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Fugitive Black Panther leader Pete O’Neal was ATF target in Midwest 22 case

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Felix “Pete” O’Neal, former head of the Black Panthers in Kansas City, Missouri, is self-exiled to Tanzania to avoid federal prison for a Gun Control Act violation. O’Neal was arrested on October 30, 1969 by Kansas City agents of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division for transporting a shotgun across state lines by a felon. O’Neal fled the country to avoid a four-year prison sentence on the gun charge but was unaware that ATF also had plans to prosecute him as a part of the Midwest 22 alleged bomb conspiracy.

The ATF was engaged in a turf fight with the Federal Bureau of Investigation over jurisdiction of bomb investigations and both rival agencies were after Pete O’Neal. The FBI had targeted the Kansas City leader under the clandestine COINTELPRO program directed by J. Edgar Hoover while ATF agents suspected there was a multi-state bomb conspiracy by the leadership of several Midwestern chapters of the Black Panthers.

James Moore, the Kansas City ATF agent who busted Pete O’Neal on the shotgun charge, discussed the Black Panthers and agency rivalry in a book, Very Special Agents. In the footnotes to Moore’s book, the retired agent explains he obtained his information from his own experience at work, examination of “ATF case files and memoranda” as well as “contemporaneous conversations” with Omaha ATF agent Thomas Sledge and head of the Omaha ATF office, Dwight Thomas.

Pete O’Neal was disliked by James Moore who showed his contempt for the Black Panther leader in the book. Moore wrote about O’Neal that he wanted to “put the jerk away.”

In profanity-laden passages, Moore revealed the identity of a FBI informant, O’Neal’s landlady, and ranted about the FBI getting credit for ATF investigations. Moore did not write about the Midwest 22 directly but instead blamed the Omaha FBI for blotching up an ATF search for explosives. Moore wrote, “disillusionment solidified in Omaha.”

Pete O’Neal had a supervisory role within the Black Panther Party over the Omaha affiliate chapter, the National Committee to Combat Fascism. Three of the other Midwest 22 alleged co-conspirators, Ed Poindexter, Mondo we Langa (then David Rice) and Frank Peak, Jr. made trips to Kansas City for training and other party business.

Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, now known as the Omaha Two, are imprisoned with life sentences for the bombing murder of an Omaha policeman in 1970. The two Nebraska men were convicted in a COINTELPRO manipulated trial in state court largely on the testimony of another Midwest 22 would-be defendant, Duane Christopher Peak. Fifteen year-old Peak planted the bomb that killed Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr. but blamed the two leaders in exchange for a short sentence as a juvenile.

Ironically, Mondo we Langa was in Kansas City speaking at a rally for Pete O’ Neal when Mondo’s home was searched in Omaha. Police detectives allegedly recovered fourteen sticks of dynamite from Mondo’s basement although the purported discovery is marred by conflicting police testimony from two detectives, each claiming credit, Jack Swanson and Robert Pfeffer.

Pete O’Neal and his wife Charlotte fled the United States for Algeria before ending up in Tanzania where O’Neal was granted political asylum. O’Neal heads up the United African Alliance Community Center in the village of Imbaseni, near the northern city of Arusha. The UAACC is a community center providing a diverse array of culture and services to the village.

Other Kansas City Black Panthers on the ATF conspiracy list are Phillip Crayton, Phillip Deffenbaugh, Thomas Robinson, Jr., and Phillip Ortega. The role of the Kansas City members of the Midwest 22 is unclear since the bombings that hit Kansas City were blamed by Moore on the Students for a Democratic Society and the Weathermen.

None of the Midwest 22 alleged conspirators were prosecuted for an interstate bomb conspiracy. United States Attorney Richard Dier would not accept the ATF case explaining the “trend in the judiciary is away from major complex conspiracies.”

Pete O’Neal has sought clemency for the gun charge so that he would be able to return to the United States but has been denied any leniency. The secret effort by ATF to prosecute O’Neal as part of the Midwest 22 conspiracy may explain why the exiled Panther has been denied a reduction in sentence.

For more information see Midwest 22

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