As crucial as the details are, throughout the entire treatment of the circumstances surrounding the shooting at Pine Ridge and the subsequent trial and incarceration of Leonard Peltier, the LPDC provides the details of what happened that day in only one paragraph and also states that:
"The FBI's version of what occurred that day is dramatic and imaginative, however, not the least bit documented."
"Statement of Fact," Paragraph #5 (LPDC Web Site)
(5) On June 26, 1975, two FBI agents, Mr. Jack Coler and Mr. Ron Williams, entered the Jumping Bull Ranch, private property. They allegedly sought to arrest a young Native American man they believed they had seen riding in a red pickup truck. A large number of AIM supporters were camping on the property at the time. A shoot out began, trapping a family with small children in the crossfire. The more than thirty men, women and children present were surrounded by over 150 FBI agents, SWAT team members, BIA police and local posse members, and barely escaped through a hail of bullets. When the gun fight ended, a Native American named Joe Stuntz lay dead. His killing was never investigated. FBI agents Coler and Williams were also dead. They had been wounded in the gun fight and then shot point blank through the head by a still unidentified assailant. (Emphasis added).
ANY REASONABLE READING of paragraph #5 would leave the impression that there had been a government assault on the Jumping Bull compound that day by a large force of well-armed agents and police, who forced a confrontation, resulting in a shootout that pinned innocent women and children in the crossfire. The result being that two agents and a Native American were killed in the melee.
However, the actual sequence of events is well established by the timing of urgent radio calls from Agent Williams. In this instance, the impression left by paragraph #5 is not what happened that day, but because timing is everything, an accurate sequence of events is available to the reader.
Addendum: December 15, 2001
The LPDC concedes a major point in the Peltier debate: "Paragraph #5"
"...were ("then") surrounded..."
(Webster's International Dictionary: Then (adverb); Soon after that, immediately after that, next in order of time.)
Background: When the No Parole Peltier Association (NPPA) web site was launched in April, 2000, one of the key issues raised was the treatment by the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC) of the circumstances surrounding the actual shooting which occurred on June 26, 1975. The LPDC position offered by attorney Jennifer Harbury in the "Statement of Fact" section, paragraph #5, was criticized for ignoring the record of that event and the timing involved in the incident.
The LPDC has conceded that it was wrong about their statement by since rewording paragraph #5. They did listen to the criticism of their errors and corrected them. But they have also added some additional editorial comments which are equally without merit and fatally flawed:
The question now is what do the key words;
CROSSFIRE, SOMEONE, ADMITS and THEN, really mean to the LPDC?
(What follows is a line-by-line comparison of the original and current version of paragraph #5. Note: Previous version in black, current version in blue, key words in bold, and web site links are red.)
"The FBI's version of what occurred that day is dramatic and imaginative, however, not the least bit documented." (Quote from the LPDC)
On June 26, 1975, two FBI Agents, Mr. Jack Coler, and Mr. Ron Williams, entered the Jumping Bull Ranch, private property.
They allegedly sought to arrest a young Native American man they believed they had seen riding in a red pickup.
A large number of AIM supporters were camping on the property at the time.
They had been invited there by the Jumping Bull elders, who sought protection. Many non-AIM persons were present as well.
A shootout began, (between the two vehicles) trapping a family with small children in the crossfire.
From throughout the ranch, people screamed that they were under attack, and many hurried to return fire.
When the skirmish ended, the two FBI agents were dead.
They had been wounded, and someone had shot them at close range through the heads.
Today, the United States Attorney admits that no one knows who fired the fatal shots.
The red pick up truck escaped from the ranch and was never found or identified.
The more than thirty men, women and children present were (then) surrounded by over 150 FBI agents, SWAT team members, BIA police and local posse members, and barely escaped through a hail of bullets.
When the gunfight ended, a Native American named Joe Stuntz lay dead shot through the head by a sniper bullet.
His killing was never investigated.
NPPA review of the LPDC's current paragraph #5:
"...trapping a family with small children in the CROSSFIRE."
The best place to begin explaining exactly what happened is with Peter Mattiessen's book, "In The Spirit of Crazy Horse," which, according to the LPDC, "immortalizes" Leonard Peltier.
Anyone willing to pursue this should look first at the map on page xvii of "Spirit."
Please note: Agent Coler's vehicle (1972 Chevrolet Biscayne, white vinyl over golden tan-shown on the map as the white and tan car) is depicted where the agents were first fired upon, and the "Y-fork" where Peltier, Norman Charles and Joe Stuntz first stopped, took cover and began firing at the agents. (Agent Williams' vehicle, the 1972 green Rambler Ambassador is shown where it was moved to the AIM camp after the agents were murdered.) Note also the distances between the various locations shown on Matthiessen's map.
Norman Brown provided the following to Matthiessen:
From the green house in the compound, looking downhill to the west, Norman Brown saw two cars and two white men well over a HUNDRED YARDS AWAY; a gold and white car was parked behind a green one, both aimed in the general direction of the camp. The trunk of the gold-white car was open, and its driver was behind it, a rifle or shotgun at his shoulder; the other man, using a handgun was crouching and shooting next to the green car. Brown recalls seeing LEONARD PELTIER LYING DOWN BY A ROW OF JUNKED CARS NEAR THE WOODS, RISING UP TO FIRE, LYING PRONE AGAIN. (Spirit, p.156) (Emphasis Added)
Norman Brown was in a good position to see exactly what was happening: Look at his vantage point on Matthiessen's map; the green house (depicted as a green shack on the map) allowed Brown to join in the shooting at the agents in what can only be described as a crossfire situation. There is nothing stated or noted by Brown that places anything other than open ground between him and the agents' vehicles: No family trapped in a crossfire; nothing at all except a clear line of fire between Peltier and the others, and the agents stranded on a dirt road in an open field. Recall also the scenes in the Robert Redford film "Incident at Oglala," showing brief snippets of the area and especially Robert Robideau's description of the shooting as he points to where it happened; an open and empty field.
Angie Long Visitor:
Up the hill to the northwest, perhaps FOUR HUNDRED YARDS AWAY, the Long Visitor Family was using the white house (depicted on the map as the Jumping Bull House), since Grandpa and Grandma Jumping Bull had left at daybreak for a steer auction over in Nebraska. Angie Long Visitor heard "firecrackers or something" while washing dishes, and because her small children were playing outside, she walked out onto the BLUFF to have a look. Two strange cars were parked in the pasture meadow west of the compound and below, down toward the HORSE CORRAL, at the edge of the creek woods. One of the white men--she assumed they were lawmen because of the radio aerials and the good condition of the cars--was removing a gun case from the trunk of his car; the other was kneeling and shooting IN HER GENERAL DIRECTION with a handgun.
(Long Visitor then went back into the house with her children.)
"They (Long Visitor and her family) fled SOUTH along the edge of the plowed field, then cut across toward Highway 18. On the way, they met a few of the AIM Indians from the camp down in the woods, who were running uphill toward the houses. (Spirit, p.155) (Emphasis Added)
During an interview Angie Long Visitor also provided the following:
When she, her husband and the children, fled down the hill behind the house to safety, she noticed a white over red Chevrolet Van parked on the dirt roadway in the gully approximately 100 yards from the two other vehicles. She did not see anyone around this van at that time but knows that this van belongs to Leonard (Peltier).
(Spirit, p. 205) (Emphasis Added)
Angie Long Visitor also provided sworn testimony:
At the grand-jury hearing in Rapid City in November 1975, Angie Long Visitor had testified that when she went outside at the sound of shots, she saw Joe [Stuntz] and Norman [Charles] (she knew none of the last names of the outside Indians) "just laying there" by the woodpile west of her little green cabin, and that Bob [Robideau], wearing his brown cowhide vest and a dark-blue stocking cap "ski mask" with eye holes, was standing by the old wrecked station wagon nearby. In her appearance at Peltier's trial, she said, "We seen a red-and-white van" that she recognized as a car belonging to Sam Loud Hawk and used by Leonard [Peltier], who had repaired it; this van was parked at theY-FORK in the pasture road just uphill from the line of junked cars from which (Brown and Anderson had said) Peltier, Robideau, and Butler had fired at the agents. She also said, that she saw one of the agents kneeling by his car and shooting. "Me and my husband and kids RAN ACROSS THE FIELD and went DOWN TO THE LITTLE ROAD that goes to the highway. There were a lot of cop cars going by."
(Spirit, p. 332) (Emphasis Added)
(There is no small wonder why the crime scene investigation located one hundred and fourteen (114) .223 shell casings [accounting for a large number of the 125 bullet holes in the Agents' vehicles] which were matched to Peltier's "Wichita AR-15." Thirty-nine of these were introduced at trial as part of the Exhibit 34 series of evidence. This also included shell casings found in Peltier's own 1967 Ford Galaxy, one from the 1966, red and white, Chevrolet suburban in which Peltier was driving when he was followed by the Agents, and the .223 shell casing found in the trunk of Agent Coler's vehicle.)
Let this point be unmistakable: With absolute certainty, Angie Long Visitor, her husband Ivis, and their three children were frightened and in a potentially dangerous situation, but her best description was that there was firing "IN HER GENERAL DIRECTION" "FOUR HUNDRED YARDS" in the distance as she then sees Indians from the AIM camp firing at the Agents.
But the LPDC and Peltier translate this into "TRAPPING A FAMILY" in the crossfire "between the two vehicles." There was nothing of the kind. Look at the map again: Long Visitor saw AIM members firing at the agents from at least two positions. Her house and family were not caught between either of these positions. She and her family escaped to the South, away from the firing and left the shooting of the agents' behind them.
The LPDC is being far less than disingenuous with Peltier supporters; they are lying about what really happened.
But if there is any doubt as to whether someone was caught in a crossfire situation when this incident began, listen to the words of one of the people who were caught in it:
SA Dean Hughes, still going north toward Rapid City with his prisoner, heard "something like, 'Get to the high ground' "---a more likely version, since there is no "high hill" within rifle range of the spot---and then "Hurry up and get there or we are going to be dead men." Previously, he had heard Williams say, "We are being fired on. We are in a little valley in Oglala, South Dakota, PINNED DOWN IN A CROSSFIRE BETWEEN TWO HOUSES." Agent Edward Skelly at Rapid City headquarters heard Williams say, "If someone could get to the top of the ridge and give us cover, we might be able to get out of here." "...The last thing Hughes heard was Williams's voice saying "very vaguely, 'I am hit.' " (Spirit, p.174) (Emphasis Added)
" ...and SOMEONE had shot them at close range through the head."
How can Ms. Harbury and the LPDC continue to foist this myth on Peltier supporters?
They would like nothing more than for everyone to suddenly suffer from collective amnesia. They would like everyone to forget that Leonard Peltier told us all exactly who killed the agents and drove off in the infamous red pickup. "It was Mr.X," he said; more times than he cares to remember, and over as many years.
But for Leonard Peltier, Ms. Harbury, and those Peltier supporters who have forgotten, they can review it all here:
Mr. X The Movie ,
Mr. X The Interview
Mr. X The Lie
"Today, the United States Attorney ADMITS
that no one knows who fired the fatal shots."
This has been a rallying cry for the LPDC for some time; the only problem is that it is absolutely wrong. They continue repeating this out-of-context issue and ignore that
this was an erroneous and fallacious argument when Peltier's attorneys' first made it before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court stated "Peltier's arguments fail because they are fatally flawed." The entire premise of this argument was not only legally insufficient, but also factually incorrect. Ms. Harbury and the LPDC do themselves a disservice by continuing to argue a point that was lost long ago.
A simple question to ask here is:
"What part of fatally flawed don't they understand?"
"...women and children present were
THEN surrounded by over 150 FBI agents... "
Ms. Harbury and the LPDC finally got it right. They recognized the importance and meaning of one little word: then.
The LPDC claimed, for a considerable length of time, that a firefight ensued and the agents and an Indian were killed in the exchange. Their meaning was clear as to the sequence they wanted people to believe, but now they have corrected that deception and admitted to the true and accurate sequence of events. The addition of this one small adverb completely changed the meaning of their claims, and the truth comes out.
This major concession, based on criticism from the NPPA, finally sets the record straight.
But what can really be said at this point is that Peltier's version of what occurred that day is dramatic and imaginative, however, not the least bit documented.
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