For a brief moment, the reader is asked to put him or herself in the shoes of the relatively young Agents, with their limited FBI experience. They believed, no doubt, as they had before being sworn in as Special Agents, that other people had the same respect for their Country, Government, Constitution, and the institution of the FBI. They were told, but probably never believed, that while carrying out those sworn duties, someone would just shoot them. To that point, all their weapons training had been directed at paper targets that recorded their accuracy, but never shot back. The days and benefits of virtual reality training were far in the future.
Given their experiences up to that point in their lives, it is reasonable to consider that Agent Williams, wounded three times and attempting to save the life of Agent Coler, considered the best possible course of action, to give up and surrender. This was not a military action in a war-time setting, and neither had that kind of experience; they were defeated and vanquished. Certainly their opposites would accept a truce.
How is it even known that Agents' Coler and Williams may have attempted to offer a white flag of surrender?
According to the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC), Peltier is "Immortalized" in Peter Matthiessen's In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (The Viking Press, 1983). The LPDC offers this as a critical work, covering The story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's war on the American Indian Movement. Matthiessen's thorough work is based on numerous personal in-depth interviews, including those accused of the murders of the agents, Dino Butler, Bob Robideau, and Leonard Peltier. Their statements are telling and reflect recollections of those who were witnesses to the June 26, 1975 incident.
At some point not long after noon, the agent seen crawling through the car had passed out from shock and loss of blood, and his partner, less seriously wounded, had thrown his gun down and stripped off his white shirt. Perhaps he waved it as a white flag in sign of surrender, in any case, he apparently attempted to rig it as a tourniquet on the shattered arm of the downed agent. (Emphasis added).
After Matthiessen's many interviews of the participants in the shooting, a measure of truth, a description of something that only those who were there would have been privy to, arises. THEY KNOW WHAT THEY SAW..
The validity of this claim is left to the reader.
A Question of Character
Throughout its defense of Leonard Peltier, (self described as Gwarth-ee-Lass, "He Leads the People"), the LPDC wants the reader to believe that he was almost a model citizen, a pillar of his society, a concerned activist, and who, prior to June, 1975, was not a criminal. Peltier himself professes in his own writings, (Prison Writings: My Life is My Sundance), by his own statements in "Spirit" and his own words in "Incident" that he is innocent, has "lived a hundred lifetimes in prison" and is "prepared to live thousands more" on behalf of his people. He wants to be seen as a modern warrior-leader for his people in the spirits of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Geronimo, but when the chips were down (although he mouthed great concern for the safety of the women and children caught in a supposed crossfire), he did what his great ancestor warriors did not do. He ran like a coward and left the women and children behind to fend for themselves. "I was feeling crazy because there were still women and children up there in June's cabin." "That's when I told him, This is the day to be a warrior, but all I could think of was, we gotta get out of here!" Now that he is older, he can reflect back on his feelings and actions toward women in general, but when he was thirty, only a few years older than Jack Coler and Ron Williams, he felt this way:
"When I was younger," Leonard says, "I thought it was a lot of fun running around like that, shaking off all those wives. Now I'm older, I realize I hurt a lot of those women, and I feel very bad about it, I really do. I think about them all the time now, especially the ones that had my kids." ("Spirit", p.533)
We gotta get outta here, We gotta get outta here. A refrain repeated by Peltier, as he, Robideau and Butler fled the murder scene, leaving the women and children behind.
They shamed the memory of the great Indian warriors.
Peltier also equates himself to the greatness of Nelson Mandella (PRISON WRITINGS, pg. 62). Peltier cannot walk in his shoes either.
In a fifteen-page letter dated June 26, 2000 to various government entities, a spokesperson for the LPDC made the following complaint against this web site:
"D. "NO PAROLE PELTIER ASSOCIATION": FBI INITIATED WEBSITE"
"This web site was created at the request of an FBI agent, according to the designer. The materials disseminated bear the same defects complained of in the discussion above. We merely note, here, an additional distortion in the section entitled, "A Question of Truth (sic)." This editorial states that during the firefight, Leonard Peltier "ran like a coward leaving the women and children to fend for themselves." This declaration is inaccurate and raises both legal as well as ethical questions. The persons who survived the shoot out with Mr. Peltier have repeatedly stated that HE SAVED THEIR LIVES. Most of the small group with Mr. Peltier that day did indeed consist of young AIM members under the age of twenty one, including several fifteen years old (sic) and one eleven year old. Many were women. After the deaths of the agents, the ranch was surrounded by law enforcement agents and vigilantes, and the group was caught in a HAIL OF BULLETS. There was GRAVE DANGER that all would be killed. One young man, Joe Stuntz, was in fact shot dead by a sniper. Mr. Peltier did not turn tail and run off. He stayed with the group and lead (sic) them through a culvert, below the HEAVILY ARMED law enforcement vehicles and out the other side. He then lead (sic) them through HEAVY FIRE up a hillside to safety."
"We ask for an investigation of this web site's remarkable and unethical distortion of these events." (Emphasis added)
THIS ENTIRE FIFTEEN PAGE LETTER is classic LPDC rhetoric, rhetoric that has been stepped-up since only now it has received opposition in the public forum. It would have been simpler to just provide a link to their web site because the same material can be found there without the pretense that it now has some alleged ethical foundation. They continue to accuse others of their own worst fault, that of "...omit(ing) highly relevant information with the intent of deceiving the reader." They then seque into the ballistics material and the often (and erroneously) repeated statement made by the federal prosecutor. They never report that each and every one of their allegations have been addressed, reviewed, and dismissed by the appropriate courts. The letter states that "...he (Peltier) maintains that he is not the one who committed the killings." No, Peltier said that Mr. X murdered the agents. But they would not dare to even mention Peltier's only real alibi, Mr. X, which has been proven by the object of their own passion, to be a lie.
They forget, as do all Peltier supporters, that this site is based on a review of the statements made by those involved, namely Butler, Robideau and Peltier in material offered by the LPDC, primarily Matthiessen's "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse", (which is ironically even quoted in this letter), and the film "Incident at Oglala". It is through these sources and statements, which are attributed directly to those involved, that interested and concerned readers of this site are asked to draw their own conclusions.
The "A question of CHARACTER" segment as reviewed in this LPDC letter would lead an uninformed reader to believe that in some perverse way, Peltier was some sort of a hero that day, leading his people out of danger and to safety. The letter states that "Mr. Leonard Peltier remains a living symbol..." In this regard, Peltier has become his own myth. Beyond the myth of what happened that day is the reality that Peltier had just participated in the brutal murder of two wounded and defenseless human beings and for that reason, and that reason alone, brought risk upon everyone in the area. Peltier, at that moment, as well as during other times in his life, was no more than a fleeing felon bent on saving his own skin. By contrast, one woman showed courage that day, Nilak Butler, who after gathering up two small children, according to her own account in the film, met up with the men, later!
Peltier's "character" is denigrated through his own words and actions.
And, even now, whether he shows some regret or remorse over the agents' deaths, can be seen as he responded to this very question:
Interviewer: "So the deaths of those agents are not murders."
Peltier: "NOT IN INDIAN - NOT IN INDIAN PEOPLE'S EYES."
Interviewer: "What are they?"
(CNN Interview of Leonard Peltier, September 10, 1999).
In order to further clarify Peltier's attempt to distort the legal history of his own case and to perpetuate his own "Myth", above, is I.O. #4681. This is an Identification Order which further publicizes the efforts to locate Federal fugitives. Please note that the date of this order is December 3, 1975. At the bottom of the wanted flyer is a description of the crimes for which Peltier was being sought. It first lists Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP) which is a Federal warrant for a serious local or State crime in which the local authorities request FBI assistance in locating a fugitive who has fled that jurisdiction. This charge was for the attempted murder of a Milwaukee police officer. (It is noted that Peltier was later acquitted of this charge.) Also listed are Federal charges stemming from the murders of Agents Coler and Williams at Pine Ridge and additional charges from Portland, Oregon which led to indictments on November 25, 1975.
Clearly apparent in this charge is AIDING AND ABETTING.
So basic and fundamental is the concept of this Federal statute that it is preceded only by the definition of felony vs. misdemeanor.
Title 18 United States Code, Section §2:
(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a PRINCIPAL.
(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a PRINCIPAL.
(June 15, 1948, c. 645, 62 Stat. 684; Oct. 31, 1951, c. 655, §17b, 65 Stat, 717.)
During an interview in June 2000, Peltier stated, "But, again, I was never prosecuted for aiding and abetting." This could not be further from the truth. As set forth again, and as a further example, the above wanted flyer shows that Peltier was indicted in 1975 for Aiding and Abetting. The legal record of his case clearly shows that he was also tried and convicted for violating §2.
This is another attempt to deliberately mislead his supporters into believing the "Myth of Leonard Peltier".