In response to a question regarding why we consider Leonard Peltier the worst and most vile of those who killed FBI Agents in the Line of Duty, the following illustrates that Peltier was—and will forever remain, a remorseless cold-blooded murderer:
During the over 100-year history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation there have been 36 Special Agents killed in the line of duty.* These Agents are memorialized on the Wall of Honor as FBI Service Martyrs at FBI headquarters and in field offices throughout the country.
Although the total number is relatively small, this is in keeping with the Bureau’s mission versus the inordinate number of police officers shot and killed in the line of duty—eight in January 2019 alone.
Police officers, more often than not, are confronted with life and death, deadly-force split-second decisions. By contrast Bureau arrests are typically made after months or years of investigation and with the advantage of being able to plan and exercise the authority to arrest and minimize potential risk.
Of the number of Agents killed in the line of duty, several of which involved more than one assailant, nine of those were killed during the commission of their crimes, four committed suicide (one was fatally shot but committed suicide before he would have died), four were captured, sentenced and executed, six were captured, convicted, received life sentences and died in prison, and five are still incarcerated. Also considered here are the five instances where two Agents were killed during the same confrontation and three who were killed on the same day in separate incidents.
One of those incarcerated, ironically, is serving a life sentence in the same federal prison facility as Peltier, one remains on death row and one is scheduled for release in 2022.
The names of the assailants involved are all but lost to history except for a couple of infamous killers from the gangland era—Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson. The 1930s was a dangerous time for all law enforcement. In the 1930s, during the days of G-Men, Tommy guns and running boards, nine Agents were killed in the line-of-duty.
No one would remember, or even care to recall the names of the other assailants, except perhaps the families of the assailants themselves, but they are certainly remembered by the family and friends of the deceased Agents.
What does this history have to do with Leonard Peltier?
Well, a lot actually.
Most significant, except for Peltier, is that none of those still incarcerated for their crimes have been heard from.
There is one aspect of the Peltier matter that cannot be overlooked. If Peltier’s name was Joe Smith and his brutal slaying of Agents Coler and Williams happened, in let’s say, Pennsylvania, no one would care or remember his name. He would be just another of the nameless lifers.
But since this occurred on an Indian Reservation, provoked by Peltier and other cowards of the American Indian Movement, Peltier was successful in milking his notoriety for all it was worth, or all he could conjure up and fabricate about his alleged innocence while pitifully claiming to be a political prisoner. This logically gave way to the myth and folklore that followed. But for the fact that this occurred on Pine Ridge, Peltier’s name would have been relegated to the dustbin of criminal justice history.
Is it accurate to call Peltier and the other AIM members that day cowards?
The answer is simple. It cannot be forgotten that there was an eyewitness to the events that rapidly unfolded on the Jumping Bull property. Agent Williams was on the Bureau radio calling for assistance and describing what was happening. It was apparent that they were about to be fired upon by those in the vehicle they followed, and as the situation developed they were caught in a deadly crossfire and pinned down in an open field by rifle wielding AIM assailants.
Both Agents were wounded. Ron Williams waved his shirt as a sign of surrender, but this was ignored, and then he bravely gave aid to his critically wounded partner. Based on the defensive wound to his right hand, Agent Williams was still alive when Peltier shot him and Agent Coler at point blank range with his AR-15.
Both agents were shot in the face, yet when their bodies were discovered they were found facing the muddy ground. In Indian lore, touching and rolling over a vanquished enemy to face Mother Earth ensures they will not meet the Creator in the afterlife. Among those who were there, Peltier, Joe Stuntz, Robert Robideau, Dino Butler and likely others, know who, in a manner of speaking, disgustingly counted coup, adding to the carnage by manhandling the mutilated bodies.
Years later in an unrelated matter, sworn testimony was given regarding Peltier’s admission and description of the Agents’ murders. Peltier was quoted,
“The m----------r was begging for his life but I shot him anyway.” (Fn. 1)
To any rational human being these are the actions of cowards.
Peltier offered, in his sixth-grade level reader, Prison Writings (p.14) his own published words that he viewed as an apology. Everyone is encouraged to read this “apology” which in reality is nothing more than self-centered aggrandizement that was viewed as a profound insult to both the Coler and Williams families.
However, the issue of whether Peltier ever proffered an apology is settled.
In a June 26, 2017* motion filed in federal district court, Peltier (not pro se, but through his attorney) stated for the record “Although Peltier does not apologize for killing agents Coler and Williams as he maintains his innocence, he does express deep remorse to what happened to them and the pain that caused their families.”(Emphasis added)
To show remorse Peltier would have to acknowledge that he regrets his actions. He has not. His actions would be what he would consider shameful, hurtful or violent. He has not. Remorse is also tied to feelings of guilt. He has shown none. Peltier could express remorse through an apology, but since it is a matter of record in federal court that he has not apologized while feigning innocence, Peltier remains, as always, remorseless.
On the matter of innocence:
Anyone who challenges that the following quotes were taken out of context is pedestrian in their thinking and lacks an understanding of the fundamental significance of Peltier’s public statements. The essential element here is one of proximity.
None of the following direct public admissions from Peltier remove him from the murder scene, from the slaughter at Jumping Bull.
In the same 2017 federal court filing Peltier challenges the following quotes being attributed to him as creating a false picture of the actual facts and that conclusions based on Peltier’s public statements may still imply a false assertion of fact.
“I seen Joe when he pulled it out of the trunk and I looked at him when he put it on, and he gave me a smile”
In the court filing Peltier provided the source from where this quote was taken, Peter Matthiessen’s, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (p. 552). Readers are invited to review that page for themselves. Within it they will find that the most crucial part is the above quote from Leonard Peltier to Peter Matthiessen about Joe Stuntz.
For the situationally challenged, it is not difficult to place this quote firmly within the context of the circumstances at that moment. Picture the scene:
On the Jumping Bull property there are two late model bullet-riddled government vehicles. Peltier, Joe Stuntz and others are gathered around stealing whatever they can. Stuntz grabs agent Jack Coler’s FBI jacket from the trunk, and as Peltier tells us, smiles as he puts it on. At that moment at their feet—lying face down in the mud—are two lifeless bodies. Two dead FBI agents with their faces blown away, who had been first wounded, rendered defenseless and then murdered at point-blank range.
That was the context of Peltier’s, “I seen Joe” statement that hardly implies a false assertion of fact.
In the 2017 federal court filing Peltier further claimed that the following quote was drastically edited from longer passages that provide context and create a false picture of the actual facts, and if those facts are either incorrect or incomplete, or if the assessment of them is erroneous, the statement may still imply a false assertion of fact.
“And really, if necessary, I’d do it all over again because it was the right thing to do.”
This quote was taken from Peltier’s February 6, 2010 public statement on the anniversary of his arrest in Canada. (Fn. 2)
Standing alone, this statement could be benign as Peltier laments and whines about his then thirty-four year incarceration.
Nevertheless, in order to understand the significance of this statement it is important to place it within its proper context. There can be no argument with the fact that one of the "whole series of events" Peltier describes is the Incident at Oglala, the June 26, 1975 cold-blooded murder of Agents’ Coler and Williams on the Jumping Bull property. By even mentioning Joe Stuntz Peltier clearly makes the relevance of his comments within the context of that day.
Peltier’s references to his commitment and because it was the right thing to do, can be neither ignored nor removed from the events he's talking about—those at Jumping Bull. And since he'd do it all over again, he's telling us that he understands what that commitment meant to his life and the last thirty-four years.
Most significantly though, he is not excluding anything. Peltier is offering
no exceptions to his admission. It's all there.
Also, in the 2017 filing in U.S. District Court Peltier stated for the record, “Support for Leonard Peltier comes not only because of the work he has done for his people, but because his imprisonment comes as the result of the government not knowing who killed Agents Coler and Williams.”
Peltier proffers, once again, the same frivolous assertion that the government had somehow conceded he wasn’t personally responsible for the Agents’ deaths.
The courts consistently concluded otherwise:
“Peltier’s arguments fail because their underlying premises are fatally flawed. (A) The government tried the case on alternative theories; it asserted that Peltier personally killed the agents at point blank range, but that if he had not done so, then he was equally guilty of the murder as an aider and abettor.”
(8th Circuit Court of Appeals, July 7, 1993)
“The Government’s statement at a prior oral argument, upon which Peltier relies, was not a concession.” “In any event, this eight-word comment in response to Judge Heaney‘s statements, is a totally inadequate basis for asserting that the government conceded that it had not proved that Peltier personally shot the agents at close range…”
(8th Circuit Court of Appeals, July 7, 1993)
“The direct and circumstantial evidence of Peltier’s guilt was strong…”
“…Peltier’s contention of manufactured evidence are far from convincing.”
(8th Circuit Court of Appeals, 9/14/78)
“The record as a whole leaves no doubt that the jury accepted the government’s theory that Peltier had personally killed the two agents, after they were seriously wounded, by shooting them at point blank range with an AR-15 rifle.”
(8thCircuit Court of Appeals, 12/18/02) (Emphasis added)
In the same court filing Peltier cherry-picks a negative quote from a federal court decision that had absolutely nothing to do with the underlying murder charges against him but was an appeal for relief from an adverse decision by the U.S. Parole Commission. (It should be noted that throughout the numerous appeals in the Peltier saga there was only one other negative comment, and that was relegated to the status of a footnote, and with a clarification. (Fn. 3)
Peltier quotes from a 11/4/03, 10thCircuit Court of Appeals decision:
“Much of the government’s behavior at Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The Government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These Facts are not disputed.”
Actually, these “facts” were disputed and this gratuitous ad hominem statement by this court also included a thorough damning of Peltier’s actions and prior claims, however, Peltier, et. al. as they are habituated to, chose not to provide them, (Fn. 4):
Notably absent from Peltier’s court filing regarding the issue of “alternative theories” was; “Were that the case, the Commission, based on the evidence before it, could still reach the conclusion it did.”
"Previous federal court decisions provided the (Parole) Commission with ample facts to support its conviction that Peltier personally shot Agent Coler and Williams."
“And the Commission’s choice of the word ‘execution’ in describing the murders is quite apt. While Mr. Peltier asserts ‘[t]he Commission identified no plausible evidence that [he] shot the agents after they were incapacitated,’ this statement is simply not true. The evidence linking Mr. Peltier to these crimes is enumerated above. The most damning evidence, the .223 shell casing found in Agent Coler's trunk, may be more equivocal after the surfacing of the October 2nd teletype, but it has not been 'ruled out,' as Mr. Peltier contends. There is no direct evidence that Mr. Peltier shot the agents because no one testified they saw him pull the trigger. But as we stated above, and restate here, the body of circumstantial evidence underlying the Commission's decision is sufficient for the purpose of rational basis review."
“After the evidentiary hearing on Mr. Peltier's first habeas petition, the district court in North Dakota held that the October 2nd teletype did not cast doubt on the connection between the .223 casing found in Agent Coler's trunk and the AR-15 linked to Mr. Peltier. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit asserted the casing ‘had in fact been extracted from the . . . AR-15’ [linked to Mr. Peltier]."
* * *
Peltier has never been confused by the truth, but we will not ignore the obvious. If Peltier were truly innocent he could easily repeat the events as he experienced them. Instead, he fabricated his years-long only alibi that someone they knew, the infamous Mr. X in the red pickup killed the agents. Remember too, in Redford’s film, Incident at Oglala, Peltier said, “This story is true.” Well, it wasn’t. (Fn. 5)
Peltier, the self proclaimed public figure who arguably created a successful campaign of myth and folklore, would not come under scrutiny and have his public statements challenged if he for once admitted the truth. As a “public figure” Peltier forfeits many of the protections afforded private citizens in matters of defamation. Lies are still lies no matter how they are gift-wrapped. (Fn. 6)
Peltier, for as much as he professes, is not the realistic symbol of the historical ill treatment of First Americans. Peltier is the antithesis of the brave warriors of the past.
Further, it matters a great deal that Peltier has shamelessly denigrated the memory of Agents Coler and Williams by claiming that they were deliberately sacrificed (Prison Writings, p. 129):
“As documents released twenty years later, in 1995, through the Freedom of Information Act, confirmed, a virtual army—lawmen, GOONS, SWAT teams, vigilantes, BIA police, you name it—had been gathering in the area for a planned paramilitary assault on the Pine Ridge Reservation. And now the day had finally come. This raid had obviously been preplanned. Maybe they figured they could come in and finish us off after the two agents had drawn our fire, giving them the excuse they needed.” (A totally fabricated lie; Fn. 7)
Of all those Agents killed in the line of duty, the most vile and depraved act was the wounding and calculated murder of Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams on June 26, 1975 by Leonard Peltier on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier’s vicious acts—validated through numerous appeals, confirms that he remains a remorseless cold-blooded murderer. (Fn. 8).
“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”
*Update October 2021: This blog was initially written in March 2019 and since that time the FBI has added names to the Wall of Honor of Agents who were not only killed during an adversarial action, but those who died by other causes during the course of their official duties.
1) Press Release, United States Attorney, District of North Dakota: “…In 2004 Arlo Looking Cloud was tried in South Dakota for the late 1975 AIM related murder of Anna Mae Aquash. Witness Darlene Nichols testified that, in October or November of 1975, she was travelling in a motor home with Leonard Peltier, her husband, AIM leader Dennis Banks, Anna Mae Aquash, and others. On one occasion when they were in the State of Washington, Peltier admitted his involvement in the killings of the agents. Darlene Nichols testified that Leonard Peltier, “…started talking about June 26, and he put his hand like this and started talking about the two FBI agents…he said the m----------r was begging for his life, but I shot him anyway.”
(AIM member Anna Mae Aquash, who had been threatened at gunpoint by Peltier suspecting that she was an FBI informant—she was not—but nonetheless on orders of AIM leadership she was kidnapped, raped, murdered and dumped in a ravine.)
1a)Looking Cloud Trial Transcript at 144-145; In reference to a statement made to the witness by Leonard Peltier: Prosecutor: “Exactly what did he say?” Witness: “He said the M----- F----- was begging for his life, but I shot him anyway.”
2) Peltier statement 2/6/2010: http://www.noparolepeltier.com/confession.pdf
Editorial essay re 2/6/2010 statement: http://www.noparolepeltier.com/debate.html#confession
3) Negative court comments, see section #20:
4) U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 11/4/03:
5) The alibi lie of Mr. X: http://www.noparolepeltier.com/lie.html
6) Peltier the public figure: http://wwwnoparolepeltiercom-justice.blogspot.com/2016/03/peltier-public-figure-proof.html
7) The fabrications of a Preplanned paramilitary assault: The Sanctioned Memo:
Further, “The Smoking gun and 23 reasons why it can’t be true:” http://www.noparolepeltier.com/debate.html#smoking
8) Peltier conflates advocacy (keeping the torch lit and honoring the memory of Agents Coler and Williams) with defamation. We will, however, let the facts detailed above speak for themselves and allow reasonable people to make their own judgments.
* Ironically, the “Plaintiff’s Response to Defendant Landberg (sic) and Woods’ 12(b)(6) and Anti-Slapp Motion” submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington was filed on the 42ndanniversary of the murder of Jack Coler and Ron Williams.