UKIAH, CA -- Next to testify
after Deputy Miller was Sgt. Thomas Allman, a patrol sergeant with the
Mendocino Sheriff's Dept., who was in charge at the scene of the Britton
shooting when he heard that a radio call of "11-99 on the hill" [officer
needs assistance] was made about 10 PM.
He and Deputy Jason Craver sped to the crossroads where he expected to find Miller and Davis. Surprised they weren't there, Allman and his partner continued up the hill, where they spotted the patrol car at the ridge crest.
In the courtroom Allman indicated the location of the police vehicles on an aerial photo of the scene. [It showed the Miller/Davis patrol car backed off the main road about two car lengths onto the fire trail, so that it was partly concealed from anyone approaching from Little Valley.]
The patrol car lights were out and the driver's door open but no one in view. Allman called out, "Dennis, Bob, where are you?" Miller's voice replied, "Bob's down, one in the bush."
Allman was overcome with grief and unable to continue for about a minute; Serra immediately asked for a recess to avoid exposing the jury to the emotional display, but the officer regained some control.
He told how he and Craver pulled Davis' body to a third patrol vehicle which had reached the scene. "I saw him take one or two breaths, and I said 'don't leave me,'" Allman said, barely able to speak the words. He radioed for an ambulance and helicopter, saying "11-99 on the hill, get medical aid up here quickly." Miller called out from the downhill side of the road, saying he needed more .223 caliber ammunition.
Allman got loaded magazines from two other officers on the scene, Deputy Tim Ellis and CHP Officer Clarence Holmes. Firing his .45 pistol for cover, he crossed the road and joined Miller in the brush below the road. After handing off two magazines, they spent a minute or two as Miller told him what had happened. A defense hearsay objection successfully blocked the details of what Miller said. Allman did testify that Miller was "probably calmer than I would have been. His demeanor was OK."
to the cool and controlled manner that Miller had displayed
while testifying in court, Allman's manner was far more animated and
emotional. He choked back sobs during most his testimony about dealing
with the dead or dying Officer Davis. When he replied to questions later
from Serra, he addressed him using the term 'counselor' or 'counsel' with
an edge of contempt or hostility. He spoke in a loud voice.
Allman began documenting the locations of evidence which needed to be moved so as to clear the road for driving through to Little Valley, where he thought they might find the homicide suspect. With orange paint he outlined, then photographed, spent shell casings, the body of Acorn Peters with a rifle across his chest, the pistol belonging to Davis, and more. He placed in the trunk of his car Davis' pistol and flashlight, Peters' .30-.30 rifle, and a black hat. Later he would add to those items the M-16 fired by Miller. Allman said he turned part of the evidence over the next day to investigators from Sonoma County.
In about 30 minutes a truck came from Little Valley. The officers thought they were in danger and took cover in the brush with weapons drawn, prepared to execute a "felony car stop." The truck stopped about 20 feet from Peters' body lying in the middle of the one-lane road. Three times Allman ordered everyone in the truck to raise their hands. A male voice from inside said, "What the fuck, or fuck you." Asked by Williams if he had used profanity himself, Allman replied, "I said -- and I'm not proud of it -- 'Get your fucking hands up.'"
A woman in the truck said there were babies in the truck, and after about a minute, the driver (Bear Lincoln's 59 year old mother, Lucille) got out. Ordered to keep her hands up and walk toward the light, she moved slowly, and when she passed Peters' body, he heard her say "Acorn." There were two young women, two young men, and four babies in the truck. All were taken away by police.
by quizzing Allman on what he had done to prepare his
testimony. The sergeant had reviewed tapes, transcripts, photos, and other
evidence to refresh his memory. Allman said he met with prosecutor Williams
twice to prepare his testimony, with the longer meeting lasting about an hour.
Allman said he could recognize the Peters brothers by family resemblance, but did not know them by individual names. When he needed to speak to them, "Mr. Peters worked as a form of address," he said.
Serra asked Allman if he had expected to find Davis and Miller at the junction of Henderson Lane and Little Valley Road? "Yes, correct, counselor," replied Allman.
Allman confirmed that he gave the deputies "permission to hide" when he met with Davis to discuss strategy after failing to find Arylis Peters earlier in the evening. Allman had said "it was a good idea" when Davis proposed hiding at the junction at the foot of the hill. The two deputies had not asked permission or notified Allman of their move to the hilltop, but Allman insisted they had not exceeded their authority. Both were very capable officers whose judgment he trusted . Wouldn't it be protocol for them to notify him they were moving up the hill? "Not for those two."
Serra asked if it was dark when Allman and Craver reached the hilltop, and Allman said yes; their car headlights were on. The moon filtered through "scrub or scrawny" oak, which cast shadows on the road.
When Allman and Craver first arrived at the hilltop they did not know anyone had been shot, and Allman did not see the body of Acorn Peters at first. His state of mind was "anxiety to say the least." The 11-99 radio code meant officer needs assistance, and not necessarily that he was shot or wounded. He described Miller's voice when he called out to him as "not calm but not out-of-control anger or hysterical."
Serra questioned Allman about shining his light at an object Miller pointed out in the roadway. Allman said it was a black object but he could not make out what it was.
Serra: Because it was dark? Allman: I might not have been able to tell if it had been noon. Serra: Did you call for more flashlights? Allman: Yes. Serra: Flashlights, plural? Allman: Yes. Serra: Because it was dark? Allman: Yes.
[The defense is keen to establish that it was dark at the time of the shootings, because the prosecution argues that there was enough moonlight for Lincoln to see the uniformed deputies and marked patrol car and realize he was dealing with law officers, not armed Brittons.]
Ê left Miller after their brief meeting in the brush below the
road, Miller provided cover fire for him by firing "a short full-auto
burst." Allman didn't see any officer with a shotgun, and doesn't recall
seeing (or not seeing) a shotgun in the Davis/Miller car.
The ambulance arrived by 10:05 and whisked Davis away immediately. Allman took charge of the scene to control access and preserve evidence. No one was collecting, charting, or doing anything with evidence while he was on the hill. The only explicit directions he gave regarding evidence was to tell a couple of officers to be careful not to walk through it.
Allman admitted that everyone from Lucille Lincoln's truck walked through the crime scene, and Allman and another officer each had carried a child through the scene. Also the truck itself had driven into the scene and possibly disturbed some of the footprints and bullet casings. Serra: Is it true there was no counting or marking of shell casings on the ground before the truck arrived? Allman: That's correct, counsel. Serra: You walked right through the heart of the crime scene, didn't you? Allman: I saw no one kicking shell casings.
Allman had backed the CHP car down the hill to meet with Sheriff James Tuso and other officers to report the situation on the hill, and to formulate a plan to protect the scene and preserve evidence. Among those present at the meeting were Deputy D.A. Aaron Williams, and D.A. Investigator Scott Warnock, the two who now comprise the prosecution team.
Allman believed the crime scene was unsafe because the second suspect was still at large, and in his opinion it remained unsafe all night long. After the meeting he returned to the scene and began paint-marking and photographing evidence so that it could be moved and the road cleared for official traffic. He saw no one picking up evidence or cutting any trees, and saw no evidence of bullets striking trees.
[In fact, at least one tree was cut down and removed from the scene. It was located on the downhill edge of the road behind the spot where Acorn Peters was shot and on a line connecting the body and the two deputies' patrol car. An adjacent tree less than two feet away from the stump bears a bullet crease which also points to the patrol car. At the preliminary hearing there was testimony that no tree or parts of a tree were cut, and none were held for evidence. Some reservation residents suspect deputies removed the tree as part of a cover-up.]
Allman said that after stopping Lucille Lincoln's truck he used profanity only after hearing profanity from inside the truck, and until he heard Mrs. Lincoln say "Acorn" as she passed the body, he had assumed it was Arylis Peters.
As Serra's cross-exam wound down, the D.A. objected to an important question.
Serra wanted to know if Miller had told him he saw Deputy Davis fall to the ground. This was important, Serra, told the court, because Miller had testified that he fired a burst, fell, and when he got up saw that Davis had been hit. In contrast, he told Allman at the time that he saw muzzle flashes, ran for cover, turned and then saw Davis go down. Judge Golden ruled that Allman would have to answer -- but only after the morning 15 minute recess.
After the recess Serra asked: "Sgt. Allman, isn't it a fact that Officer Miller told you on the hill that he saw flashes and ran for cover, and turned and saw Davis go down?" Allman: In my recollection, yes.
In a short redirect examination by the D.A., Allman was asked how many firefights had taken place. Two, he was told by Miller. Who started the first firefight? The downed suspect in the road (Leonard Peters). [Without evidence that Bear Lincoln started the first firefight, he can't be convicted of second degree murder of Leonard Peters.]
Albion Monitor August 24, 1997 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor)
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