United States (Sputnik) – Newly-released FBI files reveal that authorities tampered with an investigation into a police officer’s death in the 1970s, resulting in a Black Panther leader dying in prison for a crime he did not commit.
In 1970, Mondo Even we Langa (formerly David Rice) was one of 17 people arrested in connection with a bombing that killed Omaha police officer Larry Minard, eventually serving a life sentence for the murder.
At the time, Mondo was deputy of information for Omaha’s National Committee to Combat Fascism, an affiliate group of the Black Panther Party, and unbeknownst to him, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had placed him on a secret detention list and ordered agents to neutralize him.
Nearly 50 years after his conviction, heavily-redacted documents show that the agency called off a search for Minard’s killer just days before his funeral, and canceled the testing of the call that lured the officer to his death, which indicated 15-year-old Duane Peak as a lead suspect.
The San Francisco Bayview quotes one of the documents saying, “Special Agents of the FBI in conjunction with members of the Omaha Police Department arrested [Duane Peak].” and “Captain [Hartford] advised that the Police Department was in the process of obtaining a search warrant … and that he would advise the FBI as to the results.” Another section read,”Captain [Hartford] requested our assistance in interviewing [REDACTED] for any information he may have regarding the bomb slaying.”
Although the documents indicate deep cooperation between the FBI and Omaha police, officials testified that the agency had no involvement in the investigation.
In 1982, New Jersey Congressman Richard Roe requested an FBI report on the investigation. Two weeks later Roger Young, assistant director in charge at the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, replied to Roe claiming, “The investigation of these two individuals was conducted by the Omaha Police Department and the trial was held in state District Court, not in a federal court. … I am, therefore, not in a position to furnish you a report.”
Some documents are missing from the files, and Mondo’s co-defendant and former NCCF chair, Edward Poindexter, remains imprisoned in a maximum-security facility.
The “Omaha Two,” as Poindexter and Mondo have been referred to, appear to be the targets of Hoover’s Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO), a wide-ranging effort to infiltrate, disrupt, and neutralize many activist groups of the period. Many Black Panthers and other radical activists were monitored, set up for crimes they did not commit, railroaded into prison and assassinated, as a result of the program.
In 1969, the ‘Panther 21’ were indicted on conspiracy charges in New York for allegedly plotting to bomb police stations and assassinate police officers. The hotly-contested eight-month trial resulted in all 21 Panthers being acquitted, thanks, in no small part, to the work of one the defendants, Afeni Shakur, mother of late rapper Tupac Shakur.
That same year, informant William O’Neal provided Chicago police with the floor plan to Chicago Panther leader Fred Hampton’s house. Police raided Hampton’s house in the wee hours of the early morning, killing him in his sleep. They later claimed that Panthers opened fire on them.
Mondo died in prison in March 2016.
This report prepared by Sputnik.