Adam’s Note: This is Chapter 13 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.
“They are meant to be scapegoats”
-Ernie Chambers, August 23, 1970
Margaret White and John Jerks were brought to Central Headquarters. Robert Pfeffer wrote a report. “JERKS stated that he saw Duane PEAKS, he was carrying a suitcase that he had never seen him have before. He describes the suitcase as grayish in color, about medium size.”
Jerks told the detective that Donald Peak came over and the two brothers talked together privately. “He stated that after both of them being at the NORRIS house for about 15 minutes they both came out of the NORRIS house with Duane PEAKS carrying the gray suitcase.”[i]
“JERKS stated that on the next day…Duane PEAKS came over to his house and told his wife, Margaret, that he’d have to lay low because the pigs were looking for him on account of the bombing that happened last night.”
“JERKS also stated that PEAKS had mentioned when they were with the Black Panthers that Duane used to talk about making bombs although he never did see any himself.”
Jack Swanson got a call from an informant with Donald Peak’s location. Swanson arrested Peak as an accessory after the fact and then had him questioned.[ii]
“Peak Donald stated that he did not know anything about the bombing, but admitted that his group had teased about killing the Pig, and some would point out their finger and say to him, that they knew that he did it, but that he wanted to be honest about the matter and get this off his chest, also said he would take a lie-detector test, and asked what did it comprise of, and I explained the machine to him, assuring him that if he was telling the truth, he had nothing to fear.”
“PEAK, Donald then asked me what would happen to a person, who had knowledge of bombing and told police about this, but did not have anything to do with it and I assured him, that this person would be faultless, and exonerated, and he told me, he was the person, who had the knowledge and wanted to tell me about it, as he has not slept well since gaining the knowledge.”
“Duane PEAK told him, that at exactly 0215 a “Pig” had been killed, then told him Donald, that the suitcase had contained dynamite, and about the explosion, and Donald said it sickened him, as his brother Duane did not have to tell him about the incident.”[iii]
“PEAK Donald also admits that he did belong to the Black Panthers, for 2-3 mos. but quit in July 1970, admits that he formerly lived at 2809 Ohio Street…but did not know, whose idea it was to plant the bomb there nor did he know who had made the phone call to the police, but stated that to his knowledge it was POINDEXTER, ED Neg male, known as head of the Organization who made the bomb, and his brother was transporting it.”[iv]
Theresa Peak, a sister of Duane, was arrested along with her boyfriend Raymond Britt. On the way to headquarters arresting officers had an unexpected discovery, a loaded automatic pistol inside Theresa’s purse.[v]
Willie Haynie, boyfriend of sister Delia Peak, was being interrogated. “HAYNIE states….he did hear PEAK, Donald, negro male, 20 years, and PEAK, Duane, laughing and talking about the bombing…both were making jokes about this incident; however, HAYNIE states that he had not as yet heard this on the news.”[vi]
In Washington, William Bradley sent a second memorandum to Ivan Willard Conrad at the FBI Laboratory about the Minard murder. “In referenced memorandum [8/19/70], the Director approved a request to assist the Omaha Police Department in captioned case through the use of [voice comparison examinations by the Laboratory.]”
“By telephonic communication 8/21/70, the SAC, Omaha has requested that a Laboratory Supervisor travel to Omaha for the purpose of furnishing technical guidance to the Omaha Police concerning the correct techniques in obtaining known [voice samples for comparison purposes and make recommendations as to what commercially available equipment can be used in making known voice recordings.]”
“[No Bureau equipment will be used in connection with obtaining the known voice recording samples.]”
“The SAC, Omaha, noted that he had been instructed by the Bureau to suggest steps of possible assistance to the Omaha Police in solving the bombings. He advised technical guidance of the type requested would provide maximum immediate assistance, particularly since the [existing recording of the false “bait” complaint to the police is the most important present tangible evidence in the possession of the police], and he recommended the Bureau send a Laboratory representative.”
“RECOMMENDATION: That a Laboratory Supervisor travel to Omaha and furnish the Omaha Police with technical guidance in [obtaining known voice samples for comparison purposes.]”[vii]
Clyde Tolson was on the memorandum distribution list. Tolson did not initial the document and given his failing health and mental state it is possible Tolson did not read the memo. However, Tolson may have been independently aware of the plot to not issue a lab report as he was with Hoover on vacation when Conrad called the director in California.
William Sullivan’s initials are beside his name indicating his approval. The war on the Black Panthers was a priority for Sullivan and he stayed informed, following counterintelligence actions and developments closely.
John Mohr’s name was on two distribution lists, a rubber-stamped distribution list and a special typed list with his initials at the bottom of the page. Mohr’s cash incentive bonus from Hoover also suggests Mohr’s participation in the conspiracy to withhold a laboratory report.
Alex Rosen, head of the General Investigation Division read, approved, and initialed the memorandum. George Moore of the Racial Intelligence section signed on. Charles Brennan, in charge of the Domestic Intelligence Division, gave his approval and initials. The cast of the conspiracy was complete. The FBI top directorate was aware and approved of the plan to conceal the identity of the 911 caller by withholding a formal laboratory report and instead sending a lab technician to Omaha to direct local police.
Edgar Hoover put his own pen to paper and wrote “OK” followed with his distinctive “H” initial. The anonymous 911 caller that lured a policeman to his death would not be sought. The decision had already been made while Hoover was still on vacation that a policeman’s killers would get away with murder to make the case against Mondo and Ed Poindexter.
In late afternoon, police arrived at the National Committee to Combat Fascism headquarters led by Captain Bruce Hartford. Neither the police nor accompanying ATF agents had a search warrant. The police were operating on the strength of an arrest warrant for Duane Peak. The federal agents had been thwarted in a search of NCCF headquarters by the Justice Department a month earlier and had not returned to court for a warrant. The raiders were met at the door by Robert Cecil.
Hartford gave an account of the raid. “I pulled the door open and forced the hook in the lock and after someone told me, he has a gun in his hand, he has a shotgun, and we went in.”[viii]
“I seen the shotgun in Cecil’s hand after I entered the inside and there were rifles, numerous shells laying around in the front room and bandoleers or canvas belts and we proceeded then into the basement.”[ix]
Hartford described using Cecil as a human shield. “Right ahead of me when I went in the basement….Well, I figured if it was booby trapped, and it gave all this appearance, that I would sure as hell take him with me.”[x]
A police property report listed “Typed letter found in typewriter By Lt. James Perry on the death of Officer Larry Minard.”[xi]
Ed Poindexter was picked up and charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder. When asked his occupation Poindexter replied, “Servant of the People.”[xii]
Francis Pane of the County Attorney’s office began a recorded interview with Donald Peak, Jr. One of the questions was if Duane Peak was glad a policeman was killed. Donald gave an ambiguous answer about his brother’s state of mind.
“He didn’t seem sad about it. I couldn’t tell, really, because sometimes I think my brother is kind of off in the head.”[xiii]
Meanwhile, Theresa Peak had a story to tell about her brothers. “Donald Jr. told her that Peak, Duane had put the bomb in the house, also that just one day before the funeral of Minard, Larry her brother Duane Peak was at her home and told her that he had put the bomb in the house that killed the policeman.”[xiv]
Delia Peak came to police headquarters and voluntarily submitted to questioning about her brother Duane. The booking officer noted Delia had a bullet scar on her right arm.[xv]
Delia saw a suitcase but it wasn’t gray. “That night, Sunday…Dwayne came upstairs with a green suitcase….I ask him what he had in the suitcase and he said some clothes.”[xvi]
The lights were on late at the Omaha FBI office where Paul Young sent J. Edgar Hoover a teletype report on the case while police prepared to search Mondo’s home. Young’s report noted the deep involvement of the FBI in the bombing investigation and collaboration between agents and the police.
“Commissioner of Public Safety [Al Pattavina] advises Bureau Agents the following individuals [REDACTED] all members of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, NCCF, as well as [REDACTED] have been arrested.”
“Close liaison being maintained OMPD and Bureau will be advised of all developments.”[xvii]
Meanwhile, the search for Duane Peak had now taken police to the home of Mondo who was in Kansas City at a rally for Pete O’Neal. Mondo later gave his account of the search. “Sometime in the course of the week I was asked to go to Kansas City to give a talk to raise moral and financial support and so forth for Pete O’Neal who was facing some federal gun charges. So there is a hell of an irony in this whole business. He winds up in Africa and I wind up in prison.”
“Aside from the fact that Peak was in the Party or associated with it, they had no reason to look in my house for Duane Peak. Peak was fifteen years old. He wasn’t someone I hung with.”
“People were arrested at my house. One was my brother and another a friend of ours. There was a third person, he wasn’t arrested, he took off and the police shot at him.”
“My brother knew I wasn’t home so he and the other two dudes came by the house, they saw the door open and lights on. They were waiting outside the house, they figured it was being burglarized.”
“My guess is the reason the house was open was that the cops were already there and when my brother came they got surprised so my brother and the other guy were arrested and questioned. With all that going on, it is interesting to say the least, that the police say we found dynamite in the basement next to the furnace. But they took a photograph of my basement. There is no dynamite in the photograph. But they also took a photograph of a box of dynamite in the trunk of a police cruiser. They took a photo of my basement and they claimed there is dynamite there, why not have a photo of the dynamite in the basement?”[xviii]
“In fact, I had guns in my house, no automatic or other illegal weapons, and contrary to reports otherwise, had no dynamite or blasting caps because I had no intention of being a willing victim of a police shoot-in. We must recall that in 1969, Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered in their beds by Chicago cops. This was a police shoot-in.”[xix]
“My attitude is, okay, if these cops come to my house and they want to search or whatever, fine, come on in. I’ve got nothing to hide. But if it looks like it’s going to be a situation where they are going to want to, as they say, neutralize me—oh no, both of us got to shoot. That is my attitude.”[xx]
Jack Swanson and Robert Pfeffer swore out a joint affidavit to obtain a search warrant for Mondo’s home which Pfeffer presented to Judge Simon A. Simon. “David Rice is a known member of the National Committee to Combat Fascism, which advocates the violent killing of Police Officers. A violent killing of a Police Officer occurred, in Omaha, and arrests were made from the membership of the NCCF. We have been told in the past that RICE keeps explosives, at his residence, and also illegal weapons, which he has said should be used against Police Officers.”[xxi]
At 10:30 p.m., Swanson and six Omaha police officers, along with ATF agents Daley, Casper, Richard Curd and Thomas Sledge entered the dwelling. The searchers split up, concentrating on different parts of the house. Two technicians took thirty-four photographs of the house and interior but no photos of any dynamite in the house.
Richard Fuqua stated the first time he saw dynamite was downtown in police custody. “This was brought to Central Station….Two photos were taken showing the dynamite….The dynamite was left with a Alcohol, Tobacco Tax Unit investigator, Daley.”[xxii]
The Omaha World-Herald reported that a “long, wooden box” was removed from the house.[xxiii]
Mondo joked about the dynamite. “It being next to the furnace—a good place to keep one’s dynamite safe and warm. I’d say that if it’s good to keep dynamite close to a furnace, it’s at least as good to maybe store blasting caps next to a stove. The strangeness goes on and on.”[xxiv]
Jack Swanson wrote a report shortly after midnight about the search of Mondo’s house. “When the above Homicide happened, we felt RICE was a good suspect; and still later when we made arrests of parties who were connected with the National Committee to Combat Fascism, we felt that we had enough information for a search warrant.”
“Also found in the house were two rifles, one shotgun and one pistol….Also found, four blasting caps….by Sgt. Pfeffer under a piece of furniture in the front living room.”[xxv]
While Jack Swanson was preparing his report, Pfeffer was taking a statement from Russell Peak, a cousin of Duane. Pfeffer questioned Russell if his cousin had anything to do with the bombing. “No I don’t think he did but yet the way he is acting now it seems he did.”[xxvi]
Pfeffer reported Russell’s claim that Duane knew how to build a bomb. “One day last month, when Duane Peak was telling him about how to make a bomb in a suitcase, so that it would explode; and went into details by telling Russell that dynamite could be used and that he would have a positive and negative wire wired to this, held apart by two closepins, which would be attached to a string and up through the top of the suitcase anchored to the floor. And when anyone moved the suitcase, it would trip the close pins, causing the wires to touch and set off the blasting cap, causing the explosion.”[xxvii]
Jack Swanson and another sergeant took the dynamite allegedly found in Mondo’s basement to a storage shed in Iowa where Swanson was also storing dynamite seized from the three men arrested in July trying to sell explosives. “Dynamite to the home of RANNEY, Joe Jr., who lives on R.R. #4 west of Council Bluffs, Iowa. RANNEY is currently storing the other dynamite we have recovered, and he is to keep all of it together, in case of future court needs.”
“The amount of recovery on 22 August was 14 sticks of DuPont Red Cross Extra Strength. Agent Daly, ATF Division, requested that he be able remove the contents of two of the sticks, and keep the wrappers for mailing to Washington, D.C. The Dynamite delivered to RANNEY consisted of 12 full sticks of Dynamite, and the contents of two sticks in plastic bags.”[xxviii]
A rally at Kountze Park, attended by two hundred people, sought to raise bail money for people arrested during the police sweep of the Near North Side. Ernie Chambers spoke at the rally and was critical of police actions. “We cannot turn on our brothers when they are picked up by those thugs.”
“Those men are not guilty of what they are charged with. They are meant to be scapegoats.”[xxix]
A traffic stop led to the arrests of Eddie Bolden and Raleigh House. The two men were taken to police headquarters and charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.[xxx]
Raleigh House was allowed to make a phone call while a police jailer listened. “HOUSE asked the female party if she would call Oakland and get some of the RANGERS out here, and she replied, yes she would. HOUSE then said, “you can call You Know Who, in Chicago, and get some of them too. The female voice then replied O.K. HOUSE then told the female voice to get in touch with Hewey Newton, and she replied, well he is in New Hampton now and I don’t think it would do any good. HOUSE then told the female voice to call a party by the name of HILLIARD, in Kansas City, and get him up here, and the female voice replied O.K.”
“HOUSE then told the female voice that she should contact the Black Panther Mamma, who would carry on while he was in jail.”[xxxi]
Mondo was returning from Kansas City when he heard on the car radio that his house had been searched and dynamite was allegedly found. “It is one thing to be intellectually aware of the fact that a person can be set-up or murdered or discredited—but quite another thing to be faced, all of a sudden, with the realization that such is not something you’re reading or hearing but that it is actually happening to you.”
“I had been in life-threatening situations, various kinds of confrontations with police that could have escalated to the point of killing and dying. But none of those situations really caused me much fear. But the knowledge that I was being set-up, that I would have to face a scenario which I would probably have no control over, scared me. I had never known such fear. And the fear proved to be justified.”[xxxii]
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- [i] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001308, August 22, 1970. Robert Pfeffer dictated this report rather than typing it himself, which explains the reference to Peak as Peaks. Dictation did not seem to stop the typographical errors as the rushed urgency of events and non-electric typewriters led to uncorrected typing mistakes
- [ii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001307, August 22, 1970
- [iii] OPD Supplementary Report,Trial Record 001111, August 22, 1970
- [iv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001112, August 22, 1970
- [v] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001373, August 22, 1970
- [vi] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record #001128, August 22, 1970
- [vii] Trial Transcript, Exhibit 36, Dec. 10, 1980 post-trial hearing. The defense attorneys were initially provided with a redacted copy by FBI censors. A later release provided the unredacted version quoted. Censored material is identified with brackets.
- [viii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 2, p. 145, March 4, 1971
- [ix] Trial Transcript, Vol. 2, p. 147, March 4, 1971
- [x] Trial Transcript, Vol. 2, p. 166, March 4, 1971
- [xi] OPD Property Report, August 22, 1970, Trial Record 001003. The record is silent on the content of the letter and it was not an issue at trial.
- [xii] OPD Record of Arrest, Trial Record 001081, August 22, 1970
- [xiii] Trial Transcript, Vol. 1, p. 77, citing Statement of Donald Peak, p. 17, August 22, 1970
- [xiv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001139, August 22, 1970
- [xv] OPD Record of Arrest, Trial Record 001078, August 22, 1970
- [xvi] OPD witness statement, Appeal Record P1743, August 22, 1970
- [xvii] Mondo’s FBI file, Omaha teletype to J. Edgar Hoover, p. 11, August 22, 1970. Nearly a decade later Police Chief Richard Anderson would deny under oath there was any FBI involvement. Anderson either lied or was kept out of the loop by his subordinates and superior.
- [xviii] Mondo, prison interview, September 8, 2007
- [xix] Mondo, “Word from the inside,” Omaha Star, June 22, 2006
- [xx] Mondo, prison interview with author, September 8, 2007
- [xxi] Rice v. Wolff, 388 F. Supp. 185 at 208, 1974
- [xxii] OPD Supplementary Report, Appeal Record P1739, August 23, 1970
- [xxiii] “Youth Charged in Bomb Death,” p. 7, Omaha World-Herald, August 23, 1970
- [xxiv] Mondo, letter to author, July 2, 2007
- [xxv] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001343, August 23, 1970. Jack Swanson’s new reason for searching Mondo’s house, the possible presence of explosives, should have been presented to Judge Simon A. Simon, when the search warrant was sought. Swanson also wrote there were fifteen sticks of dynamite although only fourteen made it to Central Headquarters.
- [xxvi] OPD Witness Statement, Trial Record 001345, August 23, 1970
- [xxvii] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001166, August 23, 1970
- [xxviii] OPD Supplementary Report, August 23, 1970, Trial Record 001379
- [xxix] Party Leader Being Sought In Conspiracy,” Omaha World-Herald, p. 2, August 24, 1970
- [xxx] OPD Record of Arrest, Trial Record 001091-001092, August 23, 1970
- [xxxi] OPD Supplementary Report, Trial Record 001381, August 23, 1970. Black Panther Mamma was most likely Mamma Summers who had arranged housing for Duane Peak the night of his arrest. Possibly the message to Black Panther Mamma was a coded directive regarding Peak. The existing record does not disclose if Raleigh House was ever questioned about Black Panther Mamma. Peak would later implicate House, alleging that House supplied the suitcase and dynamite for the bomb. House was never prosecuted.
- [xxxii] Mondo, Can’t Jail the Spirit, Prison Activist Resource Center, Fourth Edition, 1998
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