The Omaha office of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division sought a four-state, federal conspiracy prosecution against twenty-two Black Panthers or sympathsizers in 1970 for a series of bombings that rocked the Midwest that summer. United States Attorney Richard Dier declined to prosecute the ATF suspects stating the “trend in the judiciary is away from major complex conspiracies.” Dier’s role in quashing the Midwest 22 prosecution is explained in an ATF case progress record disclosed April 21, 2014 to Examiner.com by a court researcher who located the document from ATF case number “Nebraska 952 (T-II).”
The most infamous member of the Midwest 22 is a fifteen year-old bomber named Duane Christopher Peak. Peak, a Black Panther want-to-be, confessed to placing the bomb that killed Omaha Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr. and making the 911 call that lured Minard to his death. Peak managed to escape prison by making a deal with prosecutors and implicated Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa in the crime instead. Peak was declared a juvenile delinquent and walked away when he reached the age of majority.
Although Peak confessed to a bombing, it is more difficult to imagine the couch-surfing teen, a drug user, expelled from school, unemployed and homeless, being in a conspiracy with Black Panther leaders in Omaha, Kansas City or Des Moines, or with teen bomber Gary Hogan in Minnesota.
The newly disclosed ATF case file note provides an undated, typed summary of a contemplated federal explosives prosecution: “At the request of U.S. Attorney Richard Dier, Omaha, Nebraska, the federal case was made available to the Douglas County, Nebraska, prosecuting attorney for use in state court charging defendants with 1st Degree Murder. The ATF Investigators and chemist were given permission to testify in state court.”
“All 1972 appeals to the Nebr. Supreme Court by defendants have been denied. In view of the fact that all defendants are now serving life imprisonment or as indicated, the T-II charges will not be prosecuted since a federal case was used in the 1st Degree Murder case by the state,” continued the ATF case note.
The ATF summary provided the trial results: “David Lewis Rice [Mondo we Langa] - Found guilty of 1st Degree Murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor at the Nebr. Penal Complex, Lincoln, Nebr. Edward Alan Poindexter - Found guilty of 1st Degree Murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor at the Nebr. Penal Complex, Lincoln, Nebraska. Duane Christopher Peak – Found guilty of 1st Degree Murder as a JUVENILE and sentenced to an unknown state reformatory until the age of 21. (Location secret for Peak’s protection).”
The ATF case record notes that Duane Peak got his deal on May 1, 1971, two weeks after the conviction of Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, two Black Panther leaders in Omaha, who are still in prison. Both men were also targets of J. Edgar Hoover’s clandestine COINTELPRO operation and Hoover ordered evidence about the 911 caller withheld by the FBI Crime Laboratory in their trial to buttress Peak’s story.
After his release Duane Peak changed his name to Gabriel and lives on the West Coast. Peak was never prosecuted for his alleged role in the Midwest 22 conspiracy.
For further information see Omaha ATF