Albion Monitor /News
[Editor's note: This is a summary of testimony by Lucille Lincoln, Roy Gourley and John Gunn. Some direct quotes are used, but sections are frequently paraphrased. Assertions of fact in this article were made by the questioner or witness and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of Nicholas Wilson or the Albion Monitor.]

Lucille Lincoln Remembers

by Nicholas Wilson

on "Bear" Lincoln Case


UKIAH, CA -- While Bear Lincoln's mother, Lucille Lincoln, was driving home from a trip to Ukiah with other family members, she stopped at the Covelo high school to see why there were police cars and a crowd. Neil Britton, son of the just-slain Gene Britton, came over to her truck. "Tell Bear if he ever pulls a gun I'll kill him and all his family too." Britton was quickly led away by a deputy, and she continued to her Little Valley home about two miles away.

There she found Arylis Peters, drunk. She drove him to a house in the reservation housing area, and on her way home she was stopped by Deputy Bob Davis, who asked if she had seen Arylis. She didn't know he was the man who'd killed Gene Britton, and told Davis truthfully where she had just dropped him off.

She was tired when she got home again, and went to bed while her sons and granddaughters prepared dinner. After an hour or two, as she dozed, her granddaughter came to wake her and tell her, "Gram, there's a lot of shooting up on the hill." She recalled the threat from Neil Britton and was afraid for herself and other family members in her house, including four babies. Her house was isolated and could be shot at from the hill, so she decided to flee with her family to her sister's house in Round Valley. She pulled a Levi's jacket on over her nightgown and put on some shoes.

Suddenly she heard voices from both sides of the road yelling at her: "Turn your fucking lights off; get your fucking hands up or we'll blow your fucking heads off"
It took 5-10 minutes for everyone to get into her truck. With her were two sons, the two young mothers and the four babies, the oldest of whom was two years old. It was dark enough that she couldn't see her way without a flashlight to walk the dozen feet from her porch to the truck. She had no memory of seeing the moon at all from her house or while driving up the hill.

As she waited in the driver's seat for others to get into the truck, her son Bear Lincoln ran up next to her window. She couldn't see his face clearly because of the dark, but he was out of breath from running and was very excited. He told her he and Leonard Peters had been ambushed on the hill and "they shot Leonard for no reason" right in front of him. He said he saw nothing and heard nothing before the shots except Leonard saying, "Oh fuck!" Bear said he shot back, and then jumped over the embankment beside the road and ran. He said he lay for a minute and then got up and ran back to the house.

Bear warned her to leave because "they'll kill all you guys," but not to take the truck up the road because "they" were up on the hill and "they will kill you." Williams asked her if Bear said there were cops on the hill, and she replied, "No, he just said 'they,' and I assumed he meant the Brittons." But she saw no other means of escape; she had suffered from arthritis since childhood and couldn't escape on foot, and assumed that the Brittons wouldn't have stayed around after shooting Leonard.

As the truck neared the top of the ridge, her headlights revealed Peters' body, blocking the narrow dirt road. She exclaimed, "Oh, there's Leonard," and stopped. Suddenly she heard voices from both sides of the road yelling at her: "Turn your fucking lights off; get your fucking hands up or we'll blow your fucking heads off." Williams asked her how she knew they were police, and she replied, "By the way they talked." There was stifled laughter in the courtroom, restrained due to the stern warnings Judge Golden gave earlier about courtroom emotions.

Mrs. Lincoln detailed further profanity and rough treatment at the hands of the police. She was told to walk faster, and when she protested that she was crippled, CHP Officer Clarence Holmes said, "Fuck the cripple," and also painfully shoved her to the wet ground and handcuffed her. She was 59 at the time, and was in pain and had bruises for days afterward.

Sgt. Tom Allman testified earlier that he had given most of the verbal commands when the truck was stopped, and that Holmes also gave some. He admitted using the f-word.

Williams asked her if she had told those officers that Brittons had shot at her son. No, she said. Why not? Because she wasn't allowed to say anything, and was told to "shut (her) fucking mouth" when she tried to speak.

Protected Bear in first statements to detective
After being taken to the high school and questioned by other officers, she and her family members were dropped off outside her mother's house on the reservation. They were not allowed to go back to her home. They walked a short way to her sister Sylvia Duncan's house, arriving around midnight.

As she approached the house she saw Bear coming across a field and through a fence to join her. She did not see him with a gun that night, and she didn't smell any alcohol on him, either when she was in the truck at her house or later at her sister's. She said she is sensitive to the smell of alcohol because she doesn't drink. Bear came in the house and told them what had happened. He could only say repeatedly what he had already told his mother earlier.

By then, word was passing that people with police radio scanners heard orders to shoot to kill whoever killed Deputy Davis. [For the first 12 hours or so, police thought Arylis Peters was the second person on the hill who had killed Davis. He was ruled out after his capture the morning after the shootings. Bear Lincoln became a suspect when a deputy identified a hat at the scene as Lincoln's.]

Williams asked Mrs. Lincoln if she had told Detective Gourley in an April 16 interview that she had not seen her son the day of the killings. True, she said -- and that in fact, she had not seen Bear all that day, and only briefly saw him in the darkness next to her truck. Had Mrs. Lincoln admitted earlier that she lied to Gourley to protect her son? True, she said; there was a shoot-to-kill order, and any mother would do that. She later told the complete truth to FBI agent John Gunn, because she trusted him more than local police. She also told Gourley the truth in a second interview.

Williams asked if she was lying today to protect her son, and she replied that she was now under oath, which she wasn't when she talked to Gourley. "So when you're under oath it's not OK to lie, but on the street it is?" "I think so," she replied.

The prosecutor wrapped up his direct examination of Mrs. Lincoln with a rapid series of questions that produced the following information: Bear told her that he and Leonard were on their way to see Arylis. He did not say who ambushed him. He did not say if they jumped out of the bushes. She's not sure if he told her he fired back. She doesn't know if she told any officer that Bear said he fired back until he ran out of bullets. He didn't say what kind of weapon he used. He didn't say if Leonard fired his rifle. It was normal for people to carry a gun when walking that road at night because there were bears and panthers. She recognized the hat found at the scene as looking like one of Bear's, but she couldn't be sure. She denied telling Gunn that Bear admitted shooting the cop because they killed Leonard.

There was no need to lie to protect Bear now, and she would not lie under oath
When Serra cross-examined her, she said that she had hadn't told the truth to Gourley about seeing Bear, partly because he had falsely accused her of lying to Davis about dropping Arylis off at a house, and partly because of the shoot-to-kill order that she said was common knowledge on the reservation. Except for that one instance, she had told the truth to all three officers who questioned her, and was telling the truth in court. There was no need to lie to protect Bear now, and she would not lie under oath.

It was two weeks after the shootings before Mrs. Lincoln was allowed to live in her house. It was a mess. A large window was apparently shot out from inside the house, because glass shards were on the ground outside. An officer told her they had to break a window out in order to bring some equipment inside. A large glass patio door was also shot out. Everything was dumped out of drawers and cabinets; locks had been cut off. She was never shown a search warrant, but found one left at her house.

When she drove her truck up the hill she was only trying to get herself and her family to safety. When she stopped at Leonard Peters' body, she saw nobody else there and no police vehicles. Then they started yelling at her, although they never identified themselves as police. She knew for sure only after police vehicles turned their headlights on and some of the police cars were lit up by others. When she tried to shield her eyes with her hand, they used profanity and threatened to "blow my brains out."

After the initial yelling she said, "What's the matter with you guys; are you going crazy?" The reply was, "Shut your fucking mouth!" She was more angry than afraid, she said. She had not threatened any officer or used any profanity herself. She didn't hear any of her family use any profanity. The kids were crying and screaming.

When she walked within three feet of Leonard Peters' body there was plenty of light from the police cars. There was blood flowing down the road from his head and chest, and she saw no gun or hat near the body. An hour or two later at her sister's everybody was talking about that shoot-to-kill order heard on the scanner.

For weeks after the shootings she was contacted daily by Gourley or other officers and questioned about her son's whereabouts, even though she told them she was going through a lot and asked to be left alone. They insisted she must know where he was, but she didn't and was glad of it. When Lucille Lincoln was excused from the witness stand, Williams reserved the right to call her back for further questioning.

Serra Catches Detective Gourley in a Falsehood
Williams recalled Roy Gourley to the stand in an attempt to show Lucille Lincoln was not truthful. The detective said he had questioned Lucille Lincoln on April 16, 1997 and brought with him a tape of that interview. Serra successfully objected there was no foundation to put the tape in evidence because Mrs. Lincoln admitted in her trial testimony that she hadn't told Gourley the truth about seeing her son in that first interview. Williams asked Gourley if Mrs. Lincoln had ever told him anything about Bear telling her Leonard Peters said "Oh fuck!" just before he was shot; Gourley said she had not. Williams had no further questions. Serra, however, had some sharp questions on cross-examination of Gourley.

Serra: Isn't it a fact that in the second (questioning of Lucille Lincoln) a few days later she conceded that she had seen her son Bear both at her house and later at Sylvia Duncan's? Gourley: "No, not a bit." Serra produced Gourley's report of the interview and read from it: "Mrs. Lincoln admitted that she had lied about not seeing her son, and she told me she saw him at her house and later at Sylvia Duncan's."

Now Serra was angry. "So you lied just now when you told the jury she didn't tell you that?" he roared, rushing toward Gourley. The officer blushed, and stammered, "I just recalled it; if it's in my report then that's what happened." Judge Golden admonished Serra to back off from the witness and resume his position at a lectern between the two counsel tables.

Serra asked if Gourley remembered he had put it in his report that Lucille Lincoln told him she talked with her son. "I did not recall it," said Gourley

Serra was still angry. "You come into court as one of the case agents; you don't read your own report, and you tell the jury something that is false?" accused Serra, his voice getting louder and louder, finally punching out the last word in a full shout.

Williams: Objection, argumentative. Judge: Sustained. (The jury had heard the accusation, nevertheless.)

Serra: Do you want to read your report? Gourley: If you'd like me to.

Serra: You did put that in your report? Gourley: Yes, I did.

Serra: So I take it you retract your statement that you were never told that by Mrs. Lincoln? Gourley: That's correct.

Williams then tried to rehabilitate his witness, drawing out from Gourley that the report is from his second interview with her. Williams: So why did you note that (admitting she talked with Bear) in your second report and not in your first report? Gourley: She didn't tell me that the first time.

There were no further questions and Gourley left the witness stand.

FBI special agent John Gunn
Williams next called Special Agent John Gunn of the FBI. Gunn questioned Lucille Lincoln almost two weeks after Gourley had. He didn't tape record it, he said, because FBI policy is not to record witness statements.

Had she seen Bear the night of the shootings? Not at her home, but she had seen him at her sister's. She specifically said she had not seen or talked with him at her own house. She said at her sister's Bear told her he had run out of bullets, then ran from the scene. She said she did not know of Bear owning a gun. In a second interview May 16, Gunn reported that Bear had told her, "the cops shot my best friend right in front of me, and I shot the officer."

In Serra's cross-examination of Special Agent Gunn, it came out that he took no notes of the second interview, and he agreed that human memory is "definitely fallible." Gunn later started writing a report while in Covelo, and finished it at his office in Santa Rosa. He agreed that there were no exact quotations in his report of the words spoken by Lucille Lincoln. Mrs. Lincoln did tell him that she was fearful for her son's safety in the hands of local law enforcement since he had been involved in a shooting incident with them.

Previous Story Next Story

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor August 24, 1997 (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to reproduce.

Front Page