It was the close of one chapter in the saga and the opening of another: the search for the truth
Pier 5, San Francisco -- At the office of renowned criminal defense attorney, Tony Serra, overlooking the San Francisco Bay, Eugene "Bear" Lincoln gave himself over to the custody of the San Francisco Police Department last Wednesday, August 16th.
With the site of the 1972 occupation of Alcatraz Island by the American Indian Movement as a backdrop, the AIM anthem, Wesley Bad Heart Bull's song, was sung to the beating of a drum.
It was a solemn and emotional ceremony that saw the close of one chapter in the saga of Bear Lincoln and the opening of another: the search for the truth.
Lincoln, a Wylacki and Concow Indian from the Round Valley reservation in northeastern Menodcino County, had eluded capture for four months, despite a massive manhunt and a $100,000 reward.
Lincoln went on the run after it was reported that a shoot-to-kill order was issued by Mendocino County Sheriff Jim Tuso. Lincoln is charged with First Degree Murder in the April 14th death of Mendocino County Deputy Bob Davis. The incident also resulted in the death of Lincoln's lifelong friend, Leonard Acorn Peters at the hands of Sheriff's deputies.
Lincoln and his supporters maintain that Lincoln and Peters were ambushed by deputies as they walked up the road a quarter-mile from Lincoln's home.
Most of the press immediately complied, with the exception of two TV crews
In the manhunt
for Bear Lincoln following the killings, more than 50 police miscount complaints have been reported by Indians on the Round Valley reservation. The complaints include interrogation of children as young as two years old at the point of a gun and a terror campaign launched against the Lincoln and Peters family which saw Bear Lincoln's crippled mother, Lucille, thrown to the ground with an M16 to her head while deputies trashed her home.
Over 50 members of the press as well as an equal number of family and supporters were on hand to witness the return of Bear Lincoln. Attorney Tony Serra's paralegal and cultural attache Dennis Jennings lead the unique ceremony which opened with a song and a prayer. "It is a testimony to the strength and righteousness of Bear Lincoln's cause," said Jennings, "that he has evaded the law with the support of Indians, whites, Mexicans, Blacks...people of all races of Mendocino County throughout these months. I thank the children for feeding him."
But while the police, Tony Serra's legal team, and the family and friends of Bear Lincoln conducted themselves with dignity, the same could not be said for some members of the press.
In the ceremony preceding the appearance of Bear Lincoln, Dennis Jennings asked that TV cameras and recording devices be shut off while he led the group in prayer.
Most of the press immediately complied, with the exception of two TV crews. The videographers insisted that it was their right to film the ceremony. Jennings threatened to personally take the film from their cameras if they did not "turn it off, NOW!"
The TV people continued to argue until other members of the press offered to help Jennings "modify" the offending TV cameras.
We have cried out to the world: 'somebody help us.'
Attorney Tony Serra
then addressed the gathering. "My words will be brief and direct. In a few moments, Bear Lincoln will be here. He is not surrendering: he's challenging. He's submitting to the legal jurisdiction because he will be vindicated. Our perspective of the case is that Acorn was murdered and with Bear, there was an attempted murder. So we are not here submitting or surrendering. We're here challenging. We believe that we have a very strong case. We believe that when all the facts are out he will be vindicated. He will be found not guilty. This will be a historical symbol and we invite the litigation.
"The media are very significant in spreading the word. We welcome your continued support. We believe we have a true, righteous case, here. This is a case of one more episode in the continuing saga of genocide toward American Indians."
Bear Lincoln's cousin, Pat Lincoln, along with his wife Edwina Lincoln, have been instrumental in securing the services of Serra's law firm. Pat and Edwina are recognized leaders on the Round Valley reservation who have been active in reviving the traditional culture and religion of their people. Pat Lincoln spoke on behalf of his family and his community who have suffered at the hands of law enforcement.
"There are many things which have happened since April 14th. We have been persecuted by the police. There have been warrantless searches. Guns have been pulled on children. Our elders have been abused. We have cried out to the world: 'somebody help us.' Nothing has happened. Nothing.
"Now, they are after my cousin, Bear. They tried to kill him. The order was, 'shoot to kill.'
"Now Bear brings himself in. Hopefully, you can protect him. He comes to clear his name, to clear our family name. He comes like a man, like a warrior.
"Our brother Acorn was murdered. Who killed him? Why did they do it? On our own reservation, he was subjected to this. We are angry. It is just like it was in the 1800's.
"The police had us at gun point. We stayed in our homes in fear, guns to the heads of our children. Where is justice?"
San Francisco police displayed a dignified restraint
A door opened
at the back of the room and suddenly Lincoln was among his family and supporters. After four long months of fear and anxiety, expecting at any moment to hear of her son's death at the hands of police, Lucille Lincoln clutched Bear to her breast, sobbing quietly.
He was embraced in turn by his daughter, girlfriend, cousins, aunts and uncles. The S.F.P.D. displayed a dignified restraint, staying in the background at a respectful distance.
Lincoln then stepped to the microphone and delivered a brief statement: "Leonard Peters and myself were ambushed by the police. I'm here to prove my innocence in court."
A reporter asked, "Bear, we've heard the cop's story; when do we hear yours?"
Glancing skyward as if for guidance, Lincoln turned to the waiting police and was quickly escorted from the room.
"You're our hero, Bear! We love you, Bear," shouted his aunt as the room erupted in applause and yells of support. Lincoln's girlfriend Gabrielle Mounce broke down in tears as she expressed her worst fears. "They're going to hurt him. They'll kill him..."
This reporter helped a tearful Miss Mounce escape a pack of overaggressive press people, who seemed intent on exploiting her grief. One reporter was heard to say that his colleagues' behavior made him ashamed to be part of the press corps.
Bear Lincoln was transported to the Mendocino County jail Thursday, and will be arraigned in Superior Court Monday, the 21st of August.
Mark Heimann is a freelance investigative reporter in Mendocino County.
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