Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Rest In Peace; Part II
While researching and writing the Blog recognizing Jack Coler’s January 12, 1947 birthday, I came across a disturbing video that had painful similarities to June 26, 1975 and the Jumping Bull property, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota.
Born within days of the Incident at Oglala, Kyle Dinkheller would later begin a career in law enforcement.
On January 12, 1998, twenty-two year old Laurens County Deputy Sheriff, Dinkheller, on a rural Georgia road, pulled over a pickup truck doing 98 miles an hour driven by 51 year old, Vietnam veteran, Andrew Howard Brannan.
The traffic stop quickly escalated with Brannan’s bizarre and aggressive behavior and responses to the Deputy’s commands. A scuffle ensued resulting in Brannan retrieving an M-1 carbine from his pickup and empting two magazines into the cruiser and killing Deputy Dinkheller. Brannan was wounded in the exchange, escaped, was arrested the following day, tried, convicted and sentence to death. His appeals were denied.
The entire horrifying event was captured on the cruiser’s video camera.
Brannan’s last recorded words with the final fatal shot to the deputy’s face was,
Leonard Peltier, along with other AIM members, fled Pine Ridge after the murders of Jack Coler and Ron Williams. During their escape Peltier bragged about the death of the agents. Years later at another murder trial, one of those overhearing Peltier’s confession testified and quoted him saying, “The m-f'er begged for his life but I shot him anyway.”
Justice remains for Jack Coler and Ron Williams as Leonard Peltier serves the remainder of his consecutive life sentences at the federal prison in Coleman, Florida, plus the additional seven consecutive years owed for his armed escape from Lompoc Penitentiary. There he will remain until the final judgment arrives.
Final justice for Deputy Dinkheller was reached seventeen years and a day after his execution, today, January 13, as Brannan was put to death by lethal injection.
Kyle Dinkheller left behind a two-year old daughter, and a pregnant wife who gave birth to their son in September 1998.
Our thoughts go out to Deputy Dinkheller’s family, friends and comrades in arms, especially now at a time when too many are critical of the danger and responsibilities faced daily by law enforcement throughout the country. May he rest in peace.
“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”
The Brannan case prompted considerably more research and sole searching. As jaded as I may be over the whole Peltier matter, at the moment it mattered little that Brannan was to be put to death. However, there is more to the story.
I have never been an advocate for the death penalty, one way or the other, perhaps for the wrong reasons. Death has its finality. A case in point is Timothy McVeigh who stopped his appeals and chose to go ahead with his execution. I don’t believe he did it for martyrdom for his white supremacist cause. No monuments have been erected in his memory by any hate groups. His choice was one of desperation. I believe that he could no longer stand the confinement of a concrete cell and took the easy way out.
I was troubled in 1998 (there’s that year again), when then Texas Governor, George W. Bush, (I believe wanting to show that he was tough on crime), didn’t intervene in the execution of Carla Faye Tucker. Studying her history, it was clear to me at least, that in some instances rehabilitation does work and matter. No one was asking for her release for her heinous crimes as a confused, drug addicted teen being misled by an older psychopath, but to spare her life to remain in prison where she had helped an untold number of inmates start on the right path. If there ever was a strong case for commutation, Tucker, in my judgment, was a classic example.
On Monday, January 12, Brannan was afforded a final appeal before the Parole Board which had the ability to commute his sentence to life without the possibility of parole. They were unsuccessful.
His attorney’s touched on the facts of his conviction noting mostly that his trial counsel failed to demonstrate his severely diminished mental state.
From the record, Brannan, more likely than not, had psychological issues prior to his tour in Vietnam, however, his service as an Army officer and artillery forward observer platoon leader is well documented. He was recognized for having served honorably and bravely in combat.
His life spiraled down post-Vietnam resulting in a diagnose of bi-polar disorder and PTSD so severe that he was classified as 100% disabled by the VA. With all his personal problems and total detachment from society there were no instances of criminal behavior, bizarre and inappropriate for certain, but nothing overtly violent until his fateful encounter with Deputy Dinkheller on that rural Georgia road.
No one is contesting the facts nor suggesting that Brannan do nothing more than remain in prison where prescribed medication keeps him under control.
The strongest argument, in my opinion, his attorneys made was quoting the U.S. Supreme Court for recognizing that our “…Nation has a long tradition of according leniency to veterans in recognition of their service, especially for those who fought on the front lines…”
Giving no solace to Kyle Dinkheller’s family and friends is their choice whether Brannon is put to death or never sees the light of day and will never be a threat to society. That conclusion is theirs and theirs alone.
Brannon’s heinous act, motivated by personal demons, is a far cry, however, from the cold-blooded murderer, Leonard Peltier.
It is more than significant to note that Brannon has never glorified his actions nor demeaned the loss of Kyle Dinkheller.
Peltier, on the other hand, daily, with each breath and every word, has persistently denigrated the memory and sacrifice of FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams. Peltier does so by playing the race card to the sympathies of the unknowing that in some bizarre fashion he is emblematic of the struggles of an otherwise proud and traditional Native American culture. In reality, he is a charlatan of the worst kind.
Had this discussion been about Peltier, rather than Brannan, the point would still be the same. At least Brannan’s mental state has some basis for understanding his actions that day. Peltier, on the other hand, demonstrates that he was the consummate coward and is where he belongs. Death for Brannon will not bring back Kyle, but commutation would have kept him confined where he needed to be.
Peltier, though, needs to be alive and facing concrete walls every minute of the days he has remaining. His freedom will not come at the end of a needle but feet first as the doors of Coleman open to let him out for the last time.