As Bob Newbrook listened this week to the extradition case of a man sought in the killing of a Canadian native activist, he had special reason to be interested.
While the B.C. court heard the grim details of the murder of Anna Mae Aquash, he was thinking of another case with ties to a shootout between militant American Indians and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In 1976, Mr. Newbrook, then a police officer, arrested Leonard Peltier, an American Indian Movement member who has since become an international symbol of perceived injustice. At the time, Mr. Peltier was just another fugitive, a man on the run accused of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation, near Wounded Knee, S.D.
Mr. Newbrook thought he was bringing a cold-blooded cop killer to justice. But now he feels he supported an injustice.
"I regret what happened," he said outside British Columbia Supreme Court yesterday, where a judge is hearing an extradition case against John Graham, an AIM member who is sought on a murder charge in connection with a separate incident at Pine Ridge.
Mr. Newbrook said he's worried another injustice will occur if Mr. Graham, who was born in Whitehorse, is returned to the United States to be tried in the slaying of Ms. Aquash.
A 30-year-old Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia, Ms. Aquash was shot at the Pine Ridge in 1975, allegedly because AIM members suspected she was an FBI informer.
Mr. Newbrook, a stocky man with a shock of white hair who is now a financial adviser in Langley, B.C., was a police officer in Hinton, Alta., in February of 1976, when a national bulletin advised Canadian law-enforcement agencies to look for Mr. Peltier.
Mr. Peltier had fled after a shootout between dozens of armed Indians and the FBI at Pine Ridge in June, 1975, that left two agents and one AIM member dead.
Mr. Newbrook thought an Indian activist on the run might just head for Smallboy's Camp, a traditional wilderness retreat natives had set up along the Brazeau River.
"We drove up to Smallboy's Camp really just for the hell of it," he said. "When we pulled up, there were three natives standing there by the side of the road. I jumped out and started to talk to them. One was really nervous and I had a gut feeling he was trying to bluff things out. I didn't know what Leonard Peltier looked like, but I just said, 'You're Peltier, aren't you?' "
When the man nodded in confirmation, Mr. Newbrook felt a chill run through him.
"Remember, I'm a cop thinking 'He's killed two FBI agents and my gun is still in my holster.' "
Mr. Peltier was taken to the Hinton lockup. Early the next morning a couple of vehicles pulled up outside. RCMP officers were in one, men in plain clothes in the other.
"One guy said he was FBI and told me to keep this quiet. We handed him over and watched them drive away."
Mr. Peltier was quickly extradited, largely on the basis of an affidavit that has since been discredited, and he has spent the past 27 years in a U.S. jail after being convicted on two murder charges.
Over the years, Mr. Newbrook has spent a lot of time reading court transcripts and examining FBI documents. He's convinced that Mr. Peltier was extradited illegally and that he didn't get a fair trial in the United States.
He fears the same could happen to Mr. Graham. "This is another frame-up by the FBI."
In court, Deborah Strachan, a federal Justice Department lawyer, has painted a grim picture of Ms. Aquash's murder, relying on a summary of statements provided by the United States that includes one from Arlo Looking Cloud, who says he and Mr. Graham marched Ms. Aquash up a ravine, and Mr. Graham shot her in the head as she prayed.