Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 10 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.
“This dude has drug this woman off in there, and she’s screaming”
—Unknown 911 caller, August 17, 1970
On August 17, 1970, at 2:07 a.m., Omaha police received a 911 emergency telephone call from a male who spoke in a deep gravely voice that a woman was screaming at 2867 Ohio Street, a vacant house.[i]
Michael Lamson and James Sledge were dispatched to investigate and another cruiser with John Toay and John Tess was sent in as a backup car. Larry Minard, Sr. and partner Dennis Moran, patrolling nearby, also rushed to the scene, as did two other officers, Kenneth Tworek and Paul Rust. Instead of a screaming woman, the eight officers who converged on Ohio Street only found an empty house and a suitcase inside the front doorway.
Moran and Minard were first at the scene. Minard checked behind 2865 Ohio and the back yard of 2867 Ohio before entering the front door, stepping past the suitcase along with Tess, Sledge, Tworek and Lamson.
Finding nobody inside, Minard and Tess started for the front door. Sledge, Lamson and Tworek were in the kitchen when a tremendous, blinding flash and deafening blast shook the silent neighborhood and ripped through the walls of the vacant house. The officers in the kitchen broke down the back door in the darkness to escape choking dust and smoke.
Outside, Toay rushed into the shattered house. “I jumped up and ran to the door and could hear TESS calling for help. I ran into the house but was not able to see much because of thick, black smoke in the air….There was a heavy odor of gunpowder.”
“I don’t know which room I went into first but I found Officer MINARD, Larry under a pile of debris. At first I thought it was a woman because the legs were uncovered. When I looked closer and saw his gunbelt I knew it was a policeman. I pulled a piece of plywood off MINARD and saw that half his face was gone and that there was nothing I could do for him.”[ii]
Both of Minard’s boots were blown off his feet, one found on the front porch and the other eight feet across the living room.[iii]
A rescue squad soon arrived, followed by fire trucks and more police cars as sirens screamed in the stillness of the early morning. Ten minutes after the anonymous call, Patrolman Andrew Wieger was assigned to drive to Ohio Street and report to Central Headquarters on the situation. “I talked to Officer LAMSON and SLEDGE and they advised me…halfway inside the house and halfway out, was a new green suitcase, officers stated that they stepped over this suitcase and went into the house.”[iv]
Lieutenant James Perry assigned Sergeants Jerald Volcek and Robert Pfeffer to the murder investigation. At the scene, the two detectives began searching for clues. Deputy Chief Glen Gates and Captain Bruce Hartford soon arrived.
Larry Minard had only been on duty since midnight after telling his wife Karen not to worry before he left home. Within minutes of the explosion, police arrived at the Minard residence to deliver the tragic news, but the new widow already had been awakened by Larry’s police scanner, which was blaring reports about an officer down.[v]
Larry’s oldest daughter, Carol, was eleven and was awakened by police radio chatter. Carol was standing in the doorway of the family home with her younger brother, Larry, Jr. when the police arrived.[vi]
Patrolman James Bober was assigned to the homicide investigation and started hearing about a suitcase, except the color kept changing. “At Immanuel Hospital I was met by Safety Director Al Pattavina. We questioned the injured officers and obtained the information for the original reports.”
“TESS stated he observed Ptl. Minard walk toward a new suitcase which was on the floor…Tess further advised it appeared to be a new blue or gray Samson type luggage suit case.”[vii]
Kenneth Tworek was interviewed at Douglas County Hospital. “All the officers stepped over the brown suit case lying in the doorway.”[viii]
Acting Coroner George Sullivan arrived at the bombed dwelling. A slight drizzle began to fall at this time. There were creaking noises heard from the remains of the roof, as though the roof of the house was settling. At 3:50 a.m., Minard’s body was removed by ambulance personnel. While a tarp was spread at the ruined house, Central Headquarters put out a call to off-duty crime scene technicians. During a neighborhood canvas the neighbors reported one-by-one hearing the explosion but seeing nothing out of the ordinary.
Larry Minard’s 38 caliber Smith & Wesson heavy-barrel revolver, minus the grips, was found in the debris. The gun and parts of Minard’s leather boots were taken to Central Headquarters. The boots were released to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis after being logged in.[ix]
Detective Jack Swanson focused his attention on the National Committee to Combat Fascism and sent two officers to stake out the group’s headquarters.[x]
Approximately an hour after the Ohio Street bombing a powerful blast shattered windows and caused extensive damage at the Minneapolis federal building. Agents of the Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco Division in Minnesota took over the investigation. Radicals were suspected but no arrests were ever made. The crime remains unsolved.[xi]
Before daybreak, Swanson and Patrolman Glen Steimer began cruising the Near North Side looking for militants who might be involved in the bombing. The first stop was to the home of an informant known to Steimer. The visit led to Swanson’s call to the FBI about a suspicious car from Des Moines. “Contacted a party at his residence who stated that he had taken down the license number of an auto which he thought to be suspicious….He said the auto was one which he had never seen before, and that it contained 5 Negro males, and that they acted in a suspicious manner.”
“I relayed this information to Agent McFEE, FBI, and he had the auto checked.”[xii]
In the darkness, Pfeffer and Volcek finished the neighborhood survey and joined in a search of the ruined house before the arrival of the crime scene technicians. “From 0530…we assisted Sgt. J BOAN, Lt. PERRY, Capt. HARTFORD and members of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Tax Unit of the Treasury Department in sifting the rooms…in an attempt to recover any evidence from the debris of the home. In so doing, found clothing, bits of material and metal from a Samsonite suitcase, brown in color. Other material which was all turned over to the members of the Alcohol Tobacco and Tax Units for analysis.”[xiii]
Dawn broke over the city to an overcast drizzle on a gray Monday morning. The weather matched the mood in the stunned, saddened city. First light brought the start of what would be a day-long procession of motorists. A crowd of neighborhood onlookers was also on hand much of the day as people spoke in hushed tones and muted voices.
Leads and tips started flowing in to Central Headquarters as the city woke up and the investigation intensified. Off-duty policeman Harold Flemmer called after learning of the bombing. “FLEMMER states he has been pulling guard duty at…County Hosp. on a George McCline. MC CLINE had surgery last Wednesday and when he came down he was somewhat groggy but he started to talk to officer FLEMMER and was bragging and taunting him. MCCLINE told FLEMMER that the dynamite that we got when we made arrest on some suspects on west Maple St. had been meant for the police station.”
“He further bragged that the policy had been changed and there would be no more burning and looting, from now on it was to be blowing up things. He bragged that Component Concepts had been blown as the owner was a Uncle Tom.”[xiv]
With daylight and an end to the rain, crime scene technicians began sifting through debris. Sergeant Richard Dragoun was assigned to the Douglas County Hospital morgue for the gruesome task of gathering evidence at Larry Minard’s autopsy.
Swanson and Steimer arrived at a stakeout watching Richard Gibson’s house. Gibson was a man of interest to Swanson until an early-morning call from the FBI cleared Gibson. “At this time, we were contacted by agents of the FBI who stated they had talked with Gibson at this time….We continued to search the north Omaha area for any persons who might be involved in the bombing.”[xv]
A call was made to FBI headquarters from the Omaha office at 7:45 a.m. Charles Brennan was informed by memorandum about the call concerning the death of a policeman. “Omaha Office offered assistance in covering out-of-state leads and FBI Laboratory facilities offered. Omaha advised it had notified military and Secret Service, was following closely, and alerted its racial informants in pursuit of investigation.”
Brennan was also assured, “Pertinent parts will be included in teletype summary to the White House, Vice President, Attorney General, military and Secret Service.”[xvi]
At Central Headquarters, a hastily convened meeting of a multi-agency task force called Domino was called to order. Principals present were agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms Division, detectives from the Douglas County Sheriff’s office and the Omaha Police Department. Governor Norbert Tiemann also ordered two Nebraska State Patrol troopers to work the case.
Retired ATF agent James Moore, of Kansas City, said those present were in agreement that the method and target pointed to extremists. The Black Panthers and Weather Underground were both discussed but the “Negro voice” on the 911 recording suggested Black Panthers. Moore said one of the FBI agents told the group that a key informer reported that two white males were observed running from the scene shortly before the blast.”[xvii]
Moore believed the tip may have been a ruse by the FBI to throw off ATF agents competing to crack the case. The longstanding rivalry between the two federal police agencies was intense and was part of a nation-wide turf battle over jurisdiction of firearm and explosives crimes.
Paul Young wasted no time in privately talking to Glen Gates, who was in charge of the police while Chief Richard Anderson was out of town. According to a confidential FBI memorandum, Young and Gates discussed a piece of crucial evidence, the recorded voice of the anonymous caller captured by the 911 system. The search for truth was over.
Young set in motion a conspiracy to implicate the leadership of the National Committee to Combat Fascism in the bombing. Young wrote to J. Edgar Hoover. “Enclosed for the Laboratory is one copy of a tape recording obtained from the Omaha Police Department.”
“The enclosed tape was recorded from an existing tape recording used by the Omaha Police Department in their normal emergency telephone calls.”
“Deputy Chief [Gates] inquired into the possibility of voice analysis of the individual making the call by the FBI Laboratory. He was advised the matter would be considered and that if such analysis were made and if subsequent voice patterns were transmitted for comparison, such analysis would have to be strictly informal, as the FBI could not provide any testimony in the matter; also, only an oral report of the results of such examination would be made to the Police Department. [Gates] stated he understood these terms and stated the Police Department would be extremely appreciative of any assistance in this matter by the FBI and would not embarrass the FBI at a later date, but would use such information for lead purposes only.”
“It should be noted that the police community is extremely upset over this apparent racially motivated, vicious and unnecessary murder. In slightly over three months this division has experienced more than ten bombings, probably all but a few of them being racially motivated. Of these bombings, four were directed at police facilities with extensive damage.”
“Any assistance rendered along the lines mentioned above would greatly enhance the prestige of the FBI among law enforcement representatives in this area, and I thus strongly recommend that the request be favorably considered.”
“In view of the foregoing, it is requested that the FBI Laboratory examine enclosed tape recording and make an appropriate voice print to be retained for comparison against other tape recordings of suspects to be submitted at a later date.”[xviii]
At noon, a group of thirteen angry policemen gathered at City Hall to meet with Mayor Eugene Leahy. An off-duty captain and two sergeants met with Leahy while ten patrolmen, including James Loder who was acquitted in March for the death of Vivian Strong, waited in the lobby.[xix]
Captain William Pattavina complained to a reporter about the forum held several days earlier at the First Central Congregational Church at which allegations of police harassment were voiced. “All they ever get are preachers telling about police brutality. They never want to hear our side of it. Ask those preachers what they’re going to do about the five orphans. Tell them to go see Mrs. Minard.”[xx]
In the afternoon, after evidence started arriving at Central Headquarters, reporters were barred from the fourth floor squad room where they usually mingled with police. On the streets, a police sweep to obtain information began as cruisers combed the Near North Side stopping and questioning people.
Jack Swanson reported a call from a FBI agent named Hayes. “He has a witness in the neighborhood of the bombing, who states that there was White Cadilac which left the scene shortly before the blast at a high rate of speed. He states that this is all he has got at this time, but he will be able to get more information tomorrow.”
“HAYES said he got this information second hand, and that the actual witness was a young Negro male.”
“This white Cadillac was supposed to have been occupied by one Negro male, and one white male.”[xxi]
Swanson began working on a list of thirty-eight members or associates of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, for questioning. Swanson was already focusing his attention on Mondo, putting him first on the list. Swanson assigned two officers to question a Students for a Democratic Society member about a purported meeting with Mondo.[xxii]
While Jack Swanson worked on his list of suspects, Joseph Boan went to Douglas County Hospital to interview George McCline. “Went to County Hospital and contacted and interviewed MCCLINE, George Earl….MCCLINE states dynamite is being sold by CHILES, Leroy…who is a member of Mafia and also by Yano CANIGLIA of Cheeta lounge…also by a dancer working there name of Jerry, nickname “Bubbles”, formerly worked at Inferno at Lincoln,Nebraska. Also kingpin in the exploxion this morning was party named “Bussie” who is uncle of Vivian STRONG. “Bussie” drives silver black 67 Cadillac brougham and Luther PAYNE was arrested taking the dynamite to his place at 64th Maple street. “Bussie” is described as Negro Male who frequents Northside pool halls & gambling houses.”[xxiii]
Early evening, a member of the Nebraska Game Commission, M. M. Muncie, visited Central Headquarters with a tip. Jack Swanson talked to the game commissioner and wrote a report. The report was typical of calls pouring in, calls by whites about suspicious-looking blacks. Muncie had spotted a car in traffic. “MUNCIE says he is relaying this information only in the hope that it may tie in with something we already know. He says that the parties were having a very animated conversation, and look suspicious to him. He said the only party he could identify was the occupant in the right front seat, who was wearing a reddish brown, coarse straw hat, with about a 4” brim.”[xxiv]
Officers Taylor and Steimer went to the home of Andrew Liberman, noting a white 1965 Cadillac parked in the driveway. “An older Cau. Female, possibly LIBERMAN’s mother, answered the door….She stated that Andrew was not at home at this time and wanted to know what the problem was. We told her that we had information that Andrew LIBERMAN had attended a meeting along with militants Ernest CHAMBERS and David RICE. She stated that he had and that the meeting had been held on Sunday…in Memorial Park. There were approximately 100 young people in attendance at the meeting.”[xxv]
More tips came in. Omaha officer Dennis Howard reported an informant overheard a conversation at the Hilton Hotel with a bartender where a hotel employee allegedly said he knew who sold the dynamite and planted the bomb that killed Larry Minard. Howard was unable to locate the hotel employee for questioning.[xxvi]
Sometime during the day following the explosion, two prosecutors made a trip to the emergency communications center to listen and record the 911 call. A dispatcher, Tony Grazziano, recalled the visit. “I remember Deputy County Attorneys Frank Pane and Sam Cooper coming to the 911 office to listen and record the call that was responsible for Larry’s death.”[xxvii]
Glen Gates was asked by a reporter about “voice prints” of the anonymous 911 caller. Gates, who had already talked with Paul Young, replied, “No comment.” There was already a fixed outcome of the murder investigation.[xxviii]
Governor Norbert Tiemann expressed the anguish of many. “I am outraged….These men went to answer a call for help only to find a trap set for their destruction. This is undoubtedly the lowest and vilest act imaginable.”[xxix]
Twenty-five persons were arrested at different locations on the Near North Side on Monday night on a variety of minor charges including suspicion of loitering, drinking on a public street, disorderly conduct or obstructing the administration of law. Twenty-two of those arrested were men. Three were women and all were black.[xxx]
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[i] Anonymous 911 recording, transcript, Omaha Police Department, August 17, 1970. “The address is twenty-eight sixty-six or twenty-eight sixty-seven, it’s an old vacant house. And, and this dude has drug this woman off in there, and she’s screaming and shit and I don’t know what’s going on. I’m right across the street….It’s an old vacant house with a bunch of weeds around it.”
- [ii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001188, August 17, 1970
- [iii] OPD Property Reports, Trial Record, 001018, 001023 & 001198, August 17, 1970
- [iv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001194, August 17, 1970
- [v] “Death Ends Birthday Plans,” Al Frisbie, Omaha World-Herald, August 18, 1970
- [vi] “Officer’s daughters want justice to remain served,” Clarence Mabin, Lincoln Journal Star, January 27, 2007
- [vii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001183, August 17, 1970
- [viii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001209, August 17, 1970
- [ix] OPD Property Report, Trial Record 001023, August 17, 1970
- [x] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001217, August 17, 1970
- [xi] Although no one was arrested for the bombing, suspects abounded as ATF agents launched a four-state investigation based in Omaha. U. S. Attorney Richard Dier refused to prosecute twenty-two individuals, including Mondo and Ed Poindexter, for their purported role in a bombing conspiracy.
- [xii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001221, August 17, 1970
- [xiii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001259-001260, August 17, 1970. Robert Pfeffer’s account of beginning the crime scene search with police command officers and ATF agents conflicts with the report of Identification Technician Bolan. Pfeffer and others apparently examined the blast site for an hour and a half before the crime scene technicians began the formal search.
- [xiv] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001215, August 17, 1970. Component Concepts Corporation was a black-owned defense subcontractor located in the Near North Side that was bombed July 2, 1970, a crime that remains unsolved.
- [xv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001220, August 17, 1970
- [xvi] Mondo’s FBI file, James Sizoo to Charles Brennan letter, p. 1, August 17, 1970.
- [xvii] Very Special Agents, James Moore, p. 104, 2001
- [xviii] Paul Young to J. Edgar Hoover, August 17, 1970, Post-Trial Exhibit 52. A later FBI memorandum, without the name redacted, revealed Glen Gates as the person that Paul Young spoke with about the 911 tape. In the document provided to defense attorneys, the name of Gates was redacted.
- [xix] “Angry Policemen Seek Deadly House Bomber,” Steve Jordan, Omaha World-Herald, p.1, August 17, 1970
- [xx] “Policemen Meet Leahy In Bomb Blast’s Wake,” David Tishendorf, Omaha World-Herald, p.1, August 17, 1970
- [xxi] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001264, August 17, 1970
- [xxii] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001274, August 17, 1970
- [xxiii] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001269, August 17, 1970
- [xxiv] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001267, August 17, 1970
- [xxv] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001274, August 17, 1970
- [xxvi] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001102, August 17, 1970
- [xxvii] Tony Grazziano, comment on WOWT.com website, August 17, 2010
- [xxviii] “Slain Policeman’s Services Thursday,” Omaha Wo rld-Herald, p. 1, August 18, 1970
- [xxix] “Slain Policeman’s Services Thursday.” Omaha World-Herald, p. 2, August 18, 1970
- [xxx] “25 Persons Arrested On Near North Side,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 6, August 18, 1970
About the Author
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.