FBI: 'Brutal slaying' at Oglala
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JUNE 26, 2000

Washington DC
FBI National Press Office

Statement of FBI Director Louis J. Freeh

On behalf of the men and women of the FBI, and in memory of all who have lost their lives in the line of duty, I would like to observe the 25th anniversary of the brutal slaying of Special Agents Ronald A. Williams and Jack R. Coler.

Twenty-five years ago today, these two outstanding Special Agents of the FBI were summarily executed by a gunman in South Dakota. Ron Williams and Jack Coler had been searching for a robbery suspect near Pine Ridge on 6/26/75 when they were shot from a distance of 250 yards. 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.

The FBI cannot forget this cold blooded crime, nor should the American people. I was a new Special Agent, still in training school, when this horrific crime was enacted. Its cold blooded disregard for law and order ensured that it would never be forgotten, its criminal nature never obscured.

In February 1976, Leonard Peltier was arrested and charged with the murder of these two agents. The evidence was unarguable and conclusive. On 4/18/77, he was found guilty of the first-degree murders of Williams and Coler and sentenced on 6/1/77 to two consecutive life terms. All his many appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit have failed. The Supreme Court of the United States has twice denied Peltier's petitions for review of his case. Most recently, on 6/12/2000, his parole board held its regular 2-year statutory review of the case, pending the full hearing it is required to hold in 2008. Once again, parole for Leonard Peltier was not recommended. 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. The rule of law has continued to prevail over the emotion of the moment, the cornerstone attribute of our criminal justice system.

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 today lost their lives but not their places in our hearts.

Back to the Story:
FBI recalls Oglala shootout (The Talking Circle 6/26)

Related Stories:
Peltier denied parole (The Talking Circle 06/13)
Peltier seeks parole (The Talking Circle 06/12)
FBI Promises to Prevent Peltier Pardon (The Talking Circle 4/21)
Peltier supporters respond (The Talking Circle 4/21)

Relevant Links:
The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
Amnesty International:
From the Minneapolis Division of the FBI: The Leonard Peltier Case
National Police Group Urges President to Reject All Clemency Requests for Leonard Peltier. The National Association of Police Organizations, November 10, 1999.