Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 11 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.
“OK to do”
—J. Edgar Hoover, August 19, 1970
On August 18, 1970, the Omaha World Herald published an article entitled “Voiceprint In Bombing To FBI Lab” on the front page of the evening newspaper. The article quoted Deputy Police Chief Walter Devere that a recording of the fatal 911 call would aid the investigation and that police had sent a copy to the FBI Laboratory. “Voiceprinting—using voice sounds to establish identity—is relatively new and not admissible evidence in court. But it is a good investigative tool.”
Devere said an exhaustive investigation was in progress.
“We’ll keep digging on this until hell freezes over.”[i]
Deputy County Attorney Arthur O’Leary was at police headquarters. O’Leary said investigators were “raw” in view of the fact that a fellow officer was killed and that another major homicide investigation–the Peggy Giddings case–was still under investigation.
Robert Gallagher, president of the Omaha Police Union, told a reporter the organization will press strongly for a revision of police procedures.
“Officers are going to have to treat every call like dynamite.”[ii]
Sheriff Ted Janing called Central Headquarters. A police report detailed Janing’s call.
“Security Guard from the Sheriff’s Office who was at County Hospital overheard either George McCline or Lamont Mitchell state that Vivian Strong has an Uncle named BUSSY who lives near 64th Blondo or Maple. Drives a 1967 Cadillac and that he had something to do with TRIGGERING the bomb.”[iii]
At her home, a new widow gave a newspaper interview and spoke of her grief. “I tried for two years to get him to give up police work. A policeman’s wife never knows when he walks out the door whether he will come back alive. But he always told me, “This is my life and I’ll give my life for it if I have to.”
Karen Minard explained that the two oldest children understood what happened to their father. “They are suffering….The smaller children still don’t realize what has happened. I told them Daddy was up in heaven with Jesus. That’s all they know.”
Larry’s children had birthday presents waiting that he never would open. Simple things, cologne, a picture of themselves, something the kids made.[iv]
The Omaha City Council adopted a resolution praising Minard as a “courageous and devoted public servant” and joined Mayor Leahy in quiet expression of sorrow in a moment of silence before opening the weekly meeting.[v]
Organizers of the Congregational Church forum held a week before, when allegations of police harassment were made, said in a prepared statement that neither “regret and sympathy” for the death of Larry Minard nor the “retaliatory attitude of others” will solve “the present tensions in Omaha.”
Signing the statement were Reverend James Hargleroad, director of the Omaha Presbytery’s Commission on Church and Race; Reverend Jerry Elrod, director of the United Methodist Metropolitan Ministries; Reverend V. R. Schoonover, coordinator of the Greater Area Lutherans; and Harold L. Adler, director of the Anti-Defamation League. “The forum was an initial means for calling attention to the seriousness of the widening gap between much of the Omaha community and its Police Department.”[vi]
A wrecking crew knocked down the bombed house as soon as police investigators were finished at the scene. The partially destroyed structure, vacant for more than a year, was declared a hazard by city inspectors.[vii]
Paul Young sent J. Edgar Hoover a memorandum that quoted informant OM T-7 about the Omaha bombing that the NCCF did not seem to be involved.
“On August 18, 1970, OM T-7 advised that the members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism were pleased over the death of the “pig” but that their actions did not indicate that they had any knowledge of who set off the blast, and at this time seemed unaware of who could have committed the crime.”[viii]
Hoover, on vacation with Clyde Tolson, ordered Angela Davis added to the Ten Most Wanted list for her alleged role in the deadly Marin County Courthouse kidnapping in California that cost the life of a judge.
Back in Omaha, a police dragnet was underway. Reverend Marshall Tate was arrested outside his home in the police round-up. Ten other black residents of the Near North Side were also arrested throughout the day and evening.
Jack Swanson got a call from the FBI with more information about a white Cadillac speeding from the crime scene. “Agent HAYES, FBI, called and relayed further information on the white Cadillac he states a witness saw leaving the scene shortly after the blast.”
“HAYES says that this was supposed to a Black Vinyl/White 66 Cadillac, bearing green license plates. The witness did not [get] the number of the plates, nor the state which it was from. This auto was seen going north from Ohio, on 30th at a high rate of speed, and ran the red light at 30th and Binney Sts. It was supposed to have been occupied by one white male, and one Negro male.”[ix]
Swanson finished his suspect list of members and associates of the National Committee to Combat Fascism. Swanson’s list of thirty-eight names started with Mondo and included Ed Poindexter. Frank Peak, Jr. and William Peak were on the list, as was Eddie Bolden and Robert Cecil. Raleigh House and Richard Gibson were also included. Community activists Ernie Chambers and Robert “Jericho” Honore were on the list as was Luther Payne, one of the three men arrested by Swanson in July with dynamite.[x]
On the street, Patrolmen Gregory Thompson and Richard Scheumann stopped Willie Boykins and arrested him for no identification. The two officers had seen Boykins the night before when Boykins had called them pigs and ducked into a building. Boykins refused to tell police his name. Tempers flared and soon blows were struck. Thompson claims Boykins hit him in the face, head and chest. Scheumann hit Boykins so hard he inflicted a head laceration. After a trip to County Hospital to stop the bleeding, Boykins was arrested for assaulting an officer and held in jail overnight. When he was being booked, Boykins gave his address as the headquarters of the National Committee to Combat Fascism. Detectives questioned Boykins after his arrest and he denied assaulting a police officer. He said police struck him for no apparent reason.”[xi]
Council Bluffs police called Omaha with information. “At 2040 was contacted by Detective Ron O’NEIL, Council Bluffs Police Force, who has stated that he had received information….that talk around the Blue Star Food Company, is that a Negro/female, MELTON, Arvella, Neg/fem, 25….may possibly have some information concerning the death of MINARD.”[xii]
“O’NEIL stated that the talk around the plant was that this girl knows something about the bombing, that she knew that it was going to happen, that when it was going to happen and that she state that it was in retaliation for the STRONG girl getting killed by the Police.”
“Detective O’NEIL also indicated that he had received a flier from the Des Moines Police Division containing photographs and information about known bombers in their City, and persons who have been known to procure dynamite and he would forward a copy of this to our Homicide Section.”[xiii]
Just before midnight, James Perry gave a Social Security card found at the crime scene by an ATF agent to Joseph Boan to be logged. “Lt. James Perry turned over to me a Social Security card in the name of Johnnie Lee Bussby #508-56-9037 and advised me that the card was found in the debris from the house at 2869 Ohio Street scene of the bombing-homicide.”
“Checked with Juvenile Section, I.D., and also telephone directory and city directory and find no record of any link on anyone by that name. Also Telephone directory and city directory lists no other names of BUSSBY.” [xiv]
By the end of Tuesday, eleven more people were arrested, adding to the twenty-five persons arrested on Monday.
The next day, Human Relations Director Roger Sayers urged both the black community and the police to keep cool in the wake of the bombing. Sayers spoke with the Omaha World-Herald. “I can only talk about what has been told to me and I have had calls at my office and at home about police harassment and unnecessary arrests.”
“The unfortunate thing is that a whole community of people, in this case a minority community, has been indicted because of the tragic death of Officer Minard.”
“We shouldn’t place the blame on blacks or whites. We should concentrate on apprehending the person responsible and eliminating the situations to cause such things to happen.”[xv]
At FBI headquarters, William Bradley, a supervisor in the Administrative Division, told Agent John Shimota of the request from Paul Young for assistance in the Minard killing and also that no laboratory report was to be issued. Shimota drafted a memorandum for Bradley to Ivan Willard Conrad at the FBI Laboratory.
“Omaha Office has advised that the Omaha Police Department has requested laboratory assistance in connection with a bombing which took place in Omaha 8/17/70. This bombing resulted in the death of one police officer and the injuring of six other officers and is apparently directly connected with a series of racial bombings which the Omaha Police have experienced. The Police were lured to the bomb site by a telephonic distress call from an unknown male.”
“[Glen Gates] of the Omaha Police has requested [REDACTED]”
“The SAC, Omaha strongly recommends that the examination requested by the Omaha Police Department be conducted.”[xvi]
“If approved, the results of any examinations will be orally furnished the Police on an informal basis through the SAC, Omaha.”
A handwritten, initialed notation by Conrad stated, “Dir advised telephonically & said OK to do.”[xvii]
Edgar Hoover was still on vacation when Conrad called Hoover by phone for instructions. Hoover conducted limited FBI business while on vacation and was only called on important matters however Conrad understood the significance of letting a policeman’s killer get away with murder necessitated making the call.
Mondo’s view was that Young’s memorandum to Hoover on the day of the bombing and Bradley’s memo to Conrad two days later were evidence of the conspiracy against him and Ed Poindexter. “This is pretty clear indication of cloak and dagger stuff. We want you to do the analysis but we don’t want you to put the results in writing. Communicate to us this way. So I suspect that somewhere between that memo and the prior one, the decision was made that the tape would not be part of the trial. A vital issue, a critical issue.”[xviii]
Mark Felt, chief of the Inspections Division, and Hoover’s personal troubleshooter, is on the distribution list of the Bradley memo. Given the nature of the content and Felt’s job duties, it is virtually certain he was aware of the conspiracy. According to his memoir, it was Felt’s practice to not initial documents that eventually Hoover would review to reduce questions from Hoover.[xix]
Felt’s memoir also stated he saw all of the memoranda that went to Hoover.[xx]
A feature article in the Salt Lake City Tribune revealed that Felt had extensive counterintelligence experience in a four-year stint with an espionage unit during World War II. “At one time his title was superintendent of counter intelligence operations.”[xxi]
Although Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein relied on Felt as Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal and considered Felt to be a trustworthy source, Felt’s bold lies are well documented. Felt’s denial of the Deep Throat allegation, contained in his memoir told the world the complete opposite of the truth, as he would later admit. Felt went so far as to suggest the identity of Deep Throat, knowing the man was not the leak.[xxii]
Felt’s untruths extended to his wife’s death. In 1984, Audrey Felt shot herself in the head with Mark’s revolver and Felt kept the cause of death a secret, even from the couple’s daughter. To complete the deception, Felt noted Audrey’s death in her sleep from cardiac arrest in the family’s “Calendar of Events” he prepared.”[xxiii]
Since Felt was a liar, his statements need to be viewed with skepticism. Nonetheless, Felt wrote that around the time of the Omaha bombing Hoover was getting tremendous pressure from Richard Nixon to take firm action on domestic bombings.[xxiv]
Assistant to the Director William Sullivan was also on the memorandum distribution list and initialed the document indicating his approval to withhold a lab report on the 911 caller’s identity. Charles Brennan, only on the job several weeks as Assistant Director in charge of the Domestic Intelligence Division, was on a special typed distribution list.
Alex Rosen, Assistant Director of the General Investigative Division, was on a rubber-stamped distribution list. George Moore’s Racial Intelligence unit stamped the memorandum indicating receipt and approval of the clandestine plan to withhold potential evidence. Hoover’s inner circle of Bureau top executives all knew of the misdeed to be done in Omaha and none dissented.
Meanwhile, detectives returned to Central Headquarters from from the Douglas County Jail where they questioned one of the three men arrested in July with stolen dynamite. “Went to County Jail and interviewed PAYNE, Luther, Jr. in regards to his arrest for possessing dynamite and for possible further information. Stated he already told the police department and FBI all he knows about the case but if he was free he could put the finger on the party or party’s responsible. Stated the dynamite found in his possession he got from back of OIC and was arrested when trying to sell it to a fence. Inferred he did this for another reason and this was that BOLDEN, Eddie who works at OIC had fired him and he wanted to get even.”[xxv]
Mondo was fighting for his job at GOCA and appealed for an Equal Opportunity Commission hearing. Mondo recalled he was preoccupied with lining up witnesses to get his job restored. “I believe it was a matter of days after the bombing we had the personnel hearing. McNair shows up at the hearing drunk. Somebody had to drive him home in fact. There were a bunch of people there testifying in my behalf. Anyway, needless to say, from in jail I couldn’t work for GOCA anymore.”[xxvi]
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- [i] “Voiceprint In Bombing To FBI Lab,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p.1, August 18, 1970. Devere was apparently unaware that Deputy Chief Glen Gates had already agreed to a compromised laboratory report in the case.
- [ii] “Voiceprint In Bombing To FBI Lab,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p.2, August 18, 1970
- [iii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001215, August 17, 1970
- [iv] “Minard Felt Police Were Important,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 6, August 18. 1970
- [v] “Police Asking If Fatal Bomb Like Earlier”, Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 6, August 19, 1970
- [vi] “Racial Forum’s Sponsors Voice Regret, Sympathy,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 6, August 18, 1970
- [vii] “Police Asking If Fatal Bomb Like Earlier,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 19, 1970
- [viii] Mondo’s FBI file, FBI letterhead memorandum, p. 33, August 26, 1970
- [ix] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001186, August 18, 1970. Jack Swanson misspelled Larry Minard’s last name as Menard on his report and repeated the error on two subsequent reports which suggests he did not know the slain officer well, rather than making a typing error which were common in the police reports.
- [x] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001222-001223, August 18,1970. Jack Swanson’s full list of NCCF members and associates was: David L. Rice, Frank Peak, Jr., William L. Peak, Eddie E. Bolden, Gary L. House, Robert E. Cecil, Rawleigh B. House, Robert Griffo, Carl W. Clemmons, Robert West, William Fletcher, Veronzo L.C. Boyers, Jr., Arthur K. Green, Eugene Davis, James A. McCary, Ray “Buddy” Kellogg, Kenneth R. Brown, Edward Brightman, Ernest W. Chambers, Michael Adams, Wesley H. Dean, Dwight E. Dean, Luther G. Payne, Levoyd Woodall, Lewis J. Davis, Edward Poindexter, Alvin F. Simmons, Jr., Allen B. Dent, Melvin Y. Strawn, Claude F. McKinney, Robert N. Honore, Timothy H. Andrews, James Boose, Richard B. Gibson, James O. Grigsby, Michael B. Maroney, George E. Parker, Jr., Willie M. Boykins aka Melvin Collins, and Robert Hatcher.
- [xi] “Sayers Asks Police, Blacks ‘Keep Cool,” David Tishendorf, Omaha World-Herald, p. 2, August 19, 1970
- [xii] Omaha Police Department (OPD) Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001226, August 18, 1970
- [xiii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001225, August 18, 1970
- [xiv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001229, August 18, 1970
- [xv] “Sayers Asks Police, Blacks ‘Keep Cool,” David Tishendorf, Omaha World-Herald, p. 2, August 19, 1970
- [xvi] William Bradley to Ivan Willard Conrad, Post-Trial Exhibit 49, p. 1, August 19, 1970
- [xvii] William Bradley to Ivan Willard Conrad, Post-Trial Exhibit 49, p. 2, August 19, 1970
- [xviii] Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007
- [xix] A G-Man’s Life, Mark Felt & John O’Connor, p. 126-127, 2007
- [xx] The Director: An Oral Biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Ovid Demaris, p. 315, 1975
- [xxi] FBI Vault, Mark Felt, Sec. 5b, p.13, September 12, 1971
- [xxii] The FBI Pyramid From the Inside, Mark Felt, p. 226, 1979
- [xxiii] A G-Man’s Life, Mark Felt & John O’Connor, 2006, p. 294-295, 2006
- [xxiv] The FBI Pyramid From the Inside, Mark Felt, p. 324, 1979
- [xxv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001237, August 19, 1970
- [xxvi] Mondo, prison interview, December 31, 2007
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.