Rumors told of vigilantes riding the ridgetops on horseback looking for the fugitive
citizens of Round Valley know well the routine: police lights in the rearview mirror, then a stern voice ordering them from the car, guns drawn. Such confrontations are commonplace, Natives charge, particularly after dark. But for the weeks after the death of Deputy Davis, the Indians of Round Valley were under siege.
Upwards of fifty homes were searched without warrants, police entering with M-16s and riot shotguns at the ready. Residents were told that if they did not allow police to search their homes, they would return with a warrant -- and if they "found something," residents would not be allowed to return. Many people still did not give permission. The police searched anyway.
While many of the adults were at a press conference on the Tuesday following the killings, the police questioned children left at home at gunpoint. Soon families began sending their children out of the area, fearing for their safety.
Residents living in the hills came to the valley floor to stay with friends and family, the hills being too dangerous. Besides the police combing the hills, rumors told of armed groups of white ranchers calling themselves a militia, riding the ridgetops on horseback looking for the fugitive. When they returned home, several found their homes ransacked. But by police or vigilantes? Impossible to answer, although Sheriff's Department spokesman Murray says he has not heard of any white posses operating in the hills of Covelo.
CHP officers sprang from their cars with guns drawn, ordering her to "get out of the line of fire"
the Lincoln and Peters families were routinely followed, and most interrogated by gun-wielding policemen.
Lucille Lincoln, the crippled, 59-year old mother of Bear Lincoln, was stopped on her way to Ukiah, the week after the slayings. Two highway patrol cars pulled her over and ordered everyone out of the pickup at gun point. The Lincolns were forced to kneel on the pavement while police demanded to know where Bear was.
Perry Eugene Lincoln, Bear Lincoln's nephew, his wife and two infant children were detained and questioned three times by local law enforcement.
The first stop occurred in Ukiah, as the family walked down the street shortly after the killings. Perry Lincoln was taken to the County Jail and interrogated until 2:00 AM.
The second stop was three weeks after killings. Lincoln and his family were leaving a market in Fort Bragg when they saw that they were being followed by police. Returning to the parking lot in their battered old Dodge pick-up, Lincoln wanted the relative safety of dozens of witnesses. Six carloads of police converged, ordering them out of the truck at gunpoint. Laying face-down on the pavement and handcuffed, the police detained the terrified family for more than two hours, as dozens of curious shoppers looked on. Only after much pleading was Mrs. Lincoln released from restraints to tend to her infant children.
The third stop happened as the Lincolns were driving north on highway 101. Not far north of Leggett, Perry Lincoln noticed a California Highway Patrol car following him. It was soon joined by another and the two cars moved up to box the ancient Dodge in, one behind, the other alongside. Lincoln, knowing what was coming, pulled into the small commercial area of Piercy. He didn't want to stop alongside the road where there were would likely be no witnesses. The CHP officers sprang from their cars with guns drawn, ordering Mrs. Lincoln to "get out of the line of fire" and kneel on the pavement. After she complied, Mr. Lincoln was ordered to do likewise.
Lincoln recalled the questioning: "It was pretty much the same as Fort Bragg. They had a Xerox copy of Bear's picture. It had been copied so many times that it didn't look very good. They said I looked like him and the names were the same. I told them the same thing I told them in Fort Bragg. If you can check the registration of the truck you can check further. I'm in their computer. They didn't have to do that."
Did Perry Lincoln think the CHP knew the difference between him and his famous uncle, Bear?
"Yeah," Perry says, resigned but very unhappy with the harassment aimed at him, "I think they knew that. They searched our truck and asked all the same questions they had in Fort Bragg, like, 'Where's he at?' and 'Why don't I tell them. Am I transporting him? Am I going to pick him up?' All the same, dumb questions. It's like I'm guilty until proven innocent. I think if it had happened out on the road, it might be a different situation. Maybe they would kick us around. Maybe they would shoot us. Who knows what they would do when they're pointing a gun at your head?"
Sheriff Tuso, asked about the repeated stops of Perry Lincoln, called Perry and Bear "lookalikes." Perry has black shoulder length hair. Bear's hair is light brown and short. Bear has a very light complexion, while Perry is dark. Bear Lincoln is two inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than Perry Lincoln.
As another Lincoln, Pat, quipped, "They think we all look alike."
A 95-year-old man was stopped for driving too slowly, dragged from his truck and manhandled
had four deputies come to his home with a warrant for his arrest. Scribner, who was not at home at the time, said the warrant was for failure to appear in court for the crime of not having a front license plate. "I got a ticket last year for speeding," said Scribner, "but I've never gotten a ticket for that. You would have to take a hacksaw to get the front plate off that old car. The warrant didn't even have the name of my street on it, just the house number and my name."
The front plate was firmly attached to the bumper of Scribner's car and had long since taken the shape of the bumper.
Scribner's neighbor, who is white, came out to talk with the police. They all immediately cocked their guns -- two M-16s and two shotguns -- when she approached and pointed them at her. She asked the cops to put their guns away and was told, "We're here to make a point."
Scribner, upon learning the police were looking for him, went to the Sheriff's Command Post at the forestry station where he was presented with the warrant and arrested. He was held there for seven hours with eight other people being taken to Ukiah for booking. They were not given water nor allowed to use the bathroom. A woman had wet herself by the time she reached Ukiah.
s A 95-year-old man was stopped for driving too slowly, dragged from his truck and manhandled while being questioned as to the whereabouts of Bear Lincoln. The senior citizen was released with no citation issued.
Gene Winterhawk Lincoln, a minor, was arrested at his home for an alleged probation violation while his parents were at the press conference. When this reporter accompanied the boy's grandmother to sheriff's headquarters to check on his welfare, we were told by deputies that he had already been transported to Ukiah. He was, in fact, locked in the sheriff's van nearby, and he said he watched as the police told us he wasn't there and sent us away.
Crews from KUKI and KMUD radio were also told the boy wasn't there and that the press was not allowed access to the command post.
As a result of such complaints, the Round Valley Tribal Council voted unanimously (with one abstention) for a federal investigation of Sheriff Tuso's forces of occupation. The Tribal Council is a conservative body known for acting with cautious deliberation. The fact that the Council called for an investigation within five days of the killings is an indication of how alarming police behavior in the Native American community was, and how Native Americans feared more innocent persons were likely to be harmed unless the police were reined in.
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