American Indians Seize Hostages at Newspaper
LUMBERTON, N.C. (AP) _ Heavily armed American Indians protesting what they called unfair law enforcement in Robeson County held nine newspaper employees hostage today and demanded to talk to the governor, authorities and witnesses said.
Eight of the 17 hostages seized initially by two Indians at The Robesonian had been released by early afternoon, according to Police Chief A.L. Carroll.
No injuries or violence were reported during the takeover, but one hostage said two of the released hostages had complained of heart problems.
″We’re trying to get some justice in Robeson County among the minorities,″ said 19-year-old Timothy Jacobs, one of the captors, in a telephone conversation with The Associated Press. ″We want to see (Sheriff) Hubert Stone out.″
″We’re not going to hurt the people,″ Jacobs told WFNC radio. ″We’re going to hurt the law if they come in here. They might get us, too, but we’ll get a few of them before it’s over with. We just decided to do this to get help.″
Jacobs said he was a Tuscarora-Cherokee Indian and that there were three people in his group, but Carroll said there were only two.
One of the captors ″has repeatedly told the hostages that he doesn’t want to hurt anybody,″ said Eric Prevatte, one of those released. ″He said he was very sorry this had to come down to this.″
The captors took over the newsroom and chained the doors shut, according to Editor Bob Horne, who was reached by Cable News Network in the newsroom. Horne said there was no violence and no one was injured.
He said the hostages were being held at gunpoint and that he had been told some of the doors were booby-trapped.
Police cordoned off two blocks around the newspaper, which is across the street from the county court building in the center of town. The Robesonian is an afternoon daily with a circulation of about 15,000 in Robeson County, about 85 miles south of Raleigh in southeastern North Carolina.
Jacobs said no police were visible in front of the building and ″we demanded that they be moved.″
The hostage-takers demanded to speak to Gov. Jim Martin, but a spokesman for the governor said he would make no comment.
A circulation secretary who was being held, Mary Ann Mayers, said two hostages were released after they had complained of heart problems and one woman ″was in really bad shape.″
Melissa Talbert, a reporter at the newspaper who was out on an assignment when the hostages were taken, said the newspaper’s managing editor, Donna Pipes, was released in exchange for 15 hamburgers. Ms. Pipes had no comment.
Jacobs told WFNC that he and his companions were armed with pistols, shotguns and hand grenades. Jacobs said the hostages were ″quite comfortable. They’re all sitting in chairs. We haven’t tied anybody up. They’re all relaxed.″
Asked how long they would hold the hostages, Jacobs said, ″Days, whatever.″
Another man, who said his name was Eddie Hatcher, told The Raleigh Times and News and Observer that they were armed and carried explosives.
″Eddie and I have been hiding all week,″ Jacobs told the AP. ″Hubert Stone has been threatening his life. ... We just want some justice brought here. We just want federal officials here who will protect us and make a full scale investigation.″
Stone could not immediately be reached by telephone for comment.
In November 1986 the sheriff’s son, Deputy Sheriff Kevin Stone, shot and killed a Lumbee Indian during a narcotics investigation. The younger Stone was cleared of wrongdoing by a coroner’s inquest, but the shooting sparked protests by Indian groups and sympathizers.
The captors at the Robesonian did not specifically refer to the shooting incident in their statements.
Rep. Charles Rose, D-N.C., whose district includes Lumberton, told WPTF-AM radio that he spoke by telephone to Jacobs.
″I asked him what in the world was going on and he just said ’We’ve got to clean this county out,‴ Rose told the radio station. ‴My people are being discriminated against, locked in the jail and killed.‴
″I told him that I certainly hoped they would be very careful and that they would let these people go, that I would help him any way I could to see that his grievances were answered,″ Rose said.
The general manager of The Robesonian, George Fain, said there were still 17 people in the building when he escaped as the incident began, according to Bruce Morrison, vice president of the Concord Tribune. Both newspapers are owned by Park Communications Inc. of Ithaca, N.Y.