URGENT Pierce’s Supporters to Seek Legislative Action
PEMBROKE, N.C. (AP) _ Investigators have taken two suspects into custody in the shotgun slaying of an Indian activist who was running for judge, the county sheriff said early Tuesday.
’We do have a suspect, in fact, we have two suspects at this time,″ Robeson County Sheriff Hubert Stone said shortly after 1 a.m. ..................CORRECTIVE Sent March 29, 1988 FOLLOWS.....................
The Associated Press erroneously reported Tuesday that investigators in Robeson County, N.C., had taken two suspects into custody in the slaying of Indian activist Julian Pierce.
Murder warrants were issued early Tuesday for two men. One of them, Sandy Gordon Chavis, was arrested and was being held Tuesday at the county jail, said Sheriff Hubert Stone. The other, John Anderson Goins, was found dead at his father’s home Tuesday and authorities said he had committed suicide. ..............................................................................
″I can’t tell you a whole lot more about it right now, because you never know how these things will work out, but we feel pretty good about it right now,″ Stone said, adding that no charges had been filed yet.
On Monday, commissioners in the racially troubled county called for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the slaying of 42-year-old Julian Pierce.
Stone had said earlier that informants had provided investigators with two or three names of possible suspects. He said a hotline set up to receive tips on Pierce’s death had received more than 50 calls.
″We are checking with all of our informants that we have working for us throughout the county ... the telephone’s been busy. We’re getting a lot of tips from individuals throughout the county,″ Stone said at a news conference.
Meanwhile, Pierce’s supporters said they would seek to change a state law that would automatically make his opponent in the primary the winner of the election.
Pierce, a lawyer and Lumbee Indian, was slain at his rural home over the weekend by three shotgun blasts in what Sheriff Hubert Stone called an assassination.
Commissioners adopted a resolution asking District Attorney Joe Freeman Britt, Pierce’s primary opponent, to ask the state attorney general for a special prosecutor. The resolution is not binding, said Commissioner Wayne Oxendine.
Telephone calls to Britt’s office Monday were not immediately returned.
Backers of Pierce also said they will seek a special legislative session to allow a substitute candidate in the May 3 primary for Superior Court judge.
Harvey Godwin, Pierce’s campaign manager, said the 25-member Committee to Elect Julian Pierce decided Sunday night to ask Gov. Jim Martin to call a special legislative session to change the law to allow a substitute candidate in the May 3 primary for Superior Court judge.
State law says if a candidate dies 30 days or more after the filing period closes in that election, the opposing candidate is declared the winner.
Under that provision, Britt, a white, would be declared the Democratic primary winner. And since there is no Republican candidate in the county, Britt would become judge automatically if the law isn’t changed or waived.
″This is a special case,″ said Godwin. ″This death does not come under the law, which says death, but doesn’t involve political assassinations. This whole assassination was to get him as a person and a candidate.″
Jim Sughrue, a spokesman for the governor, said Martin would meet Thursday with those requesting the special session.
Meanwhile, Stone said a hotline set up to receive tips on Julian Pierce’s death had received more than 50 calls. Pierce was found dead early Saturday.
″We are checking with all of our informants that we have working for us throughout the county. ... The telephone’s been busy. We’re getting a lot of tips from individuals throughout the county,″ Stone said at a news conference.
Britt, who had reported receiving threats after Pierce was killed, and his family were in seclusion under police protection. He issued a statement after the killing calling it ″sad and tragic.″
State Rep. Sidney Locks, a black minister, said he also supported the call for a special session. He described the situation in the county Monday as unsettled because of the slaying but he doubted violence would occur.
″Things are very tense, but we hope cooler heads prevail,″ said Locks.
Robeson County, which borders on South Carolina, is 37 percent Indian, 37 percent white and 26 percent black. It is one of the state’s poorest counties, and has long been torn by racial animosity.
Anger at what the Indians call corrupt local government and entrenched racism boiled over most recently Feb. 1, when two Lumbee Indians took hostages at The Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton, the county seat. Eddie Hatcher and Timothy Jacobs said they engineered the siege in order to attract attention.
James Davis, a member of a U.S. Justice Department team sent to the county, said Monday that his team had met with residents and will continue to meet with them.
″The tension in the community has caused the entire community to express real concern,″ Davis said. ″We’re here to try to evade that tension and bring calm back to the community, to do whatever we can to bring confidence back to law enforcement.
″I don’t believe any of the minority groups are contemplating violence. They are just grief-stricken.″
Godwin said the committee will ask for special legislation to ″delay the primary for this office only, and set up a way for us to find another candidate.″
″The reason why we chose to do this was because Julian as a candidate and a person was not a quitter. He didn’t belive in giving up,″ Godwin said. ″I don’t think Julian would’ve wanted his death to go in vain.″
Lonnie Revels, chairman of the state Commission of Indian Affairs, said he is not sure if the Lgislature can legally change the law retroactively. But he said he and legislators from the area were looking into the possibility of a special session.