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Bear Lincoln Jailed in New Shooting Incident

by Nicholas Wilson

More than 20 officers, mostly deputies, were sent to Round Valley to look for Lincoln
Bear Lincoln, who was acquitted three years ago of murdering a deputy sheriff, surrendered to Mendocino County authorities Tuesday and was charged in new shooting incidents on the Round Valley Indian Reservation at Covelo. No one was injured.

At a court hearing April 12, Bear Lincoln's bail was reduced to $30,000, and June 1 was set as the date for a preliminary hearing on the charges against him. Lincoln's attorney Phil DeJong told Monitor today he expected Lincoln to be freed on bond today. A condition of bail was that Lincoln must stay away from Round Valley, where he lives, pending resolution of the case. DeJong said he would be staying with friends in the Bay Area.

Mendocino District Attorney Norman Vroman told Monitor that Bear Lincoln was named as the shooter by two witnesses in two incidents about 1AM Tuesday, March 21. He said he didn't know if a gun was recovered, but didn't think so. Lincoln was charged with three felonies: two counts of shooting into an occupied dwelling and one count of child endangerment. In a negotiated deal, Lincoln was allowed to drive from Round Valley with his attorney Phil DeJong to Mendocino County jail in Ukiah where was held in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Lincoln was in jail for over two years pending trial on the 1995 charges for which he was found not guilty. After time for preparation, there will be a preliminary hearing where the prosecution presents evidence supporting the charges, and the defense can challenge that evidence and present evidence of innocence. Then the judge will decide whether the evidence justifies holding Lincoln to answer to the charges at trial.

on 1995 Bear Lincoln case
A call to the Sheriff's Office from Round Valley at 1:06AM reported shots fired into the home of Lincoln acquaintance where children were present. When deputies arrived, they heard shots fired at the nearby home of Bear Lincoln's cousin Pat Lincoln.

More than 20 officers, mostly deputy sheriffs, were sent to Round Valley to look for Lincoln, and Sheriff Tony Craver and District Attorney Norman Vroman went there early Tuesday morning to personally oversee the tense situation. Willits police, District Attorney's investigators and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officers also took part, Sheriff's Department spokesman Capt. Kevin Broin said.

The massive police presence recalled the tense 1995 manhunt in Round Valley when police searched for Lincoln following the fatal shootings of Lincoln's friend Leonard "Acorn" Peters and Deputy Bob Davis. Lincoln was charged with capital murder of Davis in that case, but was acquitted. Most jurors said they did not believe Lincoln's bullet struck Davis, and that in any case Lincoln had fired in self-defense after Davis and another deputy opened fire without warning on Peters and Lincoln. Lincoln's acquittal after two years of massive prejudicial publicity against him left many, especially some law enforcement officers, feeling he had gotten away with killing a cop.

The unresolved hostility against Lincoln by some in law enforcement and the animosity against him and his family by members of the Britton family -- whose patriarch, Gene Britton, was killed by a friend of Lincoln that same deadly April 15, 1995 -- caused some Lincoln supporters to fear he was in danger of a revenge attack.

There had been several incidents of violence against Lincoln and Peters family members while Lincoln was in jail for two years awaiting trial. They included shooting into occupied dwellings of Lincoln family members and the deliberate shooting in both legs of Pink Peters, brother of Acorn Peters. Neither of these shootings was ever charged or prosecuted.

Capt. Broin said the situation was handled much differently this time than in 1995. Sheriff Craver and D.A. Vroman took charge and were able to quickly negotiate a deal for Lincoln to turn himself in peacefully.

But others saw some similarities to 1995. Cyndi Pickett, a friend of Lincoln's, told Monitor she saw a number of officers who were heavily armed and wearing SWAT-style camouflage gear. She said she, Lincoln's sister and a male friend of Lincoln's were pulled over at 4:30 AM and ordered out of their car at gunpoint by five or six officers. Pickett said she had been awakened by a phone call at 3:30 AM from Lincoln's mother, who told her the police were searching for Bear and asked her to go look out for his safety. When questioned about Lincoln's whereabouts by police, Pickett told them she was looking for him but was not likely to get very close if she was being followed by law enforcement. She was allowed to go on her way, and soon located Lincoln. Shortly after, she spoke to Sheriff Craver and helped arrange for negotiations to begin, she said.

If convicted, Lincoln faces a long prison sentence
District Attorney Vroman told Monitor the $500,000 bail is justified by the very serious charges, and that a young girl could have been injured when a bullet shattered a window over the bed where she was sleeping at Pina's home. He added that under Prop. 4 he would be asking for denial of bail if Lincoln is held to answer to the charges after a preliminary hearing. "I don't care whether his name is Bear Lincoln or Joe Smith," Vroman remarked, "if he does something like that we're going to ask for the highest bail we can get. It's obvious he's a danger to the community." He added that, if convicted, Lincoln faces a long prison sentence.

When it was pointed out that a number of previous shootings into occupied dwellings of Lincoln family members and the deliberate wounding of Pink Peters had gone uncharged, Vroman said that happened before he took office.

Asked if it was normal to send over 20 police officers to the reservation to investigate the shootings, Vroman said he and Craver were aware of the "volatile situation" there, and therefore he did not find it unusual at all to send that many officers. "The fact that we didn't have to use them is very good, but needing them and not having them there, that's no good."

When KMUD news noted the rarity of both the sheriff and D.A. personally supervising the situation and asked why they did it, Vroman responded: "Well I think it's obvious; Bear Lincoln has a history of being involved with law enforcement, and he was at one time accused of killing a deputy sheriff, and was acquitted of those charges. We didn't want any allegations of the police taking the law into their own hands and somehow Mr. Lincoln getting hurt or shot as a result of that. Not that I think that would happen, but we didn't want that to happen. So we did everything we could to prevent that and it worked." Vroman said their main worry was that the shooting victims might retaliate against Lincoln, "and we'd have an all-out war; that was our fear."

Sheriff Craver said he was very happy the day ended peacefully, and he appreciated that Lincoln agreed to surrender. "We didn't need to be out there searching for him in the middle of the night," Craver said according to KMUD. The 1995 shootings took place in darkness when two deputies were on stake out looking for the shooter in another killing earlier that evening.

Asked for comment on the handling of the incident, Vroman told Monitor, "Both Tony and I are very happy that this went down in such a fashion that nobody's rights got trampled, nobody got injured, and it was a very well-run project. It went the way things are supposed to go."

Home shooting incident began 1995 events leading to deaths of three
One of the two witnesses identifying Lincoln was asked by Cyndi Pickett, a close friend of Lincoln, how he could be sure the shooter was Bear Lincoln. She said the man replied that he recognized Lincoln's car and voice. If accurate, that implies that Lincoln was not actually seen by the witness. Pickett said the man and Lincoln probably had known each other all their lives and she thought they got along, but another source told Monitor she thought the two had some kind of "feud" going recently. This witness identifying Lincoln was also convicted a few years ago of assaulting a former Anderson Valley Advertiser reporter covering the Lincoln case.

The home of Bear's cousin Pat Lincoln was the location of the second of the two shooting incidents. It was also where, three years earlier while Bear was in jail awaiting trial, Pat had fired a shot which struck Bear's mother's vehicle as she drove by. Pat had been among the early leaders of Bear's supporters following the 1995 killings, but he was fired by Bear after a dispute over money. While in jail for shooting at Bear's mother, who is his aunt, Pat passed a note to Bear saying the shooting had been meant as a joke, Pickett said.

According to Cora Lee Simmons of Round Valley Indians for Justice, it was a 1995 shooting into the home of Acorn Peters, allegedly by Neil Britton, that culminated in the tragic shootings that claimed three lives on April 15 that year. Peters' teenage son had been beaten up by Britton, Simmons said, and Britton followed that up with a drive-by shooting into Peters' home. But that time, no 20 officers were dispatched to investigate. Peters reported the shooting to authorities and had to make four separate requests for a deputy to come investigate before one finally did, Simmons said. The deputy pried the bullet from the wall, but Britton was not charged, nor anyone else.

Unresolved hostility over that incident led to Neil Britton's bloodying the nose of Acorn Peters at the Covelo gas station April 15, and in alcohol-fueled retaliation Peters' brother Arylis killed Neil Britton's father Gene a few hours later. Acorn Peters was killed a few hours after that by Deputy Davis, who apparently mistook him for his brother. A few minutes later Davis was killed by a shot fired either by Bear Lincoln in self defense or by Deputy Dennis Miller, by accident or by mistake in the darkness, the majority of the Lincoln jurors believed. Simmons said she felt sick over the latest events, and she felt some officers were eager for an excuse to retaliate against Lincoln. She said she was greatly relieved that nobody was hurt this time and that a negotiated peaceful surrender took place.

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Albion Monitor April 13, 2000 (

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