Tuesday, January 1, 2013

JACK R. COLER; 1947-1975, Rest-in-Peace

Dear Supporters: Happy New Year and...

Jack would be turning sixty-six on January 12th, now eligible for social security and certainly have enjoyed spending Christmas with his family and grandchildren and celebrating the New Year. Jack would have been retired from the FBI and perhaps, since law-enforcement was an important part of his character, going from the L.A.P.D into the Bureau, he may have pursued another post-retirement career perhaps as a Chief of Police somewhere. Or, maybe just enjoyed a leisurely retirement, travelling, pursuing hobbies or interests and maybe charities…and of course, his family.

But all that was taken from him, along with his wife and two young sons after crossing paths at Pine Ridge with Peltier and other AIM hoods.

Sometimes Fate is the Hunter.*

A question to ask is to what extent did coincidence play in the events of June 26, 1975?

Peltier had only recently arrived at Pine Ridge at the AIM camp south of the Jumping Bull property. He had already jumped bail and knew there was an outstanding felony warrant for his arrest. Barely 48 hours earlier Jack, and Ron Williams questioned Norman Charles, but did not learn of the AIM camp or Peltier. The Bureau knew of AIM presence and activities on the Reservation, of course, but also did not know of the camp recently set up near Jumping Bull. Peltier claimed he had been eating pancakes (one dropped in the mud**) and drinking scalding hot black coffee in the camp when he allegedly heard the shooting from Jumping Bull. Only assuming for the moment that was true, if he did have breakfast that morning in the camp, before leaving in Sam Loud Hawks’ Chevrolet carry-all (a 1960s version of a suburban) for a trip to town with Joe Stuntz and Norman Charles; what if he skipped breakfast and left a little earlier? Maybe the old Chevy, which Peltier worked on to get running and used while he was on the Reservation, broke down and needed some adjustment to the carburetor or such, or if it was running on seven year old tires, it had a flat and Peltier had to change a tire.  What if Jack and Ron, having made arrangements the night before to meet the next morning, one of them was running late or there was a last minute stop that either had to make. Had any of these, or an almost infinite number of other possibilities occurred, the sequence of events that morning could have been altered and the outcome drastically different. Suppose for the moment that Ron alone first spotted the red and white suburban, raising the possibility that it might contain their fugitive, Jimmy Eagle, and observed it turn off the highway onto a dirt road leading to a small farm. Ron would not have pursued the vehicle alone. Loud Hawk’s suburban would have been lost from his sight in the rolling hills descending toward the banks of White Clay Creek. Ron certainly would have called Jack and probably other nearby agents, or on the law-enforcement radio, for BIA or Tribal police back-up, and with more support followed the same dirt road in search of the red vehicle.  The same possible scenario could have also applied had Jack been alone and spotted the suspect red vehicle. Then, had Jack and Ron, and others, searched the area and discovered, perhaps stopping at the residences and asking for any information about that vehicle, they could have discovered the AIM camp that morning.

It’s likely that nothing other than identifying those who were there, eliminating the possibility that one may have been the fugitive, Jimmy Eagle, would have occurred, and the likelihood of gunplay remote. You see, in that scenario, the odds would have been close to even. There would, no doubt, have been strong, even harsh, words exchanged, and maybe, if there was cause to suspect that one in the AIM camp was a fugitive, namely, Leonard Peltier, an arrest. Or maybe Peltier had false identification and he would have been able to get out of Pine Ridge before the Feds realized he was even around. In either case, the AIM camp would have been compromised…this intelligence information would have been now known to the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies on the Reservation and no doubt cause Peltier and the others to break camp and find another hiding place.

But, unfortunately, none of that speculation occurred and the timing, as it developed with alarming speed, led Peltier, along with Stuntz and Norman Charles to overreact and fire the first shots at the two “interlopers.” Had one link in that unfortunate second-by-second chain of events been broken that morning there likely would have been an entirely different outcome that didn’t end it tragedy.

Fate may have indeed been the hunter that day, in the form of an unrepentant and sociological stain on mankind…a killer to this day who hides in a labyrinth of lies and fabrications all the while denigrating what is otherwise a noble Native American heritage. All of Peltier’s actions and statements will be on the table for a complete examination as thoughts of commutation slip from his grasp and he serves the remainder of his rightful sentence for his criminal deeds.

Jack’s memory and sacrifice are honored, as his dedication to duty will continue to be recognized and remembered.

Rest-in Peace Jack, you are still with us and will never be forgotten.

“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”
Ed Woods

* Ernest K. Gann. Fate is the Hunter (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1961)
** Leonard Peltier. Prison Writings (New York, St. Martin’s Press, 1999)
Although a minor point, but certainly another indication that Peltier getting his story straight has always been a challenge; he describes their (late breakfast) that morning which was the result of “The downpour that kept us up late…” And, one of the women said “Oops, I just dropped my pancake on the ground, it’s all muddy…” (p.123). So, and this part is true, there was a heavy rain and downpour the evening before and no doubt the ground was muddy. However, he describes how Coler and Williams arrived at Jumping Bull “…those two unidentified cars that came roaring unannounced in a cloud of dust and confusion and flying bullets into our compound that morning.” (p. 114) So which is it, muddy or dusty? Can’t be both. (And, again, only for the moment believing he was in the AIM camp when the shooting allegedly started, how could he describe the agent’s vehicles arriving in a cloud of dust anyway?) Peltier is incapable of keeping his own fabrications (lies) in order, and imagine the factual discrepancy, aside from the condition of the ground, “unidentified cars?” It was a matter of common knowledge on the Reservation, let alone sworn testimony, that white guys, in civilian clothes, in late model cars with antennas, were the Feds. No mystery there. That was a well-established fact at Pine Ridge, but here, fictitiously again; Peltier transforms them into “unidentified cars.” Peltier and all the others knew exactly who the two men were they shooting at in an open field. And the big lie, of course, that Coler and Williams entered Jumping bull shooting. Their firing began in self-defense when Peltier’s attack initially began…this is confirmed by Ron Williams’ own voice during his radio transmissions. The problem with fabricating stories is that inconsistencies frequently occur, as opposed to the truth, which is compatible with its environment.