American University to Remove Statue of Convicted FBI Agent Killer - NBC4 Washington

American University to Remove Statue of Convicted FBI Agent Killer

FBI Agents Association asked school to take statue down



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    What to Know

    • Leonard Peltier was convicted of killing two FBI agents in 1975 and received two life sentences.

    • His supporters advocate for his clemency, accusing prosecutors of coercing witness statements and withholding evidence.

    • The FBI Agents Association sent a letter to AU's president last week requesting the statue's removal.

    American University will remove a statue of a man convicted of killing two FBI agents in 1975 from outside Katzen Arts Center, the school said in a statement issued Sunday.

    FBI Agents Association President Thomas O’Connor sent a letter to AU President Dr. Neil Kerwin Thursday stating concern about the statue of Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist convicted in the killings of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

    Clemency activists installed the 9-foot-tall statue in December. They want President Barack Obama to pardon Peltier, whose supporters accuse prosecutors of coercing witness statements and withholding evidence favorable to Peltier, the Washington Times reported.

    Opponents say the statue is an insult to law enforcement.

    “The message being sent by AU to FBI Special Agents and their families, past and present, and to all members of the law enforcement community, is both clear and troubling -- AU has decided to advance the political arguments of activists with little concern for providing all of the facts or considering the views of law enforcement,” O’Connor wrote.

    More than a dozen appeals, including two that reached the U.S. Supreme Court, upheld the conviction, O’Connor wrote.

    In December, American University issued a news release saying it took no position on Peltier’s case, WTOP reported, but Sunday’s statement said a fuller review of the placement of the piece prompted its removal from the location in a garden along Ward Circle.

    “The subject matter and placement of the piece improperly suggested that American University has assumed an advocacy position of clemency for Mr. Peltier, when no such institutional position has been taken,” the statement said. “Further, the nature and location of the piece called into question our ability to honor our responsibilities to ensure the security of the art and the safety of our community.”

    Agents Coler and Williams took on fire when they attempted to pull over vehicle as they searched for a suspect, the Times reported. Peltier has admitted firing on the agents but maintains someone else fired the close-range, execution-style shots that killed them.

    Coler’s gun was found in a vehicle Peltier was traveling in after he was pulled over by a state trooper in Oregon months after the agents were killed, the Times reported. He was sentenced to two life sentences.