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Witnesses put Duane Peak at scene of 1970 bombing in Omaha Two case

Witnesses place Duane Peak at crime scene with a suitcase
Witnesses place Duane Peak at crime scene with a suitcase

Omaha Two story: April 7, 1971

Confessed killer Duane Peak, 16, returned to the witness stand Wednesday morning, April 7, 1971, in the murder trial of the Omaha Two. Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa, then David Rice, were leaders of the Nebraska affiliate chapter of the Black Panthers and were charged with the August 17, 1970 bomb murder of Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr.

Duane Peak testified he was trying to protect Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Lanaga when he told a story to police on August 28, 1970, implicating only himself in the Minard slaying.

Assistant Douglas County Attorney Arthur O’Leary guided Peak through a series of redirect-examination questions. When young Peak left the courtroom that morning, after ten hours of testimony over three days, he effectively vanished from Omaha never to return.

A friend of Duane Peak, Anna Norris, testified that she heard Peak say, “The next time a dumb cop sees a suitcase in the middle of the door, he isn’t going to go over and pick it up.”

Norris testified that she saw Peak, the prosecution’s key witness, with a suitcase the evening of Aug. 16th. Norris said Peak and his older brother, Donald, were at the Norris home the evening before the bombing with a suitcase.

The Peak brothers left with the suitcase, Miss Norris said, but Duane returned for about five minutes, without the suitcase, between midnight and 1 a.m. and then left again. Norris was still awake an hour later when she heard an explosion as she was in the dining room of her home.

After the slaying, Norris said Duane came by again and made remarks about the “dumb cop.”

Donald Peak, 20, Duane’s older brother and the man many in North Omaha suspect was the 911 caller that lured police to a bomb-rigged vacant house testified as a prosecution witness.

Donald testified that he and Duane were “always laughing and joking” about something. The elder Peak brother said he “may have smirked” when hearing of the explosion but he couldn’t recall for sure.

Duane Peak’s sister, Delia, testified that she saw Duane with a suitcase about 10 p.m about four hours before the fatal explosion at 2867 Ohio Street. Delia said that Duane, her boyfriend Willie Haynie, two of her children, and Donald went for a ride about that time.

Duane placed the suitcase in the trunk, Delia testified, and then took it with him when he got out of the car in an alley behind 2867 Ohio Street. Delia gave no explanation for the unusual drop-off of Duane in the middle of the night.

Willie Haynie testified the day after the bombing he and Duane and Donald drove to the area of the demolished house. Haynie admitted that he once said in a sworn statement to authorities that Duane had commented, “It was funny a pig got killed.”

Under questioning, Haynie also acknowledged a previous statement where he quoted Peak as saying, “It should have been more than one.”

County Attorney Donald Knowles told reporters the prosecution hoped to rest its case sometime Friday morning. Judge Hamilton said he planned to recess the trial Friday afternoon, Good Friday, and resume again Monday morning.

The prosecution began laying a foundation for the introduction of scientific evidence on Wednesday afternoon.

Special investigator Richard A. Kurd of the Division of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms testified about gathering evidence and sending it to Washington, D.C. for laboratory analysis.

Kurd was asked to examine prosecution exhibits, including three pairs of pliers taken in an August 22, 1970 raid at Mondo’s home at 2816 Parker Street

Kurd testified “scrapings” taken from under Mondo’s fingernails and cotton swabs which were passed over his fingers were sent in for analysis. The ATF tests would later come back negative for traces of explosives.

Prosecutor Sam Cooper handed Kurd a suitcase handle wrapped inside a plastic bag. Kurd identified it as an item he found embedded in the earth at 2867 Ohio Street shortly after the explosion.

Although the jury heard about ATF lab tests on evidence, the jury was not told about FBI lab tests on evidence, specifically a recording of the 911 caller that lured Minard to his death. J. Edgar Hoover had ordered the withholding of a report on the identity of the 911 caller just two days after the bombing.

Hoover’s order to withhold evidence in the case was part of the clandestine COINTELPRO operation that conducted an illegal and secret war on domestic political activists that Hoover disliked. The Black Panthers were the primary target of COINTELPRO and Hoover was determined to “destroy” the Black Panther leadership.

Paul Young, Omaha FBI Special Agent-in-Charge, had been chastised by Hoover for inaction against the local National Committee to Combat Fascism. On the day of the bombing, Young offered to help with the investigation and obtained the 911 recording from the Omaha Police Department.

The jury was never allowed to hear the taped voice of Larry Minard’s killer.

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