In a dedication shared on social media, Tristan Hartwell‎ said Clarence Leading Fighter "was a Lakota Water Protector who came to Standing Rock to protect the sacred." Hartwell said Leading Fighter "was murdered by the Nebraska State police in a Catholic Church" on April 14, 2019. "Our brother was shot in the back as he ran to what he thought would be safe. The priest saw he had no weapon."

Lakota man shot and killed by police officer inside a church

'He loved the culture. He cared about family'
Clarence Leading Fighter, 32, leaves behind a seven-year-old son

Clarence Leading Fighter didn’t stay in the same place for very long.

The 32-year-old Rosebud Sioux man would often travel between his father’s home in Denver, Colorado, and his mother’s home in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

He had grown up in Denver, away from his mother’s people, but had moved to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in recent years.

On April 14, Leading Fighter was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy inside a church in Rushville, Nebraska, during Sunday morning services.

Clarence Isadore "Chucky" Leading Fighter was shot and killed by a Sheridan County Sheriff’s Deputy in Rushville, Nebraska, on April 11, 2019. He was 32 years old. Courtesy photo

Nebraska authorities are now investigating the incident, though an initial investigation indicated the deputy who killed Leading Fighter was justified in his deadly use of force.

“Initial investigation indicates the deputy used deadly force to protect himself and the parishioners from potential serious harm,” the Nebraska State Patrol said in a news release.

The State Patrol is investigating the shooting, which occurred shortly after 11 a.m. April 14 in the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

The events leading to the shooting began earlier that morning at a home in Rushville -- not far from the reservation border -- where authorities found a victim with a broken arm. Shortly after, deputies found Leading Fighter at the church, and a deputy shot him a few minutes later. Leading Fighter died not long after that.

Nebraska State Law requires a grand jury to convene as well.

Dear friends, everyone who was at Mass is physically safe. Pray for all who were involved in the incident as well as those of us who were gathered for Mass. Such a terrible experience.

Posted by Immaculate Conception Church on Sunday, April 14, 2019

A close friend of Leading Fighter’s told Indianz.Com recently that Leading Fighter didn’t own a gun and she believes he had been shot twice in the back. She said an employee at a funeral home that handled his body told her he had been shot twice.

She said she believes her friend was simply trying to escape deputies at the time of the shooting and seeking shelter in a place where he thought he would be safe.

“He is a very compassionate man, respectable, helpful and a provider for his family,” she said. “He also liked to bead in his free time to make ends meet.”

The friend, whom Indianz.Com is not naming because she fears retaliation by law enforcement, said Leading Fighter would often accompany her to ceremonies like the sweat lodge and that he was a devoted father to his 7-year-old son.

“He loved the culture,” she said. “He cared about family.”

But Leading Fighter also liked to drink and would sometimes leave the reservation to get away from family and spend time with friends.

“Clarence doesn’t stay in one place for long,” she said. “He’s always on the go.”

RIP my beloved nephew Clarence LeadingFighter you were on one of my joy of life it was so awesome to be part of your life I'll always love & miss 💔😭😭

Posted by Eileen Goodkill on Saturday, April 20, 2019

#NativeLivesMatter

Native Americans are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

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