Warning: This post contains a graphic depiction of the murder of two FBI agents.
In the early summer of 1975, activists from the American Indian Movement (AIM), who had been staging a takeover of the Pine Ridge reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota,Â noticed two vehicles pull into the compound. The cars belonged toÂ FBI agentsÂ Jack R. Coler, 28, and Ronald A. Williams, 27, who had come toÂ serve an arrest warrant on a Native American kidnapping suspect named Jimmy Eagle.Â Leonard Peltier and two AIM comrades involved in the Pine Ridge takeover thought the agents were coming after them and opened fire on the vehicles. The Indians fired 125 shotsâ€”114 of which came from an AR-15 assault rifleâ€”at the agents in their cars.
They didnâ€™t stand a chance. Coler, mortally wounded,Â passed out from loss of blood.Â Williams, also injured, threw down his gun, stripped off his shirt and waved it as a flag of surrender.Â He then applied his shirt as a tourniquet around his fellow agent’s shattered arm.
Peltier dispatched both of them, as they lay wounded, by shooting them in the head at point-blank range.Â Agent Williams, according to the pathology report, was killed with his hand held up to his face. The bullet went right through his hand into his head. He died, according to prosecutors, begging for his life.
A jury found Peltier guilty of murder after only six hours of deliberation. He was sentenced to life in prison. In a statement read before the Court, he defiantly declared:
“I’m not the guilty one here. White racist America is the criminal, for the destruction of our lands and our people.”
The American left soon rallied around Peltier. Such luminaries as Jesse Jackson, Ed Asner,Â Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon,Â Oliver Stone,Â and Rep.Â John ConyersÂ soon became involved in the â€œFree Peltierâ€ movement.
Referring to himself as a â€œpolitical prisoner,â€ Peltier went on to become a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre in the communist world as well. In the 1980s, for example, when dissident Russians began writing about gulags, forced exile, forced commitments to psychiatric hospitals and other abuses by Soviet authorities,Â the Soviets seized upon the Peltier “political prisoner” case as a shining example of American hypocrisy.Â Communist Chinaâ€™s government, as recently as 1998, voiced its support to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.
And now, our favorite Marxists over at Democracy Now! are loath to report, Peltier,Â afterÂ 33 years in prison, has been denied parole. Not only that, we are told that his parole denial is the fault of none other than former President George W. Bush! Peltierâ€™s lawyer, Eric Seitz, in an interview with host Amy Goodman, explains:
Well, what we learned was that the Parole Commission, which is a holdover group of people from the Bush administration and an agency of the Justice Department, is never going to parole Leonard Peltier. They adopted in full the position of the FBI that if you kill an FBI agent, you should spend the rest of your life in jail, even if there are serious questions about the conduct of the FBI itself and of the government in prosecuting him.
Peltier, reports Goodman with a heavy heart, will now be ineligible for another parole hearing until July 2024, when he will be 79. She neglects to tell us in that report, however, how old the two FBI agents would have been, had they not run into Peltier on that June day back in 1975.