June 2, 2014
Thomas Sledge, an agent of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division, in Omaha, Nebraska, carried small plastic vials of dynamite powder with him while transporting evidence in the 1970 bombing murder case of an Omaha policeman. Two Black Panther leaders, Edward Poindexter and Mondo we Langa (then David Rice), were convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. Included with the evidence against the two men were dynamite particles found in their clothing.
Dynamite traces were found in the shirt pocket of Ed Poindexter and pants pockets of Mondo we Langa upon their arrests. However, both men deny any knowledge of how the dynamite got into their clothing and its presence is suspicious. Both men were tested for dynamite when their clothing was seized and were found clean. In Mondo’s case, the Omaha World-Herald photographed Mondo while waiting for the jail elevator with his hands deep in his pockets just moments before his hands tested clean.
Agent Sledge is now deceased but has become a focal point of controversy following the recent disclosure of the terminated Midwest 22 conspiracy investigation. Sledge was the lead agent in the biggest investigation of his career into a purported four-state bombing conspiracy by twenty-two black radicals. Both Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa were targets of Sledge’s conspiracy investigation.
United States Attorney Richard Dier nixed the ATF investigation by refusing to prosecute Sledge’s suspects. Dier explained the “trend in the judiciary is away from major complex conspiracies.” In July 1970, the Justice Department cancelled Sledge’s planned search of the National Committee to Combat Fascism headquarters in Omaha. Sledge was no doubt angry at his cancelled search as Assistant U.S. Attorney William Gallup was so enraged he resigned as a federal prosecutor.
Thomas Sledge was not a career ATF professional but rather a new agent with less than a two year history with the agency. However, Sledge was a nine year veteran of the Omaha Police Department and older brother of James Sledge, a patrolman injured in the August 17, 1970 bombing that claimed the life of Larry Minard, Sr.
Sledge was determined to make a case against those he suspected of a series of unsolved bombings in Omaha and other cities in the Midwest that summer. Sledge testified at the trial of the Omaha Two, as Poindexter and Mondo are now known, and handled crucial evidence in the case. Thomas Sledge hand-carried their clothing to Washington, D.C. for analysis at the ATF Laboratory. Sledge also carried small vials of dynamite powder.
The testimony of Sledge at the Minard murder trial was recorded and the trial transcript reveals that Sledge could have dusted the pockets with dynamite powder on the way to the ATF laboratory.
Thomas Sledge testified at trial: “I received a call from Special Investigator Casper at 4:30 a.m., that there was a bombing and that my brother was involved….I went down to the police station at about five a.m. and checked on my brother.”
Sledge then went to the blast site, arriving at seven o’clock in the morning and searched continuously for the next twelve hours. Within days Sledge would make several trips to the ATF Laboratory with evidence in the case delivering it to ATF chemist Kenneth Snow.
Thomas Sledge was also involved in the purported discovery of dynamite in Mondo we Langa’s basement during the August 22 search of Mondo’s home with detective Jack Swanson, who claimed to have found the dynamite. Convenient to a frame-up, Swanson also maintained his own dynamite cache at a quarry in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he stored dynamite seized from three men in July 1970.
Later, after Swanson’s death, detective Robert Pfeffer would claim he found the dynamite not Jack Swanson. Pfeffer also would later claim he, along with ATF agents at the search, found rigged suitcases. The alleged rigged suitcases were not noted on any report or documented in any fashion by anyone and their disposal or location is unknown and unrecorded. Sledge testified that Pfeffer found blasting caps but did not mention any rigged suitcases or Pfeffer’s role in discovery of dynamite.
Sledge and Swanson did transport fourteen sticks of dynamite to the police station. At the station, Sledge and another ATF agent emptied two of the sticks. Sledge testified, “We also took samples of each stick.” Sledge then placed the dynamite powder in plastic vials and said “I took those to Washington” with other evidence.
Sledge’s testimony about his sole custody of the dynamite evidence is confirmed by a prosecution “Trial Memorandum” found buried in the files of the Douglas County District Court by a court researcher.
The Trial Memorandum states: “Thomas Sledge, Special Agent for the AT&F people, will be mainly responsible for the custody of the items found at 2816 Parker [Mondo’s house] in that he personally carried them to Washington, D.C. and turned them over to the laboratory in Washington”.
Thomas Sledge, upset and angered over his brother’s injuries in the August 17 bombing, frustrated about his cancelled search of NCCF headquarters, was alone with vials of dynamite powder and clothing of the accused Black Panther leaders. The answer to the mystery about the dynamite particles in pockets may have been there all along, unnoticed, hidden in the trial transcript.
Ed Poindexter and Mondo we Langa remain imprisoned at the maximum-security Nebraska State Penitentiary serving life sentences. Both men continue to deny any involvement in the murder of Larry Minard, Sr.
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