"We need back up or we'll die out here," Special Agent Jack R. Coler radioed in to dispatch.
"I'm hit!" Special Agent Ronald A. Williams screamed.
"Williams is hit! I repeat Williams is hit!"
The fire fight would continue for the next ten minutes before both agents would succumb to gunshot wounds. On June 26, 1975 the two agents had travelled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in pursuit of a man named Jimmy Eagle. They were seeking to question Eagle in connection with two assaults and armed robberies in the local area.
Their deaths have never been explained, although they have been pinned to an innocent man. His name is Leonard Peltier. Close range gunshot wounds to the head had killed the two special agents, but it was not by the hand of Peltier. In numerous interviews with Peter Matthiessen, author of In The Sprit of Crazy Horse (1983), Peltier provides numerous alibis. These alibis went unheard, or rather ignored for by December of 1975 Peltier had been catapulted to the FBI's Top Ten Most Wanted List.
Peltier successfully fled to Hinton, Alberta before he was captured and extradited by the FBI. Like a flag of war they waved an affidavit signed by Myrtle Poor Bear, a Native American woman who claimed to have been Peltier's girlfriend and to have witnessed the murders. She would later renounce her statements and speak of the intimidation methods used by the FBI.
The trial that followed was muddled by corruption and flagged excessively with planted guns and made up stories and false records. Peltier never had a chance. His only chance, his only steward, his only ally was Peter Matthiessen.
Peter Matthiessen worked tirelessly to clear Leonard Peltier's name, tearing back the skin of the entire corrupt case - using his writing as his weapon. The details lay masterly in his book which I mentioned earlier. Matthiessen died on April 5, 2014, finally giving in to leukemia. He was 86.
Upon hearing of his death Peltier, still incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Coleman in Florida, had this to say:
"Peter, if you are looking down on us you can see me as I'm writing this. My eyes are not clear and I miss you already. I asked you in our last phone conversation to please not leave me here. Wait for me. I know in my heart you tried. I love you and I will miss you terribly. I will see you soon, my brother, as my time is coming."
RIP Peter Matthiessen