The Legacy of Bobby Gene Garcia
The first conspiracy I ever heard about was that of my uncle, Bobby Gene Garcia. Because his case is linked to Leonard Peltier and the FBI, it’s difficult to find a lot of verifiable information out there, but I’m in search of the truth, however messy it turns out to be. My uncle was a prisoner, a Chicano poet and a member of the American Indian Movement, and I have reason to believe he was murdered.
“The U.S. Government will kill me
in their Iron Houses where they have killed many
Warriors before me…”
-Taken from the poem “They Took The Typewriter Today” by Bobby Gene Garcia- November 8, 1980, one month before his death.
Prison escapes are legendary in popular culture. Professor Frankie Y. Bailey writes extensively about why America is captivated by the notion of freedom. Reading her work about justice brings me a sense of righteous anger. It is my fuel as I uncover the cruel backstory to the family lore that sparked my interest in true crime and activism. This story isn’t cut and dry, but neither is justice in America.
In 1979, Uncle Bobby was living out his days in Lompoc Federal Prison, writing yearning poems of hope and agitating for the American Indian Movement. As he grew closer to Leonard Peltier, a leader of AIM, his writings and identity became increasingly political. Together with a man named Dallas Thundershield, they held monthly sanctioned meetings under the name the Tribe of Five Feathers. On the hot summer night of one of these gatherings, they initiated an escape plan. It started with a fire alarm triggered by burning mattresses and blankets inside the cells of Peltier and Thundershield. It was 9:25 pm. The distraction gave the three men time enough to climb the two barbed security fences, but Thundershield was almost immediately shot and killed by a tower guard. Bobby kept running but was found in the unforgiving California brush within two hours. He’d gotten less than a mile from his cell. Until dawn, the search continued for Peltier, but he was not captured again until a few days later.
The next 18 months are shrouded in mystery. We know from interviews and published books on the subject that a comrade named Standing Deer begged for medical and legal protection when he learned that Bobby had been thrown without warning into the hole, a type of cruel solitary confinement. Standing Deer wrote his plea a mere five days before my uncle’s death. Coordinating communications within a prison means that much of Bobby’s testimonio about this time period is unrecoverable. The official ruling is that Bobby Gene Garcia died by his own hand.
There is a giant mural on our Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center of Leonard with the hashtag #freeleonard scrawled across the top in thick black letters. Peltier is still imprisoned. A book about his case was mired in legal controversy for nearly a decade as various government figures tried to block its publication and release. That book is available under the title In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.
NOTE: I pieced this story together from family members, conspiracy websites, and newspaper articles. I have left out the backstory of Uncle Bobby’s personal life and why he was in prison because I recognize that it is a problematic and painful story for the people who are still living. I am seeking grants and other avenues to pursue the story of what happened to Bobby. If you have information, connections, leads, or feedback, find me at docbunny.com or on Twitter at bunny.the.doc.