Former FBI agent says: Anna Mae Awaits Justice

by Joe Trimbach
.....June 26, 1975: A date not easily forgotten by FBI Agents. On that horrible day, Special Agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler were gunned down in an open meadow on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Following the initial hail of fire from the assailants, three gunmen approached the injured Agents and finished them off at close range. Ron Williams and Jack Coler are known as Service Martyrs, a special designation reserved for Federal Agents who gave their lives while engaged in direct adversarial action.

Their sacrifice is also remembered as the only two Agents in Bureau history to have been executed in the line of duty. Leonard Peltier, a member of a militant group of Native Americans, later bragged about being the one who shot Ron Williams in the face, as he sat pleading for his life. With the exception of a few days on the lam following a prison break, Peltier has spent the last 30 years behind bars.

Many of his brothers-in-arms, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), have tried to construct plausible alibis to support his claimed innocence. None of it has stuck, and many of the cover stories have only served to implicate AIM members in other killings, such as the execution-style murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash.

Anna Mae was a member suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. There’s an old Lakota saying when roughly translated means that medicine comes to those who need it. Put another way, what goes around, comes around. Well, here it comes.

June 26, 2007: The Supreme Court of British Columbia orders the extradition of John Graham to the United States. He is the alleged trigger man who carried out the executioner’s mandate against Anna Mae.

According to Arlo Looking Cloud (Graham’s convicted helper), Graham put a gun to Anna Mae’s head, pulled the trigger, and pushed her off a cliff. For the last several years, he has been under house arrest in Canada.

Like Peltier before him, Graham has surrounded himself with supporters, some of them pitifully uninformed. But unlike Peltier’s murderous rampage, Graham’s pre-meditation was evidently known to several others. In fact, dozens were said to be involved as co-conspirators, among them AIM legends, their lawyers, and the group’s lesser lieutenants. The commonality of dates underscores other parallels (the medicine at work). Jack Coler left two young boys. Anna Mae left two young girls. Ron, Jack, and Anna Mae were in the prime of their lives, all about the same age, 28, 29, and 30. In both cases, the killers acted on false information. Peltier thought the Agents were after him because he was a wanted fugitive.

The Agents were actually looking for someone else and didn’t even know Peltier was on the reservation. AIM leaders thought Anna Mae was an FBI informant. She was not. As it turned out, oblivious to the leadership, Anna Mae was loyal to the end. Ron pleaded for his life, hoping to prevail upon the humanity of his killer. In her final moments, Anna Mae did the same and when she realized the end was near, she asked to pray on her knees. (The request was denied.) Months before he placed a gun to Ron Williams’s head, Peltier had placed a gun in Anna Mae’s mouth, in one of her early interrogations. She died six months after the Agents, partly because it was feared that she would repeat Peltier’s boast which she heard “straight from the horse’s mouth.”

People familiar with the case believe that once Graham is on American soil, AIM’s legacy is up for grabs. As the embattled Professor Ward Churchill likes to say, the chickens have come home to roost.

The professor, however, would presumably not want the description applied to his old warhorse buddy, AIM leader Russell Means. On a cold morning in 1976, Means and his brothers boycotted Anna Mae’s funeral, evidently believing her guilty as charged.

AIM war chiefs and Anna Mae’s erstwhile friends must now reposition themselves for the coming storm. An old rusty prosecutorial engine is finally turning over, powered by an unlimited statute of limitations for murder in the first degree.

Former members know that aiding and abetting carries the same penalty that awaits Graham: life in prison. And so they are naturally concerned that Graham may cut a deal and sing like a canary. Stay tuned. This could get very interesting.

Joseph H. Trimbach is the former Special Agent in Charge of the Minneapolis Division of the FBI. He is author of a forthcoming book, American Indian Mafia , An FBI Agent’s True Story About Wounded Knee, Leonard Peltier, and the American Indian Movement (AIM).


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