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State witness in COINTELPRO case was confessed bomber Duane Peak

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Duane Peak, the confessed bomber in the 1970 death of an Omaha policeman, was the star witness against the Omaha Two, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice). The Omaha Two were the leaders of the local Black Panther affiliate National Committee to Combat Fascism and targets of J. Edgar Hoover. The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation oversaw a vast, illegal counterintelligence operation codenamed COINTELPRO directed at the Black Panthers and other groups. Hoover gave orders to withhold a report on the identify of an anonymous 911 caller in this case.

The Omaha Two were convicted largely on the testimony of Duane Peak, the fifteen year-old killer who said the two men directed the bombing ambush. However, young Peak gave authorities six different versions of the crime and a FBI Laboratory report had to be withheld to buttress Peak’s story of luring police to a vacant house where a bomb waited in the darkness.

Sitting alone in his cell at the Dodge County Jail in Fremont, Nebraska, the teen wrote an eight-page letter laden with conflicts and confusion to his grandmother, Hazel Godlett. The letter, a seventh version of Peak’s story, was both a denial and a confession, deceptive and candid, containing self-pity and shame. Peak’s letter was read and photocopied by his jailors before being mailed. Excerpts reveal Peak’s anger and grandiosity.

Peak blamed his problems on the death of his mother: “I had always thought that when Moms died everything about being good went with her, so I turned to hate. I thought the Lord was evil for taking her away. I wanted to get back at him for it so I started attacking everything that was good. I was so absorbed in hate I could barely see.”

“So to quench my thirst for anger and revenge, I would beat people….After I got kicked out of school it got larger.”

Peak rambled a bit then returned to his theme of hurting others. “I thrived off watching them go wild with anger. It was like a trip on dope. I had to have it”

“Then I heard about the trouble the Panthers were causing. There was so much hatred there I had to adjust myself to hate more. Then after encountering my newly found hatred I decided to turn against everyone in my complete family because I had lost the ability to feel, the ability to love, the ability to have emotions for someone, the ability be friendly. I was worse than the devil himself,” wrote Peak.

Peak claims he became afraid of the Panthers and tried to quit. Peak also sought to keep his older brother Donald out of trouble. “Then came the time when Donnie joined. He was even staying at H.Q. I wouldn’t stay there anymore because I was afraid I’d get killed, so I told them I was staying at home when actually I was sleeping in jitney stands.”

“They had made me officer of the day and Education Cadre. I would be teaching Political Education classes, and the Liberation School, and I would also have charge of the office while everyone else was working. So whenever Donnie would come in tired from selling papers I’d make him take some more out. I knew Donnie wasn’t the type to be pushed so I made it hard on him hoping he’d quit before it was too late,” claimed the youthful prisoner. “Whenever he’d do the smallest thing wrong, I’d put in a request for his expulsion because he was a security risk. Finally I got him expelled.”

Duane Peak wrote: “there is one thing I will tell you. when I put that suitcase in that house, I unlocked it so that when the Police found it, they could take it and open it without anyone getting harmed. Why it blew up is what the Police are trying to find out now, and I promise to the best of my ability to help find out.”

Peak’s “best of my ability” turned out to be making a deal to trade his murder charge to a finding of juvenile delinquency and escaping prison. Meanwhile, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa remain in the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary serving life sentences despite their repeated requests for a new trial.

For further information see Crime Magazine

Permission granted to reprint

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