In a tribute 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."

'That’s first-degree murder': Lakota father seeks justice for son slain by police officer

Protest march scheduled for May 12
Clarence Leading Fighter, 32, was shot and killed inside a church in Nebraska

Reynold Richard wants answers, and he wants justice for his slain son.

The 63-year-old Oglala Lakota man plans to hold accountable those who killed Clarence Leading Fighter.

He plans to do so on May 12, when he will join other Native activists for a protest march in Rushville, Nebraska, where his son was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy on April 14 inside a church.

“We met the sheriff, but it seemed like he wasn’t cooperating or he was holding things back,” Richard told Indianz.Com on Wednesday.

He said he has learned very few details from authorities about the events that led to his son’s death more than two weeks ago.

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

The Nebraska State Patrol is 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 State Patrol in a news release shortly after the shooting.

The shooting 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 Pine Ridge Reservation -- where authorities found a woman 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.

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
Eileen Goodkill: "RIP my beloved nephew ... you were on one of my joy of life it was so awesome to be part of your life"

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

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.”

Richard said he requested the autopsy report for his son’s body, but was told he would have to get it in Scottsbluff.

#NativeLivesMatter: Native Americans are more likely to be killed by law enforcement

He said he plans to sue the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, city of Rushville and State Patrol for wrongful death and has received legal support from the Oglala Sioux Tribe to begin that process.

Richard said he was able to speak to a witness who saw his son get shot and was told Leading Fighter was shocked with a Taser gun before being shot inside the church during Sunday morning services.

“When he actually got Tased, he stiffened up and fell between the doors there,” Richard said. “So once he fell, it seems like they could have just handcuffed him or something there because they already Tased him. But the officer that was closest to him took a step back, shot him twice.”

“That’s first-degree murder right there because he intentionally did it.”

He said his son suffered from a mental disability and functioned at a third-grade level.

“He was a kid that his feelings got hurt, real easy on anything,” Richard said.

Leading Fighter, who was a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, grew up mostly in Scottsbluff, though he moved around a lot as an adult.

Most recently, he had been living in Rushville with his girlfriend, the woman whom police found with a broken arm the morning Leading Fighter was shot and killed. Despite authorities’ attempts to blame Leading Fighter for his girlfriend’s broken arm, Richard said his son’s girlfriend told him she had actually broken her arm several days earlier.

“They just pinned that on Clarence … so they can cover themselves,” he said.


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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