Three questions you must ask:
- The two agents were killed virtually point-blank, while already lying on the ground. One was unconscious, the other raised his hand to the mouth of the AR-15 just before it was fired, taking away three of his fingers.
- The two sides were far from evenly matched; the FBI agents were firing revolvers (with a range of 50 yards) from the middle of an open field at Indians 250 yards away. The Indians were firing semi-automatic weapons from a protected ridge. Several people heard the FBI agents' radio transmissions for help, and the first shots are almost immediately heard after the agents said, �It looks like they�re going to fire on us.�
- Peltier had a motive. He told Canadian mounties that the FBI agents had been killed in a firefight when they attempted to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. The FBI officers had no idea Peltier was there, nor that there was a warrant outstanding for his arrest.
Why first-degree murder (as opposed to manslaughter in a firefight)?
- Angie Long Visitor testified that a red and white van matching the description of that the FBI agents followed onto the compound belonged to Peltier (Sam Loud Hawk gave it to him after Peltier fixed it up).
- Three young Indian men testified to seeing Peltier, Robideau, and Butler walk down to the agents� cars.
- Among the shell casings found were some .35 caliber ones that matched the gun used to kill Jean Bissonette, a murder from months earlier when the ammo was traced back to the location where Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau, and Dino Butler were staying (i.e. the three of them were connected to a previous murder investigation).
- The two FBI agents� guns were taken after their murder. They were later recovered when Butler, Robideau, and Peltier were arrested. All three were arrested in different states and each was in possession of one of the agents' guns used in the shootout.
Why Leonard Peltier, Bob Robideau, and Dino Butler?
- The agents heads were blown apart by high-velocity, low-caliber (.30 and under, including .223 caliber) ammunition. From testimony offered by the other Indians present, Leonard Peltier was firing an AR-15, the only weapon any of the three sighted at the cars was firing that was capable of firing .223 caliber ammunition.
- A shell casing from a .223 was found near the dead agents (in the trunk of one of their cars) apparently expelled from the murder weapon, but only that one was found despite three shots having been fired. The marks on that casing were consistent with those made by an AR-15 attributed to Peltier that was later found in Bob Robideau�s station wagon.
- Because the bullets fired at the agents exploded, it is impossible to know precisely what caliber they originally were. One bullet remained fairly intact in the ground beneath one agent�s head, and this bullet was a .223, though it had no blood on it. There was one other person there firing a .308, bolt-action rifle (the only other weapon present that day capable of causing the wounds the agents sustained), but no one claims to have seen him down at the cars.
Basically, Peltier was close enough to shoot the agents and the only one carrying a gun that matched the bullets. He wasn't convicted of first degree murder though. He is serving on aiding and abetting, which he would be guilty of simply for having been there when the two were shot.
- Excerpts from the original trial
- Court decisions on appeals
- Leonard Peltier Defense Committee
- The most detailed conspiracy theory account
- Scott Anderson, Outside Magazine Piece:The Martyrdom of Leonard Peltier
- LPDC Reply to Outside Article