My most recent visit with Ed Poindexter at the Nebraska State Penitentiary.
I met Ed Poindexter in prison. I was visiting, while Ed is still serving a life sentence. Poindexter was sentenced to “hard labor” with an indeterminate life sentence for the 1970 bombing murder of Patrolman Larry Minard, Sr. I went to college in Omaha when the crime happened so many long years ago and attended the first week of his trial.
Ed Poindexter was a Black Panther, chairman of the local National Committee to Combat Fascism. Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa, then David Rice, were convicted in April 1971 following a controversial trial. Both men have become known as the Omaha Two and always proclaimed their innocence.
I knew Mondo from our mutual attendance at the weekly City Council meetings and long wondered about his guilt. About a decade ago I took up correspondence with Mondo and eventually made a number of trips to the Nebraska State Penitentiary in an attempt to answer my compelling curiousity about his claim of innocence. Mondo asserted that Poindexter was every bit as innocent as he was and that both had been framed by a clandestine FBI operation codenamed COINTELPRO, a view that I now strongly hold.
When I met Ed Poindexter on one of my trips to the maximum-security prison in Lincoln, Nebraska,l I still had not formed an opinion on whether either man was innocent or guilty. With apprehension and a feeing of unease I went into a tiny interview room with the man who was locked up for life for the horrific murder of a policeman responding to an emergency call.
The man that I met was polite, proper, and well-spoken. The interview went well and we parted with a handshake. I remained uncertain, however, about the ultimate question I was seeking to answer. I knew I had to continue my research into what really happened in Omaha on August 17, 1970.
It was on my second or third visit with Ed that I had my innocence breakthrough and came to understand that Poindexter was telling the truth. By then I had learned a great deal aboutCOINTELPRO and the harassment activity of the Omaha Police Department against Poindexter and his group. The hard facts of misconduct by the Federal Bureau of Investigation against Poindexter had just about convinced me the Omaha Two were indeed poltical prisoners as they claimed. I don’t really remember the gotcha moment when I realized Mondo was innocent, a think it was a slow realization. In Ed’s case, I recognized the very moment it happened that my self-appointed jury duty was over.
I was asking Ed questions about the confessed bomber Duane Peak and his brother Donald. As Ed was answering about the two Peak brothers he paused. The look on Ed’s face changed to one of disgust as he complained of reports the pair were laughing about Minard’s death. Sitting just across the table, intently watching Poindexter for any sign of untruthfulness, I was immediately struck by the sincerity of the moment. I was in the precence of an innocent man.
The only evidence against Poindexter were dynamite particles allegedly found in his shirt pocket and the testimony of Duane Peak.
Ed’s shirt traveled to Washington, D.C. with Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Thomas Sledge. Sledge also transported two vials of dynamite particles for testing. Mondo’s pants pocket also allegedly contained dynamite particles, however an Omaha World-Herald photo of Mondo with hands in pockets, just prior to testing clean for dynamite, disproves the ATF evidence against him and casts considerable doubt on the particles found in Ed’s clothing. ATF agent Sledge’s brother, James Sledge, was an Omaha policeman and injured in the bombing that killed Minard.
Duane Peak, an admitted perjurer, gave at least seven different versions of the crime, several of which did not even mention Poindexter. In exchange for his testimony against Poindexter the bomber was sentenced as a juvenile delinquent and never spent a day in prison.
At his trial Ed testified in a clear and steady voice,“I was unjustly accused of a crime.” Poindexter told the jury that he had been wrongly accused and stated that he never talked with Duane Peak about “how to kill a pig” and never knew Larry Minard nor had any reason to kill him as Peak claimed.
Going about in the world proclaiming the innocence of a long-ago convicted Black Panther is not a quick path to fame or wealth. The task is made more difficult by the unpleasant reality of a police conspiracy involving command officers of the Omaha Police Department, a small army of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents including the legendary J. Edgar Hoover, and at least one agent of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division. Many do not want to face the ugly truth of the matter.
Ed Poindexter says he is an innocent man and I believe him.