Leading her to the body, they ask: is this Arylis Peters?
was not happy to find Arylis Peters at her house.
Returning from a trip to Ukiah a short time before, the 59 year-old woman had spotted a crowd at the Covelo High School. She stopped; such a large gathering is rare in the little town, so small that there's only a single gas station.
Here she learned that someone had killed Gene Britton. Confronted by an angry group of Brittons, often accused of starting fights with members of her family, Lucille feared she may be dragged from the car and attacked. She hurried home, towards her house on remote Little Valley Road.
Unaware that Arylis was the shooter who killed Britton, Lucille told him that he couldn't stay because he was drunk. Back to her Chevy pickup, she drove the man down to Round Valley, to the home of one of his friends.
On the way home again, Lucille encountered a roadblock by sheriff's deputies, at the intersection where Henderson Lane becomes Little Valley Road, a one lane dirt road leading over the ridge. She tells the officer that she has just given Arylis Peters a ride and supplies the address, just a quarter-mile from the roadblock. The two deputies speed away in their 4x4 patrol vehicle.
About an hour after she has gone to bed, Lucille is awakened by her daughter and told that someone is firing guns at their house. Certain that the Britton crowd that confronted her at the High School are coming for revenge, she throws on a bathrobe and scoops the children into the truck, running for her life.
A short length down the road, her headlights catch the same Sheriff's Department 4x4 and other police vehicles. A body lies on the dirt road. Guns drawn, the police demand she step out of the car. Leading her to the body, they ask: is this Arylis Peters? She tells them no; it's Leonard, Arylis' brother.
The very next day, a slightly different story is told
the account of what happened that night by Lucille Lincoln, mother of Bear Lincoln. The authorities have a version, too. Only that account has changed.
The deputies, George Robert "Bob" Davis and Dennis Miller, stopped Lucille at the crossroads, and followed her directions to the house where she had left Arylis. He wasn't there. New orders came from the dispatcher to move farther up the road, towards the direction of Lucille's house.
In a press release released the Monday after the killings of Leonard Peters and Deputy Bob Davis, the deputies were driving up Little Valley Road when they "came upon a man carrying a rifle." Ordered to drop the weapon, the man instead began shooting. The deputies returned fire, killing Leonard Peters.
Moments later, gunfire erupted from the bushes; Deputy Davis is dead.
But the very next day, a slightly different story is told -- only not to the public. Sonoma County investigators Gourley and Duenas question Deputy Miller and others in the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department to write a 30-page declaration for an arrest warrant. No one of the press knows this document exists until it is discovered by Ukiah Daily Journal reporter, Lois O'Rourke, weeks later.
Miller empties the magazine of the M-16
this report, their car is parked off the road. Davis, who regularly patrols the reservation, is describing who lives in this neighborhood to Miller, one of the reinforcements called in to find Arylis Peters.
Dogs begin to bark, and Davis warns his partner that someone is approaching. Deputy Davis slides out and shines a flashlight on a man walking up the road toward them, carrying a rifle. Repeatedly, Davis orders him to halt. Then: a muzzle flash as the man begins shooting at them. Miller and Davis return fire, and Miller radios for backup.
For a moment, all is quiet. Davis crawls to the side of the vehicle and tells his partner he might be shot. Miller radios for an ambulance.
Peeking outside to see if the shooter has fallen, Miller hears movement, and Davis believes someone is moving toward the back of the car, trying to outflank them. Both deputies run across the road towards a drop-off and the shelter of oak trees.
Davis wants to see if the man in the road is dead. As he bends over the body, there is a shot, then another. Miller returns with a burst from his partner's M-16.
Again, quiet. Miller sees Davis lean forward, then fall to the ground. At a silhouette, Miller fires two or three shots. Miller quickly calls in "officer down" on the radio, as sirens approach in the distance. Miller empties the magazine of the M-16 in the direction of sounds down the road, believed to be the shooter of Deputy Davis.
In the new version, only Lincoln shoots at the deputies
interesting points about this account: it does not indicate the position of the man who shot Deputy Davis. And although the police vehicle is parked on a fire trail off the road as Peters appears in plain view, it is still described as an "ambush"upon the deputies.
Some differences between the first account and the April 18 report are understandable. Likely there was no small measure of confusion as the Sheriff's Department urgently began to deploy forces in the manhunt of Bear Lincoln. In both, Leonard Peters fires the first shot, and Davis is killed by a sniper in the bushes.
This version prevailed until the airing of "America's Most Wanted" on Saturday, May 27th. Tuso revealed a new account for the popular national television program. Now the deputies see two men walking up the road and only one of them -- Bear Lincoln -- is blasting away at the deputies.
The Anderson Valley Advertiser and conservative Ukiah Daily Journal both questioned this new story. Sheriff Tuso answered the charges by saying the TV show had the story right, and the local media had had it wrong for the previous six weeks.
Would a highly trained officer expose himself to such risk
But, in fact,
there are serious problems with both of the offical versions. In the most significant difference between the two, the first account has Leonard Peters firing at the deputies.
Because of his diabetes, Leonard Peters was a blind man at night. Even in full daylight his eyes were failing him, and he bore much good-natured kidding about his deteriorating hunting skills as his vision grew worse. Cyndi Pickett, Peters' domestic partner, believes he was unarmed, and likely carrying a walking stick.
Although authorities have a lever-action Winchester .30-.30 rifle belonging to Peters, Lucille Lincoln and other witnesses who came upon the shooting scene saw no gun near Peters' body. A check of the scene after law enforcement departed showed painted outlines indicating the locations of the bodies and of each spent round of ammunition, but there was no outline to indicate a weapon near Peters' body. According to the police report, no spent casings from a .30-.30 were found, but an unfired bullet was noted.
Pickett -- who was on a school field trip the night of the shootings -- returned home the next day to find the home she shared with Peters ransacked. She charges that deputies broke into the house and took the gun.
Also curious is the logic of the police account, which has Deputy Davis moving from cover to check on the body lying in the road. Would a highly trained officer expose himself to such risk if they knew another gunman was in the vicinity -- and particularly with backup expected in a few moments? And why would Bear Lincoln stay lurking in the bushes after his friend is killed, knowing that he faces two officers, one armed with an automatic rifle?
Davis sometimes called "Covert Bob" by fellow deputies
questions is still another mystery yet to be explored: what exactly does the ballistic evidence show about the positions of deputies Miller and Davis? And why were Leonard Peters and Bear Lincoln walking down that road?
Cyndi Pickett believes Leonard was afraid of violence from the Britton family -- his brother, Arylis, had killed Gene Britton, just four hours earlier. Leonard visited his friend Bear Lincoln on Little Valley Road, and the two of them were probably walking to the home of Bear's cousin to obtain a ride to Leonard's home, far on the other side of the reservation.
Some believe they walked into a police ambush, possibly unarmed.
In this scenario, Davis moves to the other side of the road when they hear someone coming. Hiding in the scrub brush, he is almost directly across from the car; anyone walking up the road will be flanked on both sides.
To support this theory, critics point to Davis' military past. Deputy Davis -- trained as a Navy Seal commando and who saw combat service in Vietnam, Beirut, and Grenada -- was sometimes called "Covert Bob" by fellow deputies, because he enjoyed surveillance and liked to drive around the Reservation at night with the lights out.
Also curious are bullet holes in an oak tree, not far behind where Peters died. The angle of these holes suggest someone was shooting from the side of the road, towards Peters -- or Davis, if the deputy was killed leaning over the body. But while Deputy Miller stated that only two shots were fired at his partner, evidence suggests much heavier shooting. Investigators removed a large area from the tree with a chain saw, apparently because the tree was peppered with bullets.
A final question must be raised about the death of Deputy Davis. Residents near the scene heard multiple bursts of automatic weapons fire, and some neighbors report cars roaring up the road before the sound of heavy gunfire began. Critics suggest that the slain deputy could have been killed by "friendly fire." Half of his head visibly blown off, consistent with a high-velocity rifle bullet -- such as the M-16 wielded by his partner Miller, and others in the Sheriff's Department.
outset, Sheriff Tuso has been defensive and hostile towards anyone who questions his actions -- at Round Valley or anywhere else in Mendocino County. But the questions remain.
Justice demands that we look at these details and insist that they be addressed at Bear Lincoln's trial -- a trial that promises to be Mendocino County's highest profile and most highly charged criminal trial in recent memory.
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