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Retired detective contradicts his own trial testimony in Omaha Two case

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Retired police sergeant Robert Pfeffer contradicted his own court testimony in the prosecution of the Omaha Two, Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice), for the murder of policeman Larry Minard, Sr. On Dec. 5, Nebraskans for Justice released a previously unpublished confidential interview that was conducted over ten years ago with the former detective.

Pfeffer has now given four accounts of his role in the purported discovery of dynamite in the basement of Mondo we Langa’s home. Mondo and Poindexter were officers in Omaha’s affiliate chapter of the Black Panthers and were convicted for the 1970 bombing murder of Minard. The 1971 trial, where Pfeffer’s first version of events was aired, was tainted by the withholding of exculpatory evidence from the FBI crime laboratory under orders of J. Edgar Hoover.

Hoover directed an illegal clandestine counterintelligence operation codenamed COINTELPRO against domestic political activists. As leaders of the local Black Panthers, the Omaha Two, as the men are now known, were targets of Paul Young, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, acting under orders from Hoover to get the pair off the streets.

Officer Minard had been lured to his death by an anonymous call about a woman screaming in a vacant house. Instead, only a suitcase bomb filled with dynamite waited for the eight responding patrolmen. The FBI role in the case under COINTELPRO operations was to withhold a written report on the identity of the anonymous caller recorded by the 911 system and have the FBI crime laboratory guide the Omaha investigation.

At the1971 trial, Robert Pfeffer testified he never went into the basement and first saw dynamite as fellow detective Jack Swanson was carrying it up the stairs. Swanson said he found the explosives in a cubbyhole in an old coal bin.

Swanson was the Omaha police liaison with the FBI and also maintained his own cache of dynamite at a quarry in rural Council Bluffs, Iowa. Swanson took custody of the dynamite after seven boxes of explosives were seized from three men in July 1970.

The dynamite allegedly found in Mondo’s basement was never photographed in place by the crime scene technicians. The first crime scene photos of the dynamite were on a conference table on the fourth floor of the police headquarters.

The second time Pfeffer testified about the case was in U.S. District Court before Judge Warren Urbom, who ruled that Pfeffer and Swanson’s search of Mondo we Langa’s house was illegal. Once again the basement dynamite was discussed although the location shifted from the coal bin to near the furnace. Judge Urbom did not comment on the credibility of Pfeffer but he did make it clear he did not believe the testimony of Pfeffer’s supervisor, Lt. James Perry.

The third version of events under oath by Pfeffer was in 2009, in post-trial proceedings in Omaha. Pfeffer, who was denied his request to use notes, testified contrary to his trial testimony that he was the first one down in the basement and that he found the dynamite, not Swanson. Neither the judge, who ruled against Ed Poindexter’s bid for a new trial, nor the Douglas County Attorney has ever taken any action over Pfeffer’s contradictory sworn testimony.

Robert Pfeffer’s fourth account of his role in the case was in a recorded telephone interview on Sept. 5, 2002, with private detective Thomas Gorgen of Silverhawk Investigations.

Pfeffer claimed, “I found it down the basement against the furnace behind a door that was leaning up against it and you could just look down and you could see it underneath there.”

At trial, Pfeffer testified he saw Jack Swanson carrying the dynamite up the basement stairs. However, the story Pfeffer told the private detective was just the opposite.

“Yeah he was just coming down the steps and I told him to turn around and get your ass out of here because we didn’t know, I didn’t even want to move the door because we didn’t know if it was booby trapped or not,” said Pfeffer.

“It was a wooden door kitchen door outside door I don’t know it was wood. And all you had to do with my flashlight was look down and I could see a box there that was dynamite I can’t remember what the hell was the brand of it I can’t I don’t remember the brand.”

Pfeffer continued, “I told Swanson I says he was just coming down the steps I said Jack there’s some dynamite here let’s get the hell out of here I said I’m not going touch.”

“Yeah so we called ATF in and they come and we um they helped us and they moved the dynamite and then we found the suitcases that had all the wires in them and I think there were either 3 or 5 I can’t recall now,” explained Pfeffer describing the search. However, the wire-rigged suitcases were never mentioned at trial nor included in an inventory of the search or in Pfeffer’s own report

Pfeffer was apparently unaware of Deputy Chief of Police Glen Gates arrangement with Paul Young to get the 911 recording to the FBI laboratory, Swanson’s close contact with the FBI, and the arrival of a FBI crime lab representative to Omaha. Instead, Pfeffer claimed there was no cooperation between the FBI and the Omaha police.

“And you know what we never worked with the FBI at all on this case,” said Pfeffer. “And so anyway the FBI didn’t have nothing to do with that. I laugh like hell when I hear them say that.”

Pfeffer said the FBI had bad information because they paid Donald Peak, the older brother of the confessed bomber Duane Peak, to be an informant.

“Peak was to try to throw us off track.” Pfeffer said, “The only thing they did was offer rewards and Peak was making money off of them hand and fist.”

Pfeffer returned to the topic of dynamite, “I found it and no one and the FBI they didn’t have nothing to do with that case believe me we never called them in they were working on their own.”

Private detective Gorgen asked Pfeffer, “Do you think Swanson or any OPD person would have planted the dynamite?”

Pfeffer answered, “No I was with Swanson.”

Jack Swanson, who is now deceased, was promoted after the trial and eventually became Omaha Police Chief. Robert Pfeffer retired without a promotion and still lives in Omaha.

Duane Peak, the confessed killer, made a deal with prosecutors and served less than three years as a juvenile delinquent before he was granted his freedom for implicating the Omaha Two. The identity of the anonymous caller remains unknown.

Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter are serving life sentences at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary where both men continue to deny any involvement in the crime.

For further information see Crime Magazine

Permission granted to reprint

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