'Omaha Two' bombing case
by Michael Richardson
November 14, 2008
The jury that convicted Black Panther leaders Ed Poindexter and Mondo
we Langa (formerly David Rice) for the August 17, 1970 bombing murder
of Omaha police officer Larry Minard never knew that three men had
been arrested several weeks earlier in the city with a cache of
stolen dynamite in their car.
Nor did the jury know the complaining witness about the seized
dynamite was the same detective who later allegedly found dynamite at
the home of Mondo we Langa. Nor did the jury know that charges for
illegal possession of explosives would quietly be dropped against the
three men caught with the dynamite within a week of the conclusion of
the April 1971 murder trial against the Panther leaders.
Jack Swanson, a sergeant in the detective division of the Omaha
Police, was the star police witness against the two Panthers at trial
with his claim of discovery of dynamite in the basement of Mondo we
Langa's residence. Swanson's claim was supported by fellow detective
Jack Pheffer who testified he first saw the dynamite when Swanson
carried it up the stairs from Mondo's basement. Pheffer has since
contradicted his own trial testimony and now claims under oath that
he, not Swanson, found dynamite.
The jury also never knew that the case they were hearing was a part
of Operation COINTELPRO, a clandestine operation within the Federal
Bureau of Investigation directed by J. Edgar Hoover to "disrupt" the
Black Panther Party and other domestic political groups he considered
dangerous. Hoover had ordered the withholding of a FBI crime lab
report on the tape recording of the phone call that lured Minard to
his death according to a written notation on a secret COINTELPRO memo
made by lab director Ivan Willard Conrad.
The court files of the three men Luther Golden Payne, Lamont Mitchell
and Conrad Deland Gray reveal little detail of the July arrests and
there is no mention of the plea negotiations that resulted in
dismissed charges. All three men were still in custody at the time
of the bombing that took Minard's life and could not have directly
participated in the deadly ambush. However, the dynamite was
believed by police to be the source of the explosive in the bomb
according to little-known testimony before the U.S House Committee on
The committee was the successor to the infamous U.S. House Committee
on Un-American Activities and was busy trying to justify its
controversial existence with an investigation into the Black
Panthers. Although much of the testimony was on the national party
structure and distribution of the party newsletter, one committee
member, Rep. William J. Scherle from Council Bluffs, Iowa, lived just
across the Missouri River from Omaha and turned the committee hearing
room into his own soapbox against the Omaha Panthers. Scherle's
interest led to the testimony of an Omaha Police captain, Murdock
Platner, about both the Minard bombing and the dynamite seized by
Swanson in July, information kept confidential in Omaha.
Captain Platner's story, given under oath in Washington D.C., was
never reported in Omaha and kept from the jury during the murder
trial. Platner testified about several other bombings that had
occurred in Omaha and throughout the Midwest in the summer of 1970
when his Congressional questioners turned to the dynamite seized by
Swanson and the dynamite used in the Minard killing.
"Investigation revealed this bomb consisted of thee 16-inch by 2 ½
inch sticks of dynamite, a battery, a blasting cap and was triggered
by a clothespin type switch. The string attached to the wedge was
passed through a hole in the suitcase when the bomb was detonated."
"A 16-year old Black Panther [Duane Peak] was arrested for the murder
and implicated the deputy chairman, Edward Poindexter, and deputy
minister of information, David Rice [Mondo we Langa], of the NCCF
party, who were arrested and have been ordered to stand trial in
district court for murder. Dynamite similar to that stolen from the
Quick Supply in Des Moines was found in the home of one of the
above. It is believed it is part of the supply from which the bombs
"On July 28, 1970, three young Negroes, one who is an ex-Panther,
were arrested with 41 2 ½ inch by 16-inch sticks of dynamite in the
car. This is also similar to the dynamite taken in burglary in Des
Moines of Quick Supply."
"I could not tell you what type of dynamite it was that exploded. I
can tell you this, that one of the suspects in this, Duane Peak, a
16-year old boy who was arrested, testified in a preliminary
hearing…he testified that David Rice brought a suitcase filled with
dynamite to his house or to somebody's house, I am not for sure just
which place; that they removed all the dynamite from the suitcase
except three sticks; made the bomb, the triggering device, and so on,
and put it together; and then packed the suitcase with newspapers and
that he left with this suitcase."
"Now I am a little hesitant to go into the rest of this because there
is a trial yet to be held. I don't know what I should say."
But Platner had already said too much, misstating Peak's preliminary
hearing testimony where Peak testified he was given the dynamite by
23-year old Raleigh House. Platner, familiar with House, told
Scherle's committee that "Rawleigh Bryant House" was a "Negro male"
and the deputy minister of finance of the Omaha Panther group.
Raleigh House, the named supplier of dynamite used in the Minard
bombing according to Peak, had a curious get-out-of-jail-free luck
that netted him only a single night in jail before being released on
his own signature by Douglas County prosecutors after being arrested
for conspiracy to commit murder. House never was formally charged
for his role in providing dynamite to Peak and is a suspected police informant.
Upon further committee questioning, Platner returned to the dynamite
discovered in July and described the bust that Swanson would later
not tell the jury about. "We received information from a party that
had been approached to buy dynamite. We had him buy it and he bought
10 sticks. It was 2 ½ by 16-inch sticks. He came back later and said
he could buy more of this dynamite. So we set up for him to buy and
then we were going to move in before it was delivered. We did move
in and arrested three young men in a car. In their possession they
had 41 sticks of this same type of dynamite."
"Two and a half by 16-inch. This is Red Cross du Pont 50 percent
strength dynamite….[W]hen these individuals were arrested in July, I
called back and talked to the owner and the manager of Quick Supply
and described the dynamite….He said if this was 2 ½ by 16-inch
sticks, he was almost positive it had to be their dynamite….Quick
Supply ordered a thousand pounds of dynamite on a special order from
the du Pont Company specifying 16 inches long and 2 ½ inches in
diameter. This, as I understand it, is an unusually large size of
dynamite to be used in quarries for blasting purposes. Sergeant
Gladson checked back with the manufacturer of the dynamite, and they
told him that was the only shipment of that size dynamite in the year 1970."
Larry Minard, father of five young children, was buried on what
would have been his 30th birthday.
Duane Peak, the confessed bomber, walked free after a couple of years
of juvenile detention for his implication of the two Panther
leaders. The anonymous caller who set the lethal trap was never
identified or apprehended following J. Edgar Hoover's intervention in
the case and Peak was allowed to claim he made the call without a
voice analysis to substantiate his claim. Vocal expert Tom Owen has
since concluded that Peak did not make the fatal call.
The four men with dynamite, Raleigh House, Luther Payne, Lamont
Mitchell and Conrad Gray all ended up with their charges dismissed.
Mondo we Langa denies having any dynamite in his basement and both he
and Ed Poindexter continue to deny any involvement in Minard's
murder. Both men are imprisoned with life sentences at the Nebraska
State Penitentiary. Poindexter has a new trial request pending
before the Nebraska Supreme Court over withheld evidence and
conflicting police testimony. No date for a decision has been announced.
Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson
writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson
is also a political consultant.