UKIAH, CA -- Immediately after
Judge John J. Golden lifted a total gag order September 30, Bear Lincoln was interviewed on the courthouse steps by Monitor reporter Nicholas Wilson, Anderson Valley Advertiser reporter Mark Heimann, and Ukiah Daily Journal reporter Dan McKee.
Q: How did you feel during the trial as it went along; how did you think it was going?
Lincoln: Every day I counted a victory for the defense, even when the prosecution was putting on their case. I was really confident all the way through. I really weighed the whole situation before I turned myself in what kind of case there was.
Q: You mean you had enough confidence in the legal system to feel you would get a fair trial?
Lincoln: Well, no, I didn't, actually, I didn't have much confidence in it at all. But I knew Tony Serra, and when I heard he was offering his services, then I started considering turning myself in. But before, as far as having any confidence in the sheriff's department and all, I wouldn't even discuss surrendering.
Q: You mean based on your own previous personal experience?
Lincoln: Yeah. I didn't even want to think about that; it's not up for discussion.
Q: Is that based on what you think of how they would treat just anybody off the street, or Native Americans in particular?
Lincoln: Particularly regarding me and why they were looking for me. I mean they would have just shot me on sight, and there's no doubt about that. I'd be a fool not to think that.
Q: How many jury tampering attempts were there that came out?
A: Well, the last one was the juror whose wife was arrested in Willits, and the prosecution tried to get him off the jury, which took place in a closed session. Before that the first one was deputy VanCamp telling the potential juror that I had confessed. Then there was the woman and two kids who approached the woman juror outside and said things in front of her. They tried to remove the same juror by saying she cried at the wrong time during the trial. There was one of the alternates whose co-worker called up the investigator for the prosecution and said she had talked to her about the case. That makes five attempts to influence the jury that I know of.
Q: How did you take deputy Al Tripp approaching you when you got out of jail?
Lincoln: I took that as a death threat. I didn't get to hear everything he said, but seeing him and his condition... For a second, I thought he might pull a gun out right then.
Q: Do you know anything about a 1973 shooting in which Tripp killed an Indian man?
Lincoln: Yeah, I remember it. His name was Glenn Willis. He was the great uncle of a young man who has come to court quite a bit. His relatives were eyewitnesses.
Q: What about the guy in jail from Round Valley that you wrote in a letter to the editor about being drugged while in custody?
Lincoln: That all really happened. David Valley was drugged; he was slobbering from both sides of his mouth when I came back that evening from court. He was locked down. It was 90 degrees in there but he had a blanket wrapped around him, and he was real paranoid and hallucinating a lot, just like somebody on real heavy drugs. He said they had wires in the walls and they were listening to him and watching him, and stuff like that. I was just talking to the guy that morning and the day before, and we were just walking around and talking about the case, just like us here. But when I came back from court he was just not the same guy, you know, he was just gone. I'm surprised he recognized me he was so far gone.
Q: He wrote a letter to the AVA that was pretty specific about what he said he heard on the scanner the night of April 14, 1995.
Lincoln: He said he heard a lot of radio calls. He said he heard the shoot to kill order.
Q: What do you understand that to mean; you weren't a suspect until the next day, so was it shoot to kill whoever shot Davis?
Lincoln: I'm sure it was for me eventually. I'm not sure if there was that order that night, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was. They knew there was a suspect up there somewhere.
Q: Did anyone else hear a shoot to kill order that you know of?
Lincoln: I'm sure they did, but nobody wants to come forward because they're too afraid, you know.
Q: David Valley wrote that he heard Miller tell Sheriff Tuso on the cell phone that Davis was dead. He wrote that Miller asked Tuso what to do if they caught the shooter and Tuso said "Shoot him."
Lincoln: I think he got Miller mixed up with Tom Allman.
Heimann: I think it was Allman who made the cell phone calls.
Q: Was the law about gun possession by ex-felons different some years back?
Lincoln: Before '89, yeah.
Q: Until then an ex-felon could have a gun for hunting, right?
Lincoln: Yeah, a rifle or a shotgun; a long gun. Handguns were illegal. And then on the reservation, our laws are federal, and there's a question of jurisdiction.
Q: How were you treated in jail?
Lincoln: I thought I was treated good compared to what I had thought about before I went in. Because I thought that there was a strong possibility that I could be beaten to death. That's what I had to consider before I turned myself in. I told myself, this could happen. I decided to take the risk anyway. It was important that I get the story out. It was like I had to stand up and fight for Acorn, and speak on his behalf. It was something that had to be done. If I didn't come in and speak my piece then somebody would be getting away with a crime, premeditated murder.
Q: How do you feel about that, about Acorn's death?
Lincoln: Well, I couldn't run away from it, and that's what I would have been doing if I had run away to Canada or wherever, you know. It would have been on my mind every day, and it still is. But knowing that somebody got away with murdering him would have been hard to take.
Q: Do you think Miller should be charged in complicity with Acorn's death?
Lincoln: Something should be done.... Maybe so, I'd have to think about that.
Q: You don't think it's a real possibility that the D.A. is going to charge Miller?
Lincoln: No, no, I don't think so, but maybe the wrongful death suit will work out so that maybe his children can get some money; it would help them a lot. They're all real young, and I know that's what he'd like.
Q: Anything you want to say to readers?
Lincoln: The coverage really helped. When I was on the run I got to read an AVA, and it was really good for my morale to read people speaking on my behalf. When it started I was in this thing by myself, and that's pretty tough. When you read papers writing about "demon possessed cop-killer on the loose," you know, that's like a mad dog foaming at the mouth that needs to be killed, and they had the public believing that. So if they killed me the public would breathe a sigh of relief that they got that guy. That's really heavy, and that's not the way it was. Well, the jury believed my version of what happened, which was the truth. The AVA stood by the facts that they dug up, and could see something was wrong right from the beginning. That really helped and made me happy and was good for my spirit.
Q: Any comments to the people worldwide who have followed your case in the Albion Monitor?
Lincoln: My defense team was great. Everybody worked real hard to get where it is. Spreading the word about the case is real good, and I'm glad people took notice and became concerned. It was important to me and the rest of the people who live here and are affected by this law enforcement community. It's a big problem that we've got to address, but the worst of it is over now. I believe they've changed a lot because what happened was really devastating for both sides. I think people are ready for trying to do something new, to communicate and have good relations. Otherwise, it could happen again, and there may be people out there who want it to happen again, you know.
Q: Do you think the sheriff's department has learned anything?
Lincoln: I think they've learned a lot. All of us have. Once they get over their bitterness -- some of them may never, but some of them will -- that's when good things will come in, new positive ideas for them, training, counseling, whatever.
Q: Where can people write to you now?
Lincoln: P.O. Box 795, Covelo, 95428.
Q: Do you intend to write more about your case.
Lincoln: Yes, I want to keep writing, so I'll be sending you guys stuff. I haven't written anything in more than a month because I got kind of caught up in the trial.
Q: Anything else?
Lincoln: I just want to thank the readers, the ones that sent in all the good letters to the editor. They all gave some real nice compliments. It was real good for my morale in jail to read some of that. All the communication helped. I didn't get to answer all of my letters that people sent me. The trial slowed me down a lot, but now that it's over I hope to catch up.
Q: Did you get some letters from far away?
Lincoln: Yes, I did. I got some from Germany, South America, New Orleans, different states on the east coast. I got some e-mail also. It was real good, it kept me busy.
Q: What are your plans for the next couple of months?
Lincoln: I'm going to be up in the hills taking care of my horses, but I'll be coming here to Ukiah a lot for business, like meeting with groups. I intend to be at the Coyote Valley Rancheria on Thursdays once in a while for the sweat lodge ceremony they have up there. I went last Thursday and told them I'd be coming back. Just meeting with groups and helping people out whenever I can. I want to give some of my time back to the people; they've done so much for me. Whatever I can do to help work things out and come up with peaceful solutions between the Indian community and the law enforcement community. I'm open to do what I can.
Albion Monitor October 3, 1997 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)
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