Mondo we Langa
Mondo we Langa died in custody on 3/11/16. Rest In Power Mondo.
We never forget.
Mondo we Langa (formerly David Rice) worked with the Black Panther Party against police brutality and helped set up community service programs. He is also a published poet and playwright.
He was born in Omaha in 1949 and graduated from Creighton Preparatory School and took courses at Creighton University. While in college he wrote for the local underground paper, Buffalo Chip, from 1969 to 1970. It was in college that he also joined the Black Panther Party (BPP). He played guitar at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, a center of progressive activism in the 1960s and 70’s under the pastorate of Fr. John McCaslin. Rice also ran a breakfast program for inner-city youth and was a well-known community activist. Mondo we Langa is a published poet, playwright and a major voice for justice and the arts in Nebraska.
In 1970. the civil rights struggle was reaching heated points with police brutalizing members of the black community, and some black activists fighting back with bombings of police stations and other political targets. In Omaha a police precinct and the Component Concept Corporation were bombed. Members of the Black Panther Party were prime suspects in the bombings and in July a warrant was issued to search the Omaha BPP headquarters. Luther Payne, a former BPP member, was arrested in Omaha for possessing dynamite.
Omaha Police Officer Killed, Other Injured
On August 17, 1970 a call was made to the police reporting a woman screaming at a vacant house near 28th and Ohio Street. Patrolman Michael Lamson and five other members of the Omaha Police Department (OPD) responded to the call. They noticed a suitcase sitting in the front room. Shortly afterwards, Patrolmen Larry Minard and John Tess arrived. With Tess looking on, Minard picked up the suitcase. The resultant explosion killed him and seriously injured Tess.
Duane Peak Confesses
On August 28 Duane Peak was arrested for the crime. He confessed to placing the bag and implicated six others, but mentioned neither Rice nor Poindexter. In a later statement, Peak told police that Rice and Poindexter had made the bomb, told him to plant it, and to lure the police to the vacant house with an anonymous phone call.
This led to the charging of Poindexter and Rice with murder on August 31.
In an interview with the Washington Post on January 8, 1978, County Prosecutor Art O’Leary admitted that he had made a deal with Duane Peak to prosecute him as a juvenile in return for his testimony.
The Preliminary Hearing
Peak went on to retract his statement that Poindexter and Rice were involved at a preliminary hearing only to change his story once again after a recess, implicating Poindexter and Rice in the bombing. After giving this testimony, Rice’s attorney noticed Peak looked as though he had been beaten. Herzog asked Peak if he had been threatened during the recess, and if he had discussed his confession to help him remember it. Peak replied in the affirmative to both questions, telling the court that his lawyer was not present when he discussed his confession with county attorney O’Leary..
The case against Poindexter and Rice rested primarily on the accusation that they had bomb-making materials in their possession similar to the one which killed the officer. Police reported finding three sticks of dynamite in Rice’s basement. ATF Bureau witness Roland Wilder suggested there were more dissimilarities between the samples than similarities.
In addition, many suspect that the police planted the dynamite because nowhere on the sticks were there fingerprints, and when pressed as to where exactly they found the dynamite the police could not give an exact location within the house. Testimony changed around who found the dynamite. Police also did not have a warrant to search the house in the first place, something which was upheld by a judge in the appeals process, but then the Supreme Court reversed the ruling saying the warrant was legal. Several photos of the house and the dynamite were taken, but none with the dynamite actually in the house. [source] Even ex-Omaha police officer Marvin McClarty described the search of Rice’s house as having deviated significantly from accepted police procedure.
Other controversies arose around the evidence, such as Rice’s house burning down while they were in trial, and the fact that skin tests for Rice and Poindexter came back negative. Peak was not tested.
911 Tape Suppressed
In 2005, the tape of the emergency 911 call that lured police to the North Omaha home was discovered. The tape had been suppressed at trial. At that time, the Omaha Police had claimed that it had been destroyed; an FBI memo released after a Freedom of Information Act request demonstrates that the FBI’s COINTELPRO program advised the Omaha authorities to suppress the tape. Expert analysis hired by the defence determined that the voice on the tape was not the voice of Duane Peak–the only witness to claim first-hand knowledge of the murder. This renewed community appeals for Poindexter and Rice to be released.
Peak claimed that he lowered his voice to disguise it. In the weeks after the bombing, Peak’s brother was said to have identified the voice as Peak’s..
Political Motivations and COINTELPRO
The State also focused heavily on the two men’s politics, introducing circumstantial evidence such as literature they had written. Their lawyer at the time, who went on to become governor of Nebraska stated that “The reason they were suspected was because they were members of the Black Panthers. [Authorities] had a couple of young Blacks who everybody knew used incendiary language — hateful things that irritated the police. They weren’t convicted of murder. They were convicted of rhetoric. The only thing these young fellas did was try to combat all the racial discrimination of the time the wrong way.”
The Detective in charge of the investigation later went on to say in a BBC documentary that, “We feel we got the two main players in Rice and Poindexter, and I think we did the right thing at the time, because the Black Panther Party … completely disappeared from the city of Omaha … and it’s … been the end of that sort of thing in the city of Omaha — and that’s 21 years ago.”
The men were also heavily monitored by FBI through COINTELPRO. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the FBI had over one thousand pages on each man, though most of the pages are still blacked out and unavailable for public view.
In the end a jury of jury consisting of eleven white jurors and one black juror found the men guilty and gave them life in prison. The sole black juror said the voted with the majority so as long as the death penalty was not given.
Life in Prison
Mondo is a celebrated playwright, author and artist, who has published a collection of poems and raps titled “The Black Panther Is an African Cat.”
The case of Mondo we Langa and Ed Poindexter has gained international support, with Amnesty International and the NAACP both calling for their release. Other high profile activists and celebrities such as Angela Davis and Danny Glover also speak out on their behalf.