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Hatfield and McCoy-Type Feud Behind Three Deaths

April 16, 1995

COVELO, Calif. (AP) _ As long as anyone can remember, the Brittons and Lincolns have hated each other.

They’ve had fist fights, brawls and drive-by shootings. Even their children throw stones at one another.

But there were never any deaths _ until now.

Relatives, friends and neighbors say the family feud _ a disagreement compared to the Hatfields and McCoys _ is behind the deaths Friday night of two men and a deputy caught in the middle.

``The violence has gone beyond family members and has ended in a deputy, really an innocent bystander, being killed because of a long-standing feud,″ Mendocino County District Attorney Susan Massini said.

Friday’s skirmish began around 6 p.m. in the parking lot of Covelo High School on a remote Northern California Indian reservation, an hour’s drive from the nearest movie or stoplight.

Deputies found Reginald Britton, 48, sitting dead in his car with several bullet wounds. He was gunned down by one of three people who drove up then sped off, Sheriff James Tuso said.

Within an hour deputies arrested Lesley and Catherine Lincoln after witnesses identified them.

Around 10 p.m., deputies spotted another Lincoln family member, Leonard Francisco Peters, carrying a rifle on a road west of Covelo. Peters, 46, refused to drop his gun, and officers killed him during an exchange of gunfire, police said.

Moments later, as deputies approached Peters’ body, someone started shooting from nearby bushes. Sheriff’s Deputy George Robert Davis, 49, was killed in the ensuing gun battle.

Arlis Peters, Leonard Peters’ brother, was arrested Saturday morning, police said. Police were searching for Eugene ``Bear″ Lincoln.

Davis, a seven-year veteran, was the first deputy killed in the county in the line of duty since 1951 and the second since 1905.

The feud dates back more than a century when white settlers took Indian lands and the U.S. Government rounded up warring tribes and forced them to live together on one reservation. The Brittons and Lincolns were among them.

``The Brittons and the Lincolns have been fighting for 100 years,″ a man said on condition of anonymity.

``They’ve done it with their fists, knives and baseball bats. Even the little kids in the families throw rocks at each other,″ he said.

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