Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 12 in a series for NorthOmahaHistory.com called Framed: J. Edgar Hoover, COINTELPRO and the Omaha Two Story. It was written by Michael Richardson. Learn more here.
“We believe organized violence is necessary.”
—Mondo, August 20, 1970
The weekly edition of the black-owned Omaha Star newspaper came out with three articles that revealed the depth of racial discord in the city.
An article on a black unity seminar discussed the focus of Ed Poindexter’s attention until the Minard murder. Poindexter was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Black Unity which organized a one-day seminar “to better organize and unify the Omaha Black community” which attracted Reverend Otis Saunders of Detroit as keynote speaker.
Saunders, author of Conflict, Chaos or Community, was at work on another book to be entitled After The Panthers and his impending arrival was an important event to Poindexter. Saunders was a bridge between the Black Panthers and church leaders. The afternoon session of the seminar featured a workshop for ministers dealing with ways to make the church “more relevant to critical community needs.” Poindexter’s role in the group was a significant breakthrough towards acceptance for the National Committee to Combat Fascism.[i]
The second article told of the forum held at the First Central Congregational Church where police brutality was aired which created a backlash of anger by police against criticism from church leaders. The headline article of the newspaper explored the controversy and included a statement of Forum organizers. “Sponsors of Friday’s Forum, during which statements of police community relations matters were made by local citizens, express their deep regret and sympathy at the tragic loss of life connected with Monday night’s bombing. As in the death of Vivian Strong, one year ago, we deplore such waste of human life.”[ii]
The third article put Mondo at the center of suspicion for Larry Minard’s death. A regular feature of the newspaper was a guest column. Mondo had written the commentary before the murder but the juxtaposition of events put a sharper edge on Mondo’s comments. Mondo was asked, “Do you Panthers really mean freedom by any means necessary?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, very shortly the situation in this country is going to develop into extensive armed struggle. This armed conflict is already taking place, on a small scale, even here in Omaha.”
“We believe that organized violence is necessary. But we will not take part in or encourage unorganized rioting. All it can result in, at this point in time, is mass injury and/or death to Black people. I’m of the opinion that bricks are not much of a match for guns.”[iii]
Governor Norbert Tiemann was at Larry Minard’s funeral, the largest in Omaha’s history. Somber policemen stood silently in a line a block long to pay last respects on what would have been Minard’s thirtieth birthday. More than three hundred policeman, members of a volunteer honor guard, crowded into the John A. Gentlemen mortuary. Most funeral attendees could not get in and they listened to the service on loudspeakers outside.
Public Safety Director Al Pattavina and Chief Richard Anderson were at the funeral. Every officer who could be spared from day shift duty was allowed to attend. Karen Minard attended but none of Larry’s five children were present.
Reverend Marvin Hall of the First Baptist Church conducted the service and said criminals compliment law enforcement officers by calling them symbols of the system. “In honoring Larry Minard, we are honoring the peace-keeping profession. Most of us can sleep safely and securely tonight because our peace officers will be awake.”
Hall said “enemies of our way of life” have been trying for years to discredit police. Hall said this theme has been a favorite of “anarchists, Communists, the underworld…and even some naïve members of the clergy.”
Patrolman John Tess, in a wheelchair with his wounds from the explosion still bandaged, viewed the service from a private room near the closed, flag-draped coffin. On the casket lid with the flag was Minard’s uniform, hat and his badge.
More than four hundred visitors signed the regular guest book and another four hundred policemen and other law enforcement officers signed a special book. Flowers arrived from police associations in New York, Boston, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C.
After the funeral, the honor guard took up position lining both sides of the street for two blocks where the officers stood at attention and saluted as the hearse passed on its way to the cemetery. On each side of the hearse were columns of four color guard members in berets marching with police 12-gauge shotguns. The procession of mourners to the cemetery was two miles long. Minard was given a military ceremony at Forest Lawn under an oak tree near the graves of his parents. A lone bugler played taps.[iv]
The funeral did not stop the homicide investigation. Omaha FBI agents questioned an informant about the bombing. “OM T-7 advised that he had heard that certain members of the NCCF supposedly knew who had set the bomb at Ohio Street and that the bomber was from out of town who had been trained by the BPP for constructing bombs of this type. This information was furnished to the Intelligence Division of the Omaha Police Department.”[v]
The next day, a detective questioned Tyrone Stearns, an employee of Component Concepts Corporation and wrote a report. “He stated that he has been making the Black Panther meetings. He is not a member but stated that he has been asked to join. During these meetings he stated that the members are instructed on the use of automatic weapons, rifles, and the making of dynamite bombs. He stated that at these meetings there are two white men, who are about 38 yrs old that do part of the instruction and also have a hand in the conducting of these meetings.”
“He stated that he can get me the location of 200 to 300 lbs of dynamite and Detonators caps that one of the black panthers have talked to him about.”[vi]
“He also stated remember this guy by the name of Luther who was caught hauling dynamite. He stated Luther is a black panther, but he didn’t tell you guys about it.”
“He also stated that the Black Panthers have numerous weapons automatic rifles, hand guns in the house that they occupy on north 24th street.”
“Concerning the COMPONENTS bombing he stated that the Wednesday after the bombing he was at the Black Panther meeting, and during this meeting it was mentioned, during the past week our operation was a success.”[vii]
A former member of the Black Panthers also came into Central Headquarters to make a statement. Richard Gibson had been of interest to Jack Swanson hours after the bombing until cleared by the FBI. “GIBSON claims that he was in the Black Panther Organization for 4 to 5 months in 1968, until his wife left him and went to California, and claims that he found out that certain ones in the organization was trying to use him as a “Patsy” such as not giving an accurate account of the money taken up, and pretending that the organization was an affiliate of the headquarter group in Oakland, Calif. when they were not, so he gradually got out of the organization.”[viii]
Jack Swanson wrote a report on two men seen entering the National Committee to Combat Fascism headquarters. Swanson questioned Roger Duncan about his housemate, Donald Stirling. “This interview was conducted in regards to surveillance photos….We had taken photos of two white males going back and forth to the headquarters. Information has come in that there might possibly be two white males involved in the above offense.”
“We asked DUNCAN about his association with the NCCF and he stated the following: He and STIRLING are volunteers for the United Methodist Ministers Council; and that the reason they were going back and forth to the NCCF headquarters, was to conduct interviews with the members. He said their assignment was to investigate Police harassment, of Panthers….DUNCAN further said that he did not think the Panthers were involved.”
“DUNCAN said that in his opinion, the person who committed the crime would be one party who feels that he is alienated from society.”
“We noticed that on the inside of this house there were several draft cards pinned on the wall, and some of them had been scorched. This information was given to Agent HARRIS, FBI.”[ix]
A reporter questioned Ed Poindexter about the failed ATF search that was now in the news. Poindexter said his group had no secrets. “Actually, if they believe everything they hear, we’d have an entire National Guard Armory stuck up here. We’ll be glad to let them search all they want.”
“We’re not going to have any more Fred Hamptons or Mark Clarks like in Chicago last December. They shoot us, we’re definitely going to shoot back. We’ll be throwing everything at them they throw at us in spite of our deaths, but we have nothing to hide.”[x]
Back from vacation, J. Edgar Hoover gave William Sullivan a $250 “incentive award” for the time Hoover was in California. Sullivan’s duties included going along with the plan to withhold a FBI Laboratory report on the identity of Larry Minard’s killer. Hoover wrote, “You certainly deserve commendation for your exceptionally meritorious services during the period of time when I was away from Washington.”
“I am aware that my absence necessitated your shouldering additional responsibilities. Your splendid performance is appreciated.”[xi]
John Mohr, who oversaw communications with the FBI Laboratory, was likewise given a commendation and cash award for his actions while Hoover was on vacation. Hoover sent a personal letter to Mohr commending him and awarding $250 for the “superior manner in which you fulfilled your responsibilities.”[xii]
In Omaha, Robert Pfeffer was told by an informant about a possible hiding place of explosives. Pfeffer checked out a tip about the home of Annie Norris, who he misunderstood to be Annie Morris. Annie told Pfeffer about a fifteen year-old friend of hers. “Duane PEAK came over to her house carrying a grey suitcase with him. She said that the suitcase was of a hard material, rough in appearance, dark grey color and had a shiny band, possibly metal around it.”[xiii]
“She stated that PEAK kept the suitcase in front of him when he sat down on the couch in the frontroom, and when she asked him what he was doing with the suitcase he told her that he was joining the Peace Corps, and was planning on leaving that evening. MORRIS stated that then Duane PEAK set the suitcase down in front of them, when he sat on the couch, when she asked him what he was doing with it she also walked over and tried to pick it up take or shake it to see what was in it, and he yelled at her telling her not to shake it and not to touch it. However, she stated that before he could stop her, she did pick up the suitcase, and it seemed quite heavy to her. She said that he hollered at her for doing this, and told her to leave it alone.”
“She stated that approximately ten minutes or so later, Donnie PEAK came over to her house, and had been drinking, both went into the kitchen, and DUANE carried the suitcase into the kitchen with him. She said that both were laughing and joking in the kitchen for about ten minutes, and then both left with DUANE carrying the suitcase. She said that the PEAKS, both DUANE and DONNIE, said on numerous occasions that they “were going to blow up the PIG Department.”[xiv]
“MORRIS also stated that Monday evening 17 August 70 Duane PEAK was setting with her on the couch in the front room and DONNIE came to the front window and scared her, DONNIE said that at this time the Police were trying to scare the ones who did it and that DONNIE then asked DUANE, “what’s the matter boy, can’t you get any sleep?“ don let that bother you.”
“She said that the PEAKS also told her before they left that they had to lay low for a while, because the POLICE or Detectives were after them because they had a warrant for Duane PEAK’S arrest.”[xv]
Annie’s neighbors Margaret White and John Jerks had also seen Duane Peak and were questioned at their home. “PEAK, Dwayne was carrying a light grey Samsonite suitcase which looked like it was heavy. Mrs. White added that Dwayne never had a suitcase for his clothes because he only had a few and he throws them over his arm whenever he moves from place to place. The next day he stated that he has to lay low because they has a warrant and they are looking for him. He was also bragging about bombing the house at 2867 Ohio St.”
“Mr. Jerks and Mrs. White stated they would cooperate with Police in any way they could as long as their names are kept in confidence and as long as no white policeman comes to their door.”[xvi]
Back at Central Headquarters, Pfeffer continued questioning Annie Norris and took a bold step letting Norris listen to a recording of the 911 call where she first identified Duane Peak’s voice.[xvii]
“However, after listening to the tape, two and three times, she stated that it sounded like Donnie PEAK, disguising his voice, or trying to do so, however she stated that she can almost be positive that it is either DONNIE or DUANE—PEAK on the tape.”[xviii]
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- [i] “Black Unity Seminar Planned,” Omaha Star, p. 1, August 20, 1970
- [ii] “Police-Community Problems Can Be Solved,” p. 1, Omaha Star, August 20, 1970
- [iii] “Rap On,” Omaha Star, p. 3, August 20, 1970
- [iv] “Larry Minard, Peace-Keeper Laid to Rest,” Robert Hoig, Omaha World-Herald, p. 14, August 21, 1971
- [v] Mondo’s FBI file, FBI letterhead memorandum, p. 41, August 26, 1970
- [vi] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001292, August 21, 1970
- [vii] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001293, August 21, 1970
- [viii] OPD Supplementary Report, August 21, 1970
- [ix] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001294, August 21, 1970
- [x] “Raid Planned, Then Canceled,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 1, August 22, 1970
- [xi] Archive.org, William C. Sullivan, Vol. 7, p. 83, August 21, 1970
- [xii] Archive.org, John P. Mohr, Vol. 5, p. 68, August 21, 1970
- [xiii] OPD Supplementary Report, August 21, 1970, Trial Record 001299, Pfeffer dictated this report which explains the reference to Norris as Morris.
- [xiv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001300, August 21, 1970
- [xv] OPD supplementary Report, Trial Record 001301, August 21 1970
- [xvi] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001106, August 21, 1970
- [xvii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001301, August 21, 1970
- [xviii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001302, August 21, 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.
- “Framed” Preface by Michael Richardson
- A History of the Near North Side Neighborhood
- A History of the Omaha Star Newspaper