On Sunday, November 20, 2021, according to a California Highway Patrol spokesperson, a simple traffic stop in Covelo being conducted by CHP officers escalated when the driver failed to yield to lights and sirens and used dangerous evasive maneuvers in an attempt to flee. When the suspect finally stopped the vehicle in a residential area, the driver resisted arrest. Tensions escalated when, according to the CHP, 15-20 subjects surrounded the arresting officers expressing opposition to the arrest.
We spoke with Sergeant Matt Harvey of the Garberville CHP about what led up to the traffic stop, the use of force, the bystanders encircling the officers, and the arrest and booking of the suspect as a result of the incident.
Sergeant Harvey told us two officers inside a solo CHP vehicle–a trainee at the wheel, and a full-time officer in the passenger seat–attempted to stop a 2002 blue Acura RSX with the “right front headlight” by turning on their lights.
The driver of the vehicle, 65-year-old Douglas Dale Lincoln, Sr., the only occupant of the vehicle * continued to drive about 30 miles per hour, Sergeant Harvey said. The officers, unsure if the driver was confused, activated both their lights and sirens to make sure the driver knew he was being pulled over.
The officers determined the driver was purposefully evading when he reportedly passed into oncoming traffic in an attempt to escape pursuing officers.
Sergeant Harvey explained that during a slow-moving traffic pursuit like Sunday night’s, officers are trying to determine if the driver might be confused, or looking for a safe place to pull over, or “truly fleeing.”
When Lincoln drove into oncoming traffic, Sergeant Harvey explained, “making unsafe maneuvers adds to the idea it is a pursuit.”
Officers followed the vehicle to the 100 block of Pitt River Road when the vehicle reportedly parked near a residence on that road. As a result of the evasion, officers conducted a “felony stop” which Sergeant Harvey said necessitated the use of firearms. At gunpoint, the driver was ordered out of the vehicle.
Lincoln reportedly emerged from the vehicle and began “cussing and shouting” at the officers, Sergeant Harvey stated. This resulted in officers continuing their verbal commands, but as Sergeant Harvey described, “from an officer’s perspective [the suspect] was not being compliant.”
As officers attempted to verbally deescalate the situation, Sergeant Harvey told us, 15-20 subjects from various residences nearby “surrounded the officers” and shouted at them saying, “Stop”, and “Let this guy go.”
Sergeant Harvey explained that evening’s initial stop was already a “high-risk situation” and then the crowd surrounded officers and demanding the suspect be let go would cause “any officer to see this as a safety risk.”
The two officers requested back-up as the situation escalated and multiple agencies responded to the scene including the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Round Valley Tribal Police, and Fish and Wildlife.
Officers then proceeded to detain Lincoln, who reportedly resisted as officers tried to place him in handcuffs, and the arresting officer utilized what Harvey described as a “minor use of force” to gain control.
When asked what specifically was used during the “minor use of force,” Sergeant Harvey stated he could not provide details so as not to compromise CHP’s tactics when approaching a non-compliant subject. He did tell us officers are tasked with using a “reasonable amount of force to take control of the suspect” CHP wants officers to use “the least amount of force that is reasonable so it doesn’t escalate,” Sergeant Harvey explained.
The minor use of force was successful in that Lincoln was detained, handcuffed, and then officers transported him to a nearby hospital where he was cleared for booking. Sergeant Harvey could not go into details regarding potential injuries the suspect might have incurred as a result of the minor use of force due to HIPAA concerns but explained that medical professionals determined he was well enough to be booked.
Once the suspect was transported from the scene, officers inventoried his vehicle allegedly locating a loaded black Ruger 380 semi-automatic pistol. It was also discovered Lincoln was driving on a suspended license for driving under the influence at an earlier time and had an active felony warrant for both drug and firearm offenses.
While officers processed the scene and towed the vehicle, the crowd of bystanders continued to “act threatening” towards the officers–actively blocking officers’ attempts to tow the vehicle, Sergeant Harvey said.
Sunday evening’s incident resulted in Lincoln being charged with possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle, possession of a concealed firearm, misdemeanor evading, driving on a suspended license, and having no proof of insurance.
A review of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Booking Logs also lists several charges Sergeant Harvey did not address. These are possibly connected to Lincoln’s outstanding warrants including conspiracy to cultivate marijuana, armed assault with a weapon or machine gun, armed with a firearm in the commission of a felony, and the employment of an individual under 21 to sell marijuana.
Reflecting on that evening’s use of force, Sergeant Harvey said, “The use of force is a big deal.” Officers “don’t want to use it on anybody” but added that it is “going to happen upon occasion.”
Anytime a use of force incident occurs, Sergeant Harvey explained CHP engages in an extensive review of the incident. Statements and video footage are analyzed by each officer’s area commander, then those are sent on to the division office, and finally to Sacramento where CHP leadership assesses their officers’ utilization of force.
“Daily these events are capturing the attention of an entire nation,” Sergeant Harvey said of the use of force incidents involving police. With this in mind, CHP officers “train throughout the year, reviewing the use of force policy, running through various scenarios they could experience in the field, and consider how to deescalate situations.”
These sorts of incidents are at the “forefront of every officer’s mind,” Sergeant Harvey told us, and “it is something that we know is a possibility.” The decisions that result in the use of force are often quick ones and officers “do not have the luxury to talk about why they are going to do [an action], as things are happening,” explained Sergeant Harvey.
Ultimately, Sergeant Harvey said his agency does not want to “ignore or discount any public concerns” but asks for the “public’s consideration in allowing the judicial process to take place and keep in mind that [the] public often does not have access to all the facts.”
It must be stated that the charges contained in the booking log have not been proven in a court of law. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, any individual described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
*Please note: our initial report indicating there were multiple occupants was incorrect. Our apologies for any misunderstanding that arose from this.