A struggle for control of a casino on the Elem Indian Colony has erupted into warfare, prompting five days of shootings that have injured at least seven people, sent more than four to jail and put the reservation under siege.
The latest trouble began Saturday, when one faction of the Lake County Pomo tribe sought to oust another from its leadership role in a disputed election that replaced four opponents of rancheria chairman Thomas Brown.
Tensions on the reservation, on the shores of Clear Lake about 90 miles north of San Francisco, escalated into a fist fight Sunday afternoon. That was followed by an outbreak of gunfire that has continued sporadically in the five days since, said Rhoda Thomas, a tribal member.
By Thursday, the county SWAT team had been called in three times. Many of the colony's residents left the reservation, taking their children with them, Thomas said. Many of those remaining were holed up inside their houses, armed or hiding behind barricades for safety.
Authorities called on four neighboring sheriff's departments and brought in a helicopter and patrol airplane for help, the Lake County sheriff's department said. Still, they counted more than 100 bullet holes in homes and reported shattered windows in abandoned cars.