Albion Monitor /News

Tension High in Round Valley

by Mark Heimann

New shooting has many residents armed

The latest ambush to rock the Round Valley community took place on the night of Friday, October 13th as Elvin Pink Peters, brother of Leonard Acorn Peters who was slain by sheriff's deputies in April, was wounded by assailants.

Peters and three friends had just gotten out of their car when four men approached and opened fire with rifles and handguns. Peters was immediately struck in both legs, knocking him to the ground. Dragged to their car by his friends, the group tried to escape as shooting continued, the bullets kicking up sparks on the pavement. Firing continued as they fled, the gunmen shooting out both rear tires of their vehicle.

Friends and family have requested police protection for Peters, now in stable but guarded condition at a Willits hospital, but both the local police and sheriff's department have refused, citing budget constraints. According to supporters, one of the men believed to be one of the shooters was seen entering Peters' hospital room, but ran when confronted by Peters' friends. Supporters are maintaining a 24-hour watch over the man.

While Peters did not recognize his assailants, others in the car and in the neighborhood did. Witnesses were reluctant to make statements to the police for fear of retaliation and out of a general mistrust of the sheriff's department following the April killings. Many feel that local law-enforcement has a long history of siding with the very people suspected of committing the crime.

Tensions in Round Valley are at an explosive level. Many homes have rifles stacked by the front door, or handguns within easy reach. Weapons can be seen in cars parked at area stores, and some are carrying concealed guns; more than one person can be found walking down the street with tell-tale bulges under their clothing.

Asked if supporters are arming themselves for a revenge shooting, one of the men with Peters that night said, "That is not the way of the Indian People. The people who did this are ashamed of being Indian. That is not our way. We are proud of our heritage and we will not lower ourselves to their level, but we will defend ourselves against attack."

While Peters' assailants are still at large and many in the valley armed for war, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department has only one deputy in the area, with backup over an hour away. A second deputy was transferred out of the area at his own request. Members of the Department have loudly complained that they are understaffed because of low pay.

Grand Jury indictment of Bear Lincoln

The shooting of Peters came two days after the District Attorney convened a Grand Jury to indict Bear Lincoln for the deaths of Deputy Davis and Leonard Peters.

The Grand Jury indictment takes the place of a preliminary hearing, where the defense could have cross-examined witnesses and presented evidence which would show the defendant's innocence.

The District Attorney is required by law to present the Jury with any exulpatory evidence it has, but this is very rarely done, according to attorney J. Tony Serra, Lincoln's lead attorney. "I seriously doubt if the Grand Jury was presented with the evidence of a police coverup."

With the case now in Superior Court, the eight weeks of hearings in Municipal Court were negated. Lincoln's attorneys had to start over again, with new motions for arraignment proceedings, attorney appointment, and hearing for a gag order.

Gag Order, Civil Suit Filed

by Nicholas Wilson

The media portrayed Lincoln and others as "tribal, not quite civilized, and beset by alcohol and their own violence"

The rationale behind the gag order is to prevent "pollution of the jury pool," meaning prejudicing the public in a way that would make it impossible to find an unbiased jury, and making a change of venue necessary. Defense lawyer De Jong argued that law enforcement had six months of unlimited access to the media, conducted a military style memorial parade through Ukiah, and had gone on America's Most Wanted on national TV to say that Lincoln was a convicted felon and was armed and dangerous.

The defense said that, now that the prosecution side had been thoroughly covered by the press, that the DA wanted to silence the defense. District Attorney Susan Massini argued that even if it was wrong for the law enforcement to try the case in the media, it would also be wrong for the defense case to be similarly released, and "two wrongs don't make a right."

According to a Ukiah Daily Journal story, an expert retained by the defense says the damage has already been done. Chico State University Professor Edward Bronson said Lincoln has little hope of a fair trial in Mendocino County.

In his report Bronson said the media had portrayed Lincoln and other Indians in the case as "tribal, not quite civilized, and beset by alcohol and their own violence." The media had described Lincoln as an armed and dangerous felon. The media portrayed the slain deputy as a war hero and defender of the community. Bronson wrote, "It is good versus evil; John Wayne against the brutish red men."

Bronson cited the massive manhunt, the $100,000 reward offered by Gov. Pete Wilson, and the America's Most Wanted coverage. The defense sent Bronson 142 newspaper articles published from April 15 to June 15 in local papers.

In related news, a civil rights claim was filed for damages for alleged racially motivated mistreatment and civil rights violations against residents of the Round Valley Indian Reservation by law enforcement officers in the aftermath of the killings of two Native Americans and a deputy sheriff on April 14, 1995.

The claim alleges that law enforcement assaulted the Lincoln family and conducted a campaign of mass punishment agains the Lincoln and Peters families and their associates, and others, in the period after the deputy was slain.

Before a lawsuit can be filed, a claim such as the following must be presented to and rejected by the parties alleged to be responsible for the wrongs. Note that this claim is for the named claimants and "all others similarly situated," and is a prelude to a class-action suit to be filed in state and federal courts if, as expected, the claims are denied by the respondent agencies. Since there are approximately 55 named claimants, and since the damages claimed are $100,000 plus $100,000 punitive damages for each claimant, the potential total damages sought will be at least $11,000,000.

Albion Monitor October 30, 1995 (

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