|Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback||
American Indian activist still maintains innocence in 1975 slayings of 2 FBI agents in South Dakota
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The head of the FBI and the man convicted of killing two FBI agents have marked the 25th anniversary of the murders with statements that demonstrate their continuing enmity.
On Sunday, FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was in training when the men were killed, recalled the "brutal slaying" of Special Agents Ronald A. Williams and Jack R. Coler on a South Dakota reservation on June 26, 1975.
The agents were shot while they were searching for a robbery suspect at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. "They were grievously wounded and on the ground when the killer approached and shot them, one after the other, at point-blank range, through (their) faces," said Freeh.
The crime's "cold-blooded disregard for law and order ensured that it would never be forgotten, its criminal nature never obscured," Freeh said.
Leonard Peltier, a leader of the American Indian Movement, was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1977 and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. He denied involvement in the agents' deaths.
Peltier, 55, is considered by many of his supporters to be a political prisoner. His case has drawn attention from human rights activists.
Peltier's appeals to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals have failed, and the U.S. Supreme Court has twice refused to review the case.
Two weeks ago, a parole board refused to grant Peltier parole at its regular two-year statutory review of the case, pending a full hearing it is required to hold in 2008.
'The rule of law has continued to prevail'
"It is a testament to the American judicial system and the American people that 25 years have not been able to erase or soften the facts of the case," Freeh said.
"The rule of law has continued to prevail over the emotion of the moment, the cornerstone attribute of our criminal justice system."
Freeh added, "The men and women of the FBI -- and law enforcement officers everywhere -- put their lives on the line on a daily basis to protect the American people. They, with me, would like to remind the nation of the fidelity, bravery and integrity of agents Williams and Coler who, 25 years ago ..., lost their lives but not their places in our hearts."
In a letter addressed to friends and supporters that was posted Sunday on the Internet at www.freepeltier.org, Peltier also noted the anniversary. He had been in South Dakota to resolve conflict between tribal members and leaders that had resulted in violence at the time of the killings.
"It makes me very sad to know that after everything we went through in the 1970s our people still continue to suffer so much," he wrote from Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, in Leavenworth, Kansas.
"The memory of all of those who lost their lives during that time also continues to haunt me," he said.
'All people should gather ... for their fallen'
Of the FBI's memorial for the agents, he said, "I do not fault them nor do I disagree with what they are doing. I think all people should gather in memorial for any of their fallen.
"But when you analyze this whole event of theirs, you are slapped in the face with the cold reality of racism.
"Not once," Peltier said, "have they nor will they mention our fallen warriors and innocent traditionalists slaughtered in the '70s.
"The fact is they do not think of Indian people as human beings. Whenever you deny that such atrocities happen -- and we know they did happen -- it only means they don't consider the people who died to be human.
"Hitler's regime felt the same about the Jews."
Members of the American Indian Movement plan ceremonies on Monday at the site of the killings to call for Peltier's release from prison and to commemorate the agents' deaths.
Also on Monday, an attorney for Peltier was planning to file a complaint with the Justice Department asking for an investigation of FBI misconduct, said Gina Chiala, a coordinator of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.
Chiala said the alleged misconduct dates from the 1970s and includes an ongoing FBI disinformation campaign to stop Peltier from receiving clemency, which he applied for seven years ago.
Peltier supporters lobby Clinton for executive clemency
The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.