“FRAMED” Chapter 9 by Michael Richardson

Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 9 in the series on NorthOmahaHistory.com called Framed: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO and the Omaha Two Story. It was written by Michael Richardson. Learn more here.

 


“I will never ever forgive the Black Panther Party for that.”
—Ed Poindexter on being called a police agent

 

On July 2, 1970, a bomb exploded at Component Concepts Corporation in the Near North Side. The business had a Defense Department minority-subcontract and that was motive enough for “militants” according Omaha Police Captain Murdock Platner. “The Negro operator had just completed arrangements to move to a newer larger building. He had borrowed money from a local bank, and the city council had rezoned an area so he could move. He had been on television publicly thanking the council and the bank. It is thought that he was considered to be an “Uncle Tom.”1

 

Component Concepts Corp bombing North Omaha Nebraska July 2 1970
A detective searches for clues after the bombing of Component Concepts Corporation on July 2, 1970. ATF Agent Thomas Sledge reported five men were seen making the bomb but no arrests were ever made. Members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism were suspected. (credit: Omaha Police Department)

 

Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Division agents Thomas Sledge and Richard Curd aided the Omaha police in the investigation. Members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism were suspects.

According to an affidavit filed in federal court, Sledge kept information from the public about the blast that suggested an inside job. “That affiant knows by personal inspection that a bomb that exploded at Component Concepts Corp…was placed in the corner of the room on the 2d floor. Affiant knows that the general public believes that the bomb was thrown on the roof of the building and that few members of the public, if any, know it was set off inside the building.”2

Ed Poindexter decided that deteriorating relations with the national Black Panther Party called for a visit. “I flew out to National HQ on the 4th of July weekend of 1970, spent a few days with some of the remaining Central Staff members, and left with a sense of hope.”3

“On the way back, I had a five hour layover in Denver, and drove over to the local Black Panther Party chapter to kill time. To my surprise, one of the Central Staff members whom I’d just left in Frisco showed up, pointed a gun in my face, and said, “What are you up to, niggah?” And, “where’s that phone book?” I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, and he ordered me to leave immediately for the airport or he was going to shoot me. I left disappointed, angry, and confused.”

A year of COINTELPRO operations directed against the Black Panther leadership and headquarters staff had taken a heavy toll on the organization with allegations and counter-allegations of informant activity throughout the country. The FBI effort to disrupt the party proved successful which resulted in unwarranted discipline or expulsions of members. “I later learned that national headquarters (June Hilliard) put my name on a list of police agents/spies. This is what they’d do to those they had a disagreement with; scandalize his name to the community in hopes of ruining his credibility or worse.”

“I will never ever forgive the Black Panther Party for that.”4

 

Board Offers Knutzen 5000 Over 3 Years by Larry Parrott
This pic, captioned “School board meeting… crowd had mixed opinions,” is from an article called “Board Offers Knutzen $5,000 Over 3 Years” by Larry Parrott from page one of the Omaha World-Herald on July 7, 1970.

 

While Poindexter was in Oakland, Mondo spoke before the Omaha School Board during a public hearing on rehiring Superintendent Owen Knutzen. Mondo spoke against Knutzen although the board narrowly approved a new contract. The Omaha World-Herald article on the meeting was accompanied by a front page photo of Mondo speaking before a standing room only audience.5

ATF Agent Thomas Sledge, competing with the FBI to solve the bombings that were blasting the Midwest, claimed he interviewed twelve year-old Marialice Clark. “Miss Clark stated she has been going to Black Panther headquarters for four or five months, it being nearby and it being a place where her sister often visited; within recent weeks she saw ten boxes that she observed to contain machine guns. She saw six more or less machine guns in each with three boxes in a stack and one box standing in a corner.”6

“Miss Clark said that in recent weeks she had also seen dynamite in a box, that there were fifteen more or less bundles of twelve sticks in a bundle wrapped with cord or wire; that the sticks were about twelve inches long and one inch in diameter and brown in color.”7

 

Marialice Clark age 12 North Omaha Nebraska
Marialice Clark was 14-years-old when she disappeared after she was named in an affidavit to obtain an ATF search warrant. The search of the National Committee to Combat Fascism headquarters was called off by the Department of Justice. (credit: Ed Clark)

 

Ed Poindexter remembered Marialice. “She was like a daughter to me. Her older sister was my girlfriend at the time, Linda Clark. The kid used to hang out around the premises, but I tried to keep her out of the actual interior of the place. She lived about three houses away from headquarters. As for what she was supposed to have told the police for that affidavit to the search warrant, I have no idea what she called herself trying to do, and haven’t seen or spoken to her since 1970.”8

Marialice’s brother, Ed Clark, doesn’t believe Sledge. “Unbeknown to anyone, an ATF Agent named Tom Sledge claimed my baby sister saw 10 boxes of machine guns…15 bundles of dynamite… that five men—some of whom I knew—made a bomb out of dynamite in front of my sister. I do not believe that is true. Sledge never told our mother that he put my sister’s name on his affidavit—and he spelled her first name wrong as ‘Mary Ellis,’ making me wonder if he even met her.”9

In July, the Democratic State Convention was held in Omaha. During a contentious debate on Vietnam, Mondo, a Second Ward delegate, sparked a fiery outcry from Nels Peterson, a labor union official. Mondo spoke in favor of withdrawing troops from Vietnam. Later in the session, Mondo proposed a resolution to “free American political prisoners” including Black Panther leaders such as Huey Newton. Larry Wilson, a political writer, quipped that Mondo’s resolution “was lost in the shuffle.”10

ATF Agent Thomas Sledge conferred with Special Agent Sidney Pruitt of the FBI about the Black Panthers according to a court document. “Pruitt advised that he talked to a reliable informant…that Raymond Peter Gearhart…had sold machine guns to the Black Panthers two weeks prior.”11

Sledge filed an affidavit for a federal search warrant of the headquarters of the National Committee to Combat Fascism. In Sledge’s affidavit, Sledge alleged Marialice Clark told him that she witnessed the construction of a bomb by five NCCF members. “She said that recently she saw Frank and William Peak, Calvin Drake, Melvin Collins, and Calvin Drake’s brother put together a bomb of dynamite which they placed in a wooden box which was in turn placed in a cardboard box; that all of the above-named persons worked on the bomb. She said Frank and William Peak brought blue and yellow batteries about twelve inches high into the basement to be used in the bomb; that William Peak brought in gray wire in a coil.”12

Marialice’s brother remained unconvinced by Sledge’s statement. “Marialice never told anyone that she had met an ATF agent, and she never told anyone that she saw machine guns, dynamite or men making bombs.13

James Moore, a retired Kansas City ATF agent, commented on the planned search in his memoir. Moore maintained in his book that most police wanted to believe that the FBI lived up to its motto of Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity. However, for ATF agents, Moore said Omaha brought only disillusionment.14

 

Very Special Agents: The Inside Story of America's Most Controversial Law Enforcement Agency-The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms" by James Moore (2010). Published by the University of Illinois Press
The book Very Special Agents” by James Moore noted the feud in Omaha between ATF and FBI agents as both agencies competed to arrest black radicals. (credit: University of Illinois Press)

 

Moore wrote that while Sledge briefed a team assembled for the raid, U. S. Attorney Richard Dier telephoned the FBI for possible intelligence concerning fortifications at the NCCF headquarters. Moore claimed the FBI was able to get the search warrant quashed by the Department of Justice. Moore said that while the task force waited, the FBI conducted a door-to- door canvas near the NCCF headquarters asking whether there were weapons or explosives inside the building. According to Moore, Paul Young stated the NCCF headquarters was clean and that ATF used an unreliable source for the affidavit. Young said he had been monitoring the headquarters with his own informant.15

Moore’s theory that agency rivalry was to blame for the canceled search warrant may have some merit. Paul Young was under pressure from J. Edgar Hoover to do something and it would not have been in his best interest to be upstaged by rival ATF agents. Meanwhile, Ed Poindexter maintained that he would have peacefully submitted to a search of headquarters and that a raid was unnecessary. Poindexter insisted that the group had nothing to hide. “All they had to do was present us with a search warrant, and we wouldn’t have resisted. But that was too simple for them, as they would have preferred a dramatic shootout.”16

At the end of July a surprise came to Poindexter when a notice appeared in The Black Panther newspaper about Omaha. Without explanation or notice, the local NCCF chapter was dropped from affiliation. “The National headquarters of the Black Panther Party would like to inform the people that the National Committee to Combat Fascism in Omaha, Nebraska, is no longer functioning as an organizing bureau of the Black Panther Party.”17

On July 28, 1970, Omaha police seized a quantity of stolen dynamite. Police arrested three men, Luther Payne, Conway Gray and Lamont Mitchell, in a car carrying dynamite. The police got a tip from an informant about dynamite for sale and authorized a buy setting up a traffic stop to make the arrest. Police statements about the amount of dynamite seized vary.18

A week later, in Cleveland, Ohio, members of a militant group called Afro Set committed a revenge killing over the death of a member. The murder prosecution led to the revelation that the FBI controlled witness testimony. A key witness against group leader Harllel Jones was FBI informant Robert Perry.

Perry was in the death car from which the victim was shot, Jones was not in the vehicle. U. S. District Chief Judge Battisti summarized the case against Jones. “The state’s case rested principally upon the testimony of Robert Perry, who had become a confidential F.B.I. informant a few months prior to the petitioner’s trial.”19

In California, seventeen year-old Black Panther Jonathan Jackson sought to liberate his imprisoned brother George Jackson with a daring kidnapping at the Marin County Courthouse. The escape attempt ended in a hail of gunfire as police opened fire on the getaway vehicle killing Jonathan Jackson and two prisoners. Judge Harold Haley was taken hostage and killed in the crossfire. Angela Davis was accused of arming Jackson and became a federal fugitive.

On August 9, 1970, ten sticks of dynamite were found in a paper sack in an Omaha suburb parking lot. The dynamite was found near a trash container but was not fused, according to Bellevue police. Dwight Thomas, of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Division, said that his agency was conducting a “routine investigation” and that the dynamite had been sent to the ATF Laboratory for analysis.20

Reverend Rudolph McNair, a prior subject of Mondo’s unflattering attention, used his new appointment to the Greater Omaha Community Action anti-poverty agency to fire Mondo. McNair gave Mondo a termination notice. “I have noted a continuous recalcitrance on your part to comply with these directives… and in addition, the excessive time I have observed you spending in the headquarters of another organization, and the time wasted in conversation in this office…and the tardiness without explanation are unacceptable.”21

Mondo understood McNair was intent on firing him. “The moment I heard Rudolph McNair was to be hired to be my supervisor I thought I’m about to not have a job and the day he was hired he came by my office and told me to pack up my stuff.”22

Deputy Chief of Police Glen Gates told a reporter bombs that exploded at Component Concepts Corporation and a police assembly building in Omaha contained the same type of dynamite and similar detonating devices. According to Gates, a chemical analysis by the FBI Laboratory showed the business was damaged by dynamite detonated by a battery-operated device. Analysis of material found at the police facility on Ames Avenue showed a similar battery-operated device but also revealed that a clock-type timing was used.23

The Omaha World-Herald published an article on the National Committee to Combat Fascism reporting that the Black Panther Party severed ties with the group. The article made reference to the suspension over a critical letter Ed Poindexter and Raleigh House supposedly sent to Black Panther headquarters. The Omaha newspaper interviewed Poindexter about the matter. “We had no knowledge of the letter until recently. Our organization had nothing to do with it.”

Poindexter said he was planning a trip to Black Panther headquarters in Oakland along with Black Panthers from St. Louis and Kansas City. Poindexter blamed the snafu on certain unnamed individuals who should be “purged from the ranks.”24

Paul Young saw an opportunity and proposed an anonymous letter to David Hilliard which accused Poindexter of cooperating with “Whitey’s newspaper.” Young sent the text of the letter to J. Edgar Hoover for approval.

“I am writing to you because I believe in the BPP the 10 point program. The NCCF in Omaha has not been relating to the people in the Black Community. The word about that BPP newspaper in July issue stated that the Omaha NCCF was booted out of the party. [REDACTED] has been saying in the colony that they they’ve not been kicked out of the Panthers but that the letter in the BPP newspaper was forged. [Poindexter] has been rapping to the people, that the guys in California don’t know what in the hell they are doing. In fact [Poindexter] said the same thing to Whitey’s newspaper the Omaha World herald. I am sending you copies of this jive to show you how sly Poindexter thinks he is. [Redacted] has been rapping about how Huey Newton is going to set every thing straight back in California especially some of the head clowns. I am sending this to you because I believe in the Party and I believe that [REDACTED] are blowing the whole thing.”25

In mid-August, the First Central Congregational Church hosted a forum of the Commission on Church and Race. The topic was police-community relations. The Omaha police were not invited to encourage residents to speak out on their concerns and complaints about police brutality. The forum, one of many on a variety of social issues, would soon stir up a storm of controversy for excluding police. Five people, including Mondo and activist Walter Grimes, came forward to speak. Grimes worked at the Bryant Community Center and complained he was arrested for failure to disperse during a disturbance. Grimes called for “justice and fairness” from the police.26

On a Sunday afternoon, several days after the Congregational Church forum, Mondo had an outdoor meeting at Memorial Park with Ernie Chambers, Andrew Liberman of the Students for a Democratic Society, and about one hundred students and activists. Creighton University student Rae Ann Schmitz gave Mondo a ride to Kountze Park late in the afternoon and invited Mondo to a party that evening which he attended until the wee hours of the morning where he first heard reports of a bombing.

 

<< Chapter 8 | Chapter 10 >>

CHAPTER TEN IS COMING NEXT WEEK. WATCH THE NORTH OMAHA HISTORY FACEBOOK PAGE OR COME BACK HERE! PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS FOR THE AUTHOR BELOW…


Citations

  1. U.S. House Committee on Internal Security, Proceedings, p. 4883, Oct. 14, 1970
  2. United States v. Two Story White Frame House, U.S. District Court of Nebraska, Commissioners Docket No. 253, Affidavit, p. 3, July 20, 1970
  3. Edward Poindexter, unpublished autobiography, p. 29, undated
  4. Edward Poindexter, unpublished autobiography, p. 30, undated.
  5. “Board Offers Knutzen $5,000 Over 3 Years,” Larry Parrott, Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, July 7, 1970
  6. United States v. Two Story White Frame House, U.S. District Court of Nebraska, Commissioners Docket No. 253, Affidavit, p. 1, July 20, 1970
  7. United States v. Two Story White Frame House, U.S. District Court of Nebraska, Commissioners Docket No. 253, Affidavit, p. 2, July 20, 1970
  8. Edward Poindexter, letter to author, February 25, 2008. Marialice disappeared in 1972, when she was fourteen, and her fate remains unknown. ATF never disclosed to her parents that Marialice had been used by ATF in an affidavit for a federal search warrant.
  9. Change.org Petition statement, Ed Clark, February 1, 2016
  10. “Doves Supply Antiwar Plan For Democrats,” Larry Wilson, Omaha World-Herald, p.2, July 22, 1970
  11. United States v. Two Story White Frame House, U.S. District Court of Nebraska, Commissioners Docket No. 253, Affidavit, p. 4-5, July 20, 1970
  12. United States v. Two Story White Frame House, U.S. District Court of Nebraska, Commissioners Docket No. 253, Affidavit, p. 2, July 20, 1970
  13. Change.org Petition statement, Ed Clark, February 1, 2016
  14. James Moore, Very Special Agents, p. 101, 2001
  15. James Moore, Very Special Agents, p. 102, 2001
  16. Edward Poindexter, unpublished autobiography, p. 28, undated
  17. The Black Panther, p. 9, July 25, 1970
  18. The conflicting amounts of dynamite seemingly reflect what was known by different individuals. The dynamite was stored at a private quarry rather than the police evidence locker, breaking the police chain of custody and further preventing an accurate count. Captain Murdock Platner, who later testified to two Congressional subcommittees about the dynamite, contradicted himself as to the amount during his testimonies.
  19. Harllel B. Jones v. A.R. Jago, 428 F.Supp. 405, at 406, 1977
  20. “No Clues Found In Dynamite Case, Omaha World-Herald, August 10, 1970 The newspaper reported on the discovery of the dynamite, unlike media silence on the recovery of stolen dynamite two weeks earlier.
  21. U.S. House Committee on Internal Security, Proceedings, p. 4897, Oct. 14, 1970
  22. Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007
  23. “Bombs at Police Station, Components Plant Similar,”Omaha World-Herald, p. 4, August 11, 1970. Although Gates identified the FBI Laboratory he was likely in error as the police used the ATF Laboratory according to prior reports.
  24. “Panthers Cut Omaha Link,” Omaha World-Herald, August 14, 1970
  25. Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover, Research Associates Library, Omaha Collection, August 15, 1970
  26. “City’s Police Not Invited,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 13, August 15, 1970


About the Author

Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.
This is Edward Poindexter and writer Michael Richardson in 2016.

Michael Richardson is a former Omaha resident who attended Westside High School and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Richardson was a VISTA Volunteer on the Near-Northside and served on the Nebraska Commission on Aging before moving from the state. Richardson attended the Minard murder trial and reported on the case in 1971 for the Omaha Star in his first published article. After a nineteen year career as a disability rights advocate, Richardson worked for Ralph Nader coordinating his ballot access campaigns in the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. Richardson has written extensively for the San Francisco Bay View, OpEdNews.com and Examiner.com about the trial while spending the last decade researching and writing the book.


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BONUS!

Joseph Saunders owner of the Component Concepts Corporation in 1973
This is Joseph Saunders, owner of the Component Concepts Corporation, in 1973.

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