Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr. was killed and six other police officers injured when a suitcase bomb exploded in a vacant house in Omaha, Nebraska at 2:07 a.m. on August 17, 1970. Before the day was over, Paul Young, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Omaha FBI office, sent a memorandum to J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, about the bombing requesting the assistance of the FBI Laboratory. However, the request was not to help solve the crime, the request was to withhold a laboratory report on the identify of the anonymous 911 caller that lured Minard to his death.
Fifteen year-old Duane Peak was arrested and confessed to planting the bomb and making the 911 call. Peak would eventually give seven versions of the crime, six to authorities and one, twenty years later, to Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers. Peak ultimately named Black Panther leaders Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, then David Rice, as the ones who put him up to the murder. In exchange for his testimony, Peak was allowed to plead to guilty to juvenile delinquency and walked free when he became an adult.
J. Edgar Hoover had declared a secret counterillegence war against the Black Panthers under the code-name COINTELPRO. In December 1969, nine months before the bombing, Hoover had ordered Young to get the Panther leaders off the streets and told him to be “imaginative” with a plan. Poindexter and Mondo were officers of the Black Panther affiliate chapter National Committee to Combat Fascism.
The soft-spoken teen killer’s voice did not sound like the deep, gravelly voice on the 911 recording made by the police dispatcher, indicating Peak had at least one accomplice in the crime. Since Peak claimed he made the call it was necessary to keep the recording from the defense which meant a laboratory report could not be issued as might end up in court. The FBI scheme worked and the jury that convicted the Omaha Two, as the two leaders have come to be known, never heard the 911 recording. The tape was so significant that Young reminded Hoover by memorandum two months later that nothing was to be done with it because it might be “prejudical to the police trial”.
In 2006, an internationally recognized forensic audiologist, Tom Owen, declared after scientific analysis that Duane Peak’s voice was not on the 911 tape. Owen’s finding confirmed the long-held view by many in Omaha’s black community that Larry Minard’s killers escaped justice putting two innocent men in prison.
Larry Minard was buried on his thirtieth birthday leaving behind a widow and five young children. J. Edgar Hoover died in May 1972 and never had to account for the order he gave to withhold a laboratory report in the case. Duane Peak walked free after he aged out of juvenile detention. Peak’s accomplice, who made the 911 call, has never been identified and is still at large, if alive after forty-five years. Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa remain imprisoned at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary, despite their age and poor health. Both men continue to proclaim their innocence.
For most Americans, COINTELPRO is either something they have never heard of or consider as old news or a historical event. For the Omaha Two, COINTELPRO is a daily reality that Poindexter says you never get used to.