- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Clemency activists have installed the statue of a convicted cop killer at American University as they implore President Obama to issue a presidential pardon in his final days in office.

The statue depicts Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement activist convicted of killing two FBI agents, 28-year-old Jack Coler and 27-year-old Ronald Williams, in a shootout on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1975.

The Northwest D.C. university acknowledged the presence of the statue, which has made several stops along a clemency tour raising awareness about the convicted cop killer and urging Mr. Obama to pardon him.

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“As part of a major clemency push by supporters in the final days of President Barack Obama’s presidency, a 9-foot-tall statue of Native American activist and prisoner Leonard Peltier has been installed at American University Museum to raise awareness for Peltier’s plight and pardon request,” the university said in a statement earlier this month.

Mr. Obama pardoned 78 people earlier this month and shortened the sentences of 153 others convicted of federal crimes, largely drug and firearm offenses. He has commuted the sentences of 1,176 people, including 395 who were serving life sentences, and pardoned an additional 148 while in office.

Pardoning Peltier, who has served 41 years of his two consecutive life sentences, has long been a cause celebre among the left. Groups such as Amnesty International, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and the Soviet Peace Committee, as well as various Hollywood celebrities, have condemned the conviction and called for Peltier’s release.

His supporters accused prosecutors of coercing witness statements and withholding exculpatory evidence at trial.

Peltier has not denied shooting at the agents, who were on the reservation searching for a torture and robbery suspect at the time. But he maintains he did not fire the close-range, execution-style shots that killed the officers, despite the testimony of three witnesses who saw him walking toward the victims with the murder weapon.

Coler and Williams were trapped in their car in an open field on the reservation and took long-range rifle, semiautomatic and AR-15 fire from dozens of gunmen.

The agents, only armed with service revolvers and a single rifle, managed to get five shots off during the encounter. Their car was pelted by at least 125 bullets.

Three of Williams’ fingers were blown off as he attempted to block the fatal bullet. Coler, who had been severely wounded during the shootout, was fatally shot in the head and neck from less than two feet away.

Peltier fled the state after the shootout. Later that year, he was pulled over by an Oregon state trooper and attempted to shoot the officer before escaping. Agent Coler’s gun, along with eight other weapons, several hand grenades and 350 pounds of dynamite, were found in his vehicle.

He was arrested in Canada in 1976 and eventually extradited to the United States. Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Peltier offered an explanation for the murders after his capture: He mistakenly thought the agents were coming after him, stemming from a 1972 incident in which he shot at a Milwaukee police officer.

The statue of Peltier will remain on display at American University through April.

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