Parole denied for Indigenous activist convicted of killing FBI agents

Leonard Peltier

By SEARCHLIGHT STAFF 

A Native American man convicted of killing two FBI agents 49 years ago in South Dakota has lost what could be his final chance at parole, after widespread activism in support of his release.

Leonard Peltier, 79, is serving two consecutive life terms in prison and is reportedly in failing health. His latest parole hearing was last month, and he won’t be eligible for parole again until June 2026.

Peltier is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. He was active in the American Indian Movement in 1975 when the shootings occurred.

According to the FBI, agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler were attempting to arrest a man on the Pine Ridge Reservation who was wanted for robbery. They pursued a vehicle containing several occupants, including Peltier, into an area of the reservation where the fatal shootout ensued.

AIM member Joseph Stuntz also died — from a shot by a law enforcement sniper, according to federal authorities. The lack of an investigation into Stuntz’s death is one of numerous criticisms that has been leveled against the government’s handling of the incident, the trial and Peltier’s conviction.

Peltier has maintained his innocence, and numerous people and organizations have rallied to support his parole request. Amnesty International USA’s executive director, Paul O’Brien, said in a statement Tuesday that President Joe Biden should grant Peltier clemency and that “continuing to keep Leonard Peltier locked behind bars is a human rights travesty.”

“Not only are there ongoing, unresolved concerns about the fairness of his trial, he has spent nearly 50 years in prison, is approaching 80 years old, and suffers from several chronic health problems,” O’Brien said.

NDN Collective, an Indigenous rights organization in Rapid City, released a statement from President and CEO Nick Tilsen.

“Today is a sad day for Indigenous peoples and justice everywhere,” Tilsen said. “The U.S. Parole Commission’s denial of parole for Leonard Peltier, America’s longest serving Indigenous political prisoner, is a travesty.”

The FBI opposed Peltier’s parole request. Director Christopher Wray wrote to the Parole Commission that “Peltier is a remorseless killer who brutally murdered two of our own before embarking on a violent flight from justice.”

“Throughout the years, Peltier has never accepted responsibility or shown remorse,” Wray wrote. “He is wholly unfit for parole.”

 

The post Parole denied for Indigenous activist convicted of killing FBI agents first appeared on Native Sun News Today.

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