In the aftermath of the shooting, the FBI launched a manhunt for the people they believed to be responsible for the shooting. They sought Darrelle Butler, Robert Robideau, Leonard Peltier and Jimmy Eagle in connection with the deaths, believing them to be the occupants of the car that the agents had followed. Peltier was a fugitive from justice and had been residing with Robideau and Butler in a camp of tents on the property.The FBI later claimed that the agents were unaware that Peltier was on the reservation or that it was his car they were in fact following.
Court transcripts and internal documents complicate this account, however. Ultimately, Robideau, Butler and Eagle turned themselves in to law enforcement. The charges against Eagle were dropped; Robideau and Butler were acquitted. They argued that the extreme violence between factions on the reservation had created a reason to fear the two cars following them, and they fired on the agents in self defense. Leonard Peltier, after being extradited from Canada, was the only person convicted of charges related to the shooting.
In 1977, Peltier was convicted of first degree murder in the killing of the two federal agents, Williams and Coler. Numerous doubts were raised over the fairness of the trial and the handling of the case, including by Amnesty International. Peltier maintains his innocence and is serving two consecutive life-sentences in a federal penitentiary. After a 1992 appeal, his conviction was illegally changed to aiding and abetting. All requests for a retrial have thus far been denied and Peltier is considered by some to be a political prisoner. Efforts to free Peltier continue to the present day.
"My own personal story can't be told...without going back long before my own birth...
back to 1890 and to 1876 and to 1851."
- Leonard Peltier
Faces of AIM
"AIM was and is, not a subversive plot, not a radical mob, but a collectivity of leaders working in loose unison, using material means to accomplish a political and spiritual purpose: our people’s survival."
- Leonard Peltier
September 12, 1944 – present | Tribal Affiliation: Turtle Mountain Chippewa (Ojibway and Sioux) | Other Names: Tate Wikikuwa, meaning “Wind Chases the Sun” in the Dakota language; Gwarth-ee-lass, meaning “He Leads the People,” from Native Canadians; U.S. Prisoner #89637-132