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INDIANS: The Pine Ridge Shootout

2 minute read
TIME

Violence flared anew last week on the Pine Ridge reservation of the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota. It was there in 1973 that militant Indians occupied the town of Wounded Knee for two months and two Indians were killed. This time the victims were two FBI agents, slaughtered by a band of Indian militants, and one of their attackers.

The trouble began when four Indians kidnaped two young whites, releasing them a few hours later. Two days later the FBI arrested one Indian and the following day sent Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, both 28, to Oglala with warrants for the arrest of the other three. The agents headed toward a hamlet down a dirt road flanked at the end by 20-ft.-high rocky banks. Indians apparently opened fire on the car from both sides. Coler and Williams radioed a desperate Mayday call and succeeded in turning the car around, but could not get away. Their assailants apparently dragged both men—by then presumably dead—from the car, stripped them of their belongings and shot them in the back of the head.

When more FBI agents and Bureau of Indian Affairs police arrived, they exchanged gunfire for several hours with some 16 Indians in the area, killing one of the attackers. As sporadic firing continued and Government agents awaited word on whether to storm the hamlet houses, the Indians slipped away. But the escape may prove temporary; a large force of FBI and other law-enforcement officials, determined to track down the FBI men’s killers, descended on the reservation and fanned out in a massive search effort.

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