained by the Omaha Division of the FBI on members of the NCCF was furnished to the Omaha Police Department in order to aid in any investigative leads developed.”xxi
Ernie Chambers held a news conference to protest the actions of police. Chambers said he was told that there were two white suspects in the slaying of Minard. “The real killers are walking loose and are not even being sought after.”
Chambers said police were not trying to catch the killer, but were arresting people they don’t like. Chambers stated that several members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism had been arrested in connection with the slaying murder. Ed Poindexter was one of those crowded into the basement of the Cleaves Temple for the press conference. Chambers said the NCCF members were victims of “an attempted frame up to destroy the NCCF, to indict the entire black community, to satisfy the lynch mob spirit and blood lust of whites.”xxii
Ten days after the bombing, Mondo, in the company of Ernie Chambers, surrendered to Marvin McClarty and Pitmon Foxall at the police outreach office. A procession including Public Safety Director Al Pattavina and attorney David Herzog proceeded downtown. Because he voluntarily surrendered, Mondo was not handcuffed prior to being placed in a cell.xxiii
“I turned myself over to an African member of the Omaha Police Department. Ernie Chambers and a number of other African community leaders were there….The presence of many of these people had been prearranged as a precautionary measure against some “accident” in which a police weapon might discharge and I would wind up, like so many other Panthers across the country, dead.”xxiv
An Omaha World-Herald picture of Mondo, waiting for the elevator to take him to the jail, proved dynamite particles were not in Mondo’s pants pocket as an ATF chemist would later claim. However, the significance of the newspaper photo of Mondo, with his hands jammed in his pockets, was not recognized for years and was not raised as an issue at the trial. Mondo’s hands tested clean for dynamite moments after the photograph.xxv
Paul Young submitted a quarterly counterintelligence report to J. Edgar Hoover. Young stated the anonymous letter against Ed Poindexter had been sent to Black Panther headquarters in California.
Young did not mention the murder of Larry Minard, the arrest of members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, or other FBI participation in his quarterly report. Young’s request to the FBI Laboratory to withhold a report on the identity of the 911 caller that lured Minard to his death was kept out of standard COINTELPRO files and buried in a confidential file.xxvi
Early the next morning, Omaha police and FBI agents surrounded a house on Bristol Street. At 2:55 a.m., police raided the house which had been under surveillance by a police cruiser for an hour, while ten police cars gathered a block away. Captain Bruce Hartford led the police squad, accompanied by FBI agents Edward O’Brien and Jim Burns. Assisting Hartford were James Perry and Jack Swanson. According to Perry, the FBI paid Donald Peak to inform on his brother. Donald ended up with accessory to murder charges being dismissed so he may have informed to avoid prosecution. Donald Peak’s informant role was confirmed by his presence with the arrest squad.
When the police rushed the house they were surprised to find two men hiding on the screened front porch. The pair were asleep when the house was raided. Duane Peak, with his head shaven bald, was in custody after six days as a fugitive. Arrested with Peak was a Marine deserter, Hardie Michael Peterson. Peterson told police his name was Charles James Johnson.xxvii
A FBI letterhead memorandum claimed credit for Peak’s arrest. “Special Agents of the FBI in conjunction with members of the Omaha Police Department arrested [Duane Peak].” FBI agents also interrogated Peterson when they learned he was the son of Maxine Summers from an informant OMT-7. Captain Harford told the FBI the police would search the Summers residence and Hartford would advise the FBI of search results.xxviii
Paul Young provided J. Edgar Hoover with the names of individuals arrested by police. Young copied the memorandum to the Racial Intelligence section and the Kansas City and Minneapolis FBI offices “because of their interest in previous bombings in the Omaha Division.”xxix
Ed Poindexter commented on the arrest. “Duane was in hiding….And he was in hiding with another kid whose role in the murder was never investigated. Now that we know for certain it was not Duane who actually made the phone call, this kid should now have a voice exemplar taken, and so should Donald Peak. But, of course, the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Attorney’s office couldn’t care less who really made that fatal call.”
“And they knew back in 1970 that Duane did not make the 911 call because they knew all of our voices and the voice on the 911 call was either not familiar to them, or it was and they did not care about who really made the call as long as they had Mondo and myself in custody.”xxx
Duane Peak was taken to an interrogation room on the fourth floor of police headquarters where he was questioned by Pitmon Foxall for an hour and a half. Foxall’s report documents what would be the first of a half-dozen versions of the crime. Peak’s tale had a mystery woman, a secret note with green ink, and an order to destroy evidence. “DON”T TELL ANYONE ABOUT THE NOTE. KEEP IT QUIET. A TOP SECRET.”xxxi
Peak’s purported note gave instructions to retrieve a suitcase near the incinerator in the alley behind Lothrop Drug Store. “DUANE said, that on getting the suitcase to the destination that he waited around for a while until about 2400 or 2430….DUANE adds that the note ended with instructions for DUANE “TO BURN IT” and states that he did burn this at the phone booth at 24th and Burdette; also that the note told DUANE to be at the phone booth 0200 Monday 17 August 1970 as someone was to call him….the phone rang in the booth and DUANE answered it and a woman’s voice which he didn’t recognize, and she said to DUANE to call the police and tell them that a woman was screaming in a vacant house….DUANE said he asked who the woman was and was told by the female voice “NOT TO ASK QUESTIONS”, just follow instructions. The woman told DUANE to forget that he ever saw a suitcase and hung up. DUANE said that he made the call but used a different tone of voice.”xxxii
“DUANE said that he talked to his brother PEAK, Donald first on hearing the news of the blast or explosion and as he knew that they took the suitcase up there to the location and told DONALD that he killed….that the next day he went to his sister THERESAs home…and told her that he had killed a man.”
“DUANE said that DELIA…drove him to…28th Avenue between Lake and Ohio Street, and he told her drive up in the alley, as he didn’t want anyone to see him with the suitcase…he put the suitcase on the southside of the alley and on the west side of the house near the fence….DUANE said the suitcase was kind of heavy and he was suspicious and thought about this. Estimated the weight of the suitcase about ten pounds. Stated that is was a dark grey color, and used the gestures of his hands to mark off about 26 inches high and about 30 inches wide and ten or twelve inches wide: it appeared new. Stated that it had a hole in the middle of the bottom of the suitcase about the diameter of a nickel and stated there was a four to five inch blue insulated electrical wire sticking out of the bottom. DUANE stated that after putting this suitcase down he stayed around the location from 1030 to 1230 trying to see who would pick it up. DUANE said that he didn’t take the suitcase into 2867 Ohio Street….the top men of the NCCF would not let him in on the official business, and at the time that he carried this mission out, he thought that he was doing something big, as he was under the impression they were high classed papers, and that he was rather excited about this, DUANE said that he was cleaning off his desk, and just happened on the white envelope, name written in green felt-tipped ink pen and inside instructions were written in pencil.”xxxiii
Hardie Michael Peterson was questioned by Robert Pfeffer. The police wanted to know about Peterson’s relationship with Duane Peak. “In questioning PETERSON he admitted that he is presently AWOL from the Marine Corps, and that he has been AWOL since January 1970.”
“PETERSON stated that he returned to Omaha the third week of July, 1970 and has been living with his mother, Maxine (nickname “MA-MA”) SUMMERS.”
“He also stated that he is no member of any militant or racial organization.”
“He also stated that he does not know if Duane PEAK has been staying at his mothers house…because he does not know PEAK and has never been with him.”
“I questioned him, stating that he had been arrested with PEAK this morning…he stated that, “If you have that information, why ask me?”
“Interrogation of PETERSON was then terminated.”xxxiv
Maxine Summers was arrested under orders of James Perry as an accessory after the fact. Police searched Mama Summers’ house finding a 12 gauge sawed-off shotgun with a 20-inch barrel.xxxv
Nancy Haynes was interviewed about harboring Duane Peak. “Mrs. HAYNES, Nancy…stated that Mrs. SUMMERS (who she only knew as SOUL MAMA until today) went to her mother’s house and told her she needed help and wanted to know if she would let 2 of her brothers who were in town stay at her house over night that they were en route to a funeral somewhere and that she did not have room for them as she already had another brother staying with her.”
“SUMMERS stated that she would be over to get them in the morning.”
“HAYNES stated that at 715 hrs….SUMMERS asked if the police came and got the boys and HAYNES replied “Yes”. At that time SUMMERS fell backwards off the steps, and layed on the ground kicking her feet in the air and yelling as if she was having a tandrem fit.”xxxvi
FRAMED: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO, & the Omaha Two story is available at Amazon and in ebook. Portions of the book may be read free online at Northomahahistory.com. Patrons of the Omaha Public Library also enjoy free access.
i “Fugitive Warrants To Be Asked for 2”, Omaha World-Herald, August 25, 1970 The preferential treatment of Raliegh House and lack of prosecution for supplying the suitcase and dynamite to Duane Peak suggests House was an informant.
ii Mondo, personal letter to author, March 5, 2008. The four people mentioned by Mondo were Raleigh House, Donald Peak, Jr., Robert Cecil, and Frank Peak.
iii “Fugitive Warrants To Be Asked for 2,” Omaha World-Herald, August 25, 1970
iv “Suspect Is Freed On Signature,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 25, 1970
v J. Edgar Hoover to Paul Young memorandum, p. 1, August 24, 1970
vi J. Edgar Hoover to Paul Young memorandum, p. 2, August 24, 1970
vii OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001387, August 24, 1970. The vehicle had been used to give Duane Peak a ride to the crime scene. The suitcase bomb rode in the trunk on the short drive. Dynamite particles would later be allegedly found in the trunk debris gathered by Klotz. Unexplained by authorities was how dynamite particles would get out of the closed suitcase and mingle with debris in the car trunk, raising suspicion that the explosive particles were added after Klotz gathered the vacuumed evidence which was submitted to ATF agent Thomas Sledge.
viii OPD Property Report, Trial Record 001067, August 24, 1970
ix OPD Wanted Person form, Trial Record 001390, August 24, 1970
x OPD Wanted Person form, Trial Record 001389, August 24, 1970
xi Mondo’s FBI file, Omaha FBI to J. Edgar Hoover teletype, p. 12, August 24, 1970
xii Mondo’s FBI file, Omaha FBI to J. Edgar Hoover teletype, p. 13, August 24, 1970
xiii Mondo’s FBI file, Omaha FBI to J. Edgar Hoover teletype, p. 14, August 24, 1970
xiv “Are The Police Handcuffed” Editorial, Omaha World-Herald, August 24, 1970
xv OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001360, August 25, 1970
xvi “Lack of Evidence Frees 10 Suspects,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 26, 1970
xvii Mondo’s FBI file, Omaha FBI teletype to J. Edgar Hoover, p. 23, August 25, 1970
xviii Mondo’s FBI file, FBI letterhead memorandum, p. 15, August 28,1970
xix Mondo’s FBI file, Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover memorandum, p. 31, August 26, 1970
xx Mondo’s FBI file, FBI letterhead memorandm, p. 37, August 26, 1970
xxi Mondo’s FBI file, FBI letterhead memorandm, p. 38, August 26, 1970
xxii “Two Murder Suspects White,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 5, August 26, 1970. In attendance were Emmet Dennis, director of the Omaha Opportunities Industrialization Center; Jack Clayter, executive director of the Urban League of Nebraska; Clarence Barbee, principal at Horace Mann Junior High School; Rodney Wead, executive director of United Methodist Community Centers; attorney Wilbur Phillips and real estate man George Thomas.
xxiii “Rice, Cecil Held On U.S. Charges,” Omaha World-Herald, August 28, 1970
xxiv Mondo, Can’t Jail the Spirit, Prison Activist Resource Center, Fourth Edition, 1998
xxv “Rice, Cecil Held On U.S. Charges,” Omaha World-Herald, August 28, 1970. In 1994, freelance writer Kietryn Zychal spotted a photo of Mondo’s hands in his pockets while examining old newspaper clippings. Zychal realized that the dynamite particles had to have been added to his pocket after Mondo surrendered and his clothing confiscated. This important detail had been missed by the defense attorneys.
xxvi Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover memorandum, August 27, 1970, Reel 4 Black Nationalist Hate Groups, microfilm, 1978
xxvii “Peak Captured On Tip to FBI,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 28, 1970. The amount paid by the FBI to Donald Peak was likely several hundred dollars. FBI regulations in effect at the time allowed a SAC to pay $400 without additional Bureau approval. The 1971 Domestic Intelligence Division inspection report has a general discussion on informant payments in effect at the time. Assistant Director Charles Brennan commented on informants, “They are fraught with controversy and potential for embarrassment to the Bureau. Extended experience has taught us the absolute necessity for tight, effective, centralized control of these informants by SOG.” Brennan’s commentary makes it clear that Paul Young would have been personally involved in utilizing Donald Peak. Brennan stated, “The SAC remains accountable, of course, for the informant’s handling, the validity of his expenditures, and the worth of his information.” See FBI Vault, FBI Domestic Intelligence Division-HQ, Sec. 3, p. 317-318, September 9, 1971
xxviii Mondo’s FBI file, FBI letterhead memorandum, p. 16, August 28, 1970
xxix Mondo’s FBI file, Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover, p. 25, August 28, 1970
xxx Edward Poindexter, letter to author, March 3, 2008
xxxi OPD Supplementary Report, Appeal Record P1633, August 28, 1970
xxxii OPD Supplementary Report, Appeal Record P1727, August 28, 1970
xxxiii OPD Supplementary Report, Appeal Record P1728-P1729, August 28, 1970
xxxiv OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001411, August 28, 1970 Hardie Michael Peterson was returned to the Marines and dropped from the investigation following an interrogation by the FBI.
xxxv OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001132, August 28, 1970
xxxvi OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001177, August 28,1970