Please see the addendum below dated January 1, 2010
Most people have heard the expression Timing is Everything. For the incident on June 26, 1975, timing WAS everything. Perhaps the most crucial and telling evidence of what happened that day at Pine Ridge comes from the words of Agent Williams himself. A number of people in the FBI Resident Agency in Rapid City (RCRA) overheard the first radio transmissions of what the agents were facing that day. Although there has been much discussion and lengthy litigation about what exactly was said, considering that in moments of extreme stress, perceptions and recollections may vary, one aspect of those radio transmissions has been undisputed.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse reviews the timing of Agent Williams' radio calls to the RCRA and other agents but is presented for reasons other than defining the timing of those calls. Its purpose was to lay the ground work for the alleged contradictions and confusion by the FBI over the red pickup truck. It does, however, clearly establish the initial sequence of events as Agents Coler and Williams followed a vehicle, which they believed contained fugitive Jimmy Eagle, onto the Jumping Bull property.
All those who overheard the transmissions are consistent over how rapidly the situation developed.
"...when a number of people monitoring the FBI channels heard an increasingly urgent series of transmissions." ("Spirit" p. 173-176)
As Waring (an FBI Agent) recalled Williams's words...There appears to be some Indians in the vehicle and they appear to have rifles. Then almost instantly, he said he had come under fire and immediately requested help from any units that were listening at the time. It was basically a continuous conversation by him on the radio. He continued by indicating that "they are on the ridge above us and firing on us." He was noticeably out of breath at that point and his voice had a little more excitement in it and he announced that, "I've been hit."
Agent Gary Adams responding from about fifteen miles away overheard Agent Williams, "There are several guys around this house...and it looks like they're going to take off. They're getting into that pickup. I hope you have a lot of gas (presumably radioed from Agent Williams to Agent Coler)." "It looks like those guys are going to shoot at us! Within two minutes, Adams heard gunfire on his radio. Then Williams yelled, "We have been hit."
FBI stenographer Linda Price in the RCRA overheard Agent Williams state, "We're following a red vehicle, you want to keep an eye out for it." There was a pause for approximately 30 seconds, when SA Williams transmitted, "I hope you have enough gas." The next transmission made by SA Williams were words to the effect, "We got a problem here." There was another pause for approximately 30 seconds, [then] "get up on the hill, we're being fired at."
Agent John McCarthy in the Rapid City office heard "something about chasing a red jeep," and FBI stenographer Ann M. Johnson heard Williams say, "There is something wrong here, we are being fired on," followed by the emergency exchange between Williams and Adams.
All of these transmissions were overheard within SEVERAL MINUTES before and after 12:00 noon and all reasonably within a TEN MINUTE period.
Given what the listeners overheard from Agent Williams and the responding agent (Adams), and presuming that their recollections may differ, one element is consistent, they all heard something during the same, brief period of time.
The above transmissions establish, with reasonable certainty to a concerned reader, that within moments of driving onto the Jumping Bull property, they immediately recognized that they were in danger and began taking fire from the individuals in the vehicle they were following and from elsewhere in the compound. Within those minutes they had no time apparently to turn around and leave, but attempted to defend themselves.
Clearly, based on the overheard conversations, the agents did not stop, exit their vehicles, and start shooting. Their shooting was a result of trying to defend themselves from attack. They knew from the outset of driving onto the reservation that they were out-numbered and ill-equipped for an armed confrontation with only their service revolvers with them inside the vehicles (their more powerful weapons still in the trunks). They were miles away from any responding assistance, and in an understandably hostile area with an AIM camp nearby. Suggestions by the LPDC that the agents entered Jumping Bull and started a shootout belies what actually happened.
The shootout, with one side returning only minimal gun fire, and the other over 125 times, was unbalanced at best. With all the shooting and danger to the women and children in the "crossfire", it is obvious that the AIM people were the ones doing all the shooting. The agents' ability to defend themselves and shoot back was quickly neutralized.
Autopsy and crime scene results indicated that in all likelihood, Agent Coler had received an initial and debilitating injury. He was able to return limited fire from a service revolver, one round from a 12-gauge shotgun, and one round from a .308 rifle.
He had apparently, while standing at the open trunk of his vehicle, received a wound from a bullet that passed through the trunk lid, nearly severing his arm. His ability to function at that point was limited and he may have begun to go into shock, leaving Agent Williams to defend them both and call for help.
Agent Williams was also wounded and only able to return minimal fire from his service revolver as he attempted to call for assistance on the car radio. He had been shot in the left arm, left side and foot, and had removed his white shirt and used it as a tourniquet on Agent Coler's arm.
None of the bullet wounds received by Agents' Coler and Williams were, at that point, fatal. However, they then received fatal wounds to the head from a high-powered rifle at contact range.
Please see the Editorial Essay #51, The Smoking Gun