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Leonard Peltier is a Native American activist convicted of the killing of two federal agents in 1975. His case is highly controversial and filled with doubt of his true guilt in the murders.

Background[]

One of 13 children in a North Dakota family, Peltier's parents divorced when he was 4, leaving him and his sister to be raised by their paternal grandparents. He was educated at a faraway boarding school which forbade Native American culture, graduating in 1957 before attending another in South Dakota before dropping out in 9th grade to live with his father, still managing to get a GED. Peltier married twice and fathered 7 children and adopted 2. He bounced between several jobs throughout his 20s before joining the American Indian Movement in 1972. He was arrested for attempted murder during a protest in 1973 and spent the duration of the Wounded Knee Incident (a 71-day siege between federal forces and an armed takeover at the reservation) in a Milwaukee jail, though he was released on bail and managed to arrive to deliver supplies in the incident's aftermath. Another warrant for his arrest was issued for another attempted murder in 1975, as well as an unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Murders, Capture, and Conviction[]

On June 26, 1975, FBI Special Agents Ronald Arthur Williams and Jack Ross Coler were searching for Jimmy Eagle, who was wanted for assault and theft, in separate unmarked cars when they spotted a vehicle with Peltier inside, as well as Norman Charles and Joe Stuntz. The three men stopped their vehicle and opened fire on the two agents. They attempted to radio for backup, but it arrived too late as both agents had died. The three men stole Williams' car and took the men's guns. Stunts also stole Coler's FBI jacket; we was found to have been wearing it when he was shot dead later that day. Peltier bought an RV and managed to escape from an Oregon state trooper on foot after a brief shootout; William's handgun was found inside it. The rifle Peltier used was also found in the wreckage of a station wagon he had purchased (which blew up with three AIM members inside, who survived). Peltier would remain a fugitive until he was finally arrested in Canada by its Royal Mounted Police on December 22.

Peltier was extradited back to North Dakota for trial and was ultimately convicted for the shooting and sentenced to two life sentences in April 1977. He and two other inmates escaped in 1979, but was recaptured after a chase in a stolen truck without incident just three days later. He was given additional time for this as well as possessing a Ruger Mini-14 (which he had also stolen). He was also attacked by two inmates in 2009. He remains incarcerated to-date and his case has garnered much controversy over his actual guilt in the murders.

Modus Operandi[]

Peltier and Charles fired at Williams and Coler, the former with a .223 Remington AR-15 and the latter with a .308 British rifle. They then stole Williams' car, stripping it and then took the men's guns.

Known Victims[]

  • Unspecified date in 1973: An unnamed victim (attempted)
  • 1975
    • Unspecified date: An unnamed male off-duty Milwaukee police officer (attempted)
    • June 26: FBI SAs Ronald Arthur Williams and Jack Ross Coler
      • Ronald Williams, 27 (shot once in the body, foot, and then head; the headshot bullet ripped through his right hand)
      • Jack Coler, 28 (shot several times then twice in the head)
    • September: An unnamed Oregon State Trooper (attempted)
  • July 1979: An unnamed farmer (robbed of his shoes, crops, and truck)

On Criminal Minds[]

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