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Senate testimony by police captain reveals 9 sticks of missing dynamite in 'Omaha Two' bombing case

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An Omaha, Nebraska police captain, Murdock Platner, made two trips to Congressional hearing rooms in Washington D.C. in October 1970 to testify about the bombing murder of police officer Larry Minard.  Officer Minard was killed two months earlier on August 17th while responding to a call of a woman screaming in a vacant house when he triggered a suitcase bomb that killed him instantly.

 

Platner appeared before a U.S. Senate subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee on October 6, 1970 investigating "Assaults on Law Enforcement Officers" along with patrolman James Sledge and provided testimony and graphic photos which Sledge described as "a little ghoulish" of Minard's mangled body.

 

Platner told the Senate committee, chaired by Senator Strom Thurmond, that he was a 25-year veteran of the Omaha Police Department and that he was in charge of the intelligence squad.  Platner explained "hard-core militants" had been active in Omaha for two years.  The captain explained about other "militant" activity in Des Moines, Iowa and Kansas City, Missouri, and that an "ambush of  some sort was to be planned against the Omaha police."

 

"A bulletin was issued to all police officers…asking them to be especially careful of any kind of boxes, or anything such as that they found."

 

"Prior to this, we had been told if they were going to wait a person out and they would make a phone call, and the police would come and somebody out of the dark would shoot at the police officer."

 

Platner then described the terrible events of August 17th that claimed Minard's life with a booby-trapped suitcase bomb despite the warnings of a possible ambush.  "We have since arrested three black militants."

 

"We have learned through confidential informants that the dynamite was stolen from a place called Quick Supply Co. in Des Moines and transferred across the State line into the Omaha area….There were probably ten cases of this dynamite that was stolen from Des Moines and brought to the Omaha area.  We were in contact with a white man who we knew was buying stolen property from these people, and we asked him to ask them about dynamite, and we thought possibly we could buy it.  We eventually did buy about 60 sticks of dynamite from them."

 

Platner also appeared in Washington and testified, under oath, before the U.S. House Committee on Internal Security on October 14th investigating the Black Panther Party.  However, sometime between his Senate testimony and his sworn House testimony eight days later, nine sticks of dynamite disappeared.

 

"We received information from a party that had been approached to buy dynamite.  We had him buy it and he bought 10 sticks.  It was 2 ½ by 16-inch sticks.  He came back later and said he could buy more of this dynamite.  So we set up for him to buy and then we were going to move in before it was delivered.  We did move in and arrested three young men in a car.  In their possession they had 41 sticks of this same type of dynamite."

 

Inexplicably, the "about 60" sticks of October 6th had become 51 sticks by October 14th.  However, it didn't really matter to the jury that convicted the two Panther leaders because they were never told of Platner's testimony and his two versions of the stolen dynamite.

 

Minard's death was blamed on the Black Panthers while the murder investigation was being secretly being directed from Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters by director J. Edgar Hoover who had declared a clandestine war on the Panthers known as Operation COINTELPRO.  Hoover's hidden role in the case did not emerge until years later following a Freedom of Information release of FBI documents.

 

At the time of Platner's testimony, Omaha Police had six individuals in custody in the case.  Charged in July arrests with possession of stolen Quick Supply dynamite were Luther Payne, Lamont Mitchell and Conrad Gray.  Charged in August arrests were 15-year old Duane Peak--the confessed bomber, Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) who were leaders of Omaha's Black Panther chapter called the Nebraska Committee to Combat Fascism.  

Also arrested in August was Raleigh Bryant House for conspiracy to commit murder.  House had been named by Peak as the supplier of the dynamite used in the bomb that killed Minard.  Curiously, House was released after one night in jail and never formally charged in the case despite his role in providing dynamite to Peak.  Platner testified to the House committee that House was the "Minister of Finance" of the NCCF but did not mention his role in the dynamite delivery, instead falsely telling the committee that Mondo we Langa was the source of the explosive. House's get-out-of-jail-free status suggests he was a police informant.

 

The significance of the missing nine sticks of dynamite was the purported discovery of a box of dynamite in Mondo's basement by Omaha detective Jack Swanson following the bombing.  Swanson was also the detective in charge of the stolen dynamite seized in July from Payne, Mitchell and Gray.  No dynamite was ever photographed by crime scene technicians at Langa's residence and only first appeared in police evidence photos in the trunk of a police squad car.

 

Another detective, Robert Pheffer, who testified at trial he saw Swanson carry it upstairs, corroborated Swanson's purported basement discovery of dynamite.  Pheffer has since contradicted his own trial testimony and now claims that he, not Swanson, found dynamite.  Pheffer also now alleges he found other bomb-making supplies, an allegation not supported by police inventory logs or any other officer at the scene.

 

The men caught in July with stolen dynamite, Luther Payne, Lamont Mitchell and Conrad Gray, quietly had their charges dropped several days after the 'Omaha Two' trial ended without jurors ever learning of their arrests.  Raleigh House was named at the murder trial as the source of the bomb explosive but never was prosecuted for his role in the police killing. Duane Peak, the confessed bomber, walked free after several years of juvenile detention in exchange for his testimony that the Panther leaders had made the bomb and put him up to the bombing.

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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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...of a frameup.  The illegalities and coveru... by Hans Bennett on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 at 5:11:29 PM
This case presents not only a rigged criminal just... by Michael Richardson on Wednesday, Nov 19, 2008 at 5:24:39 PM