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Hampton Coaches Face No Charges

November 20, 1998

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) _ No charges will be filed against the Hampton University women’s basketball coach, her husband and an assistant coach who police say were suspected of trying to play a con game.

The decision was greeted with relief at the Virginia school, where coach Patricia Bibbs said no other outcome was possible ``because we knew that we had done nothing wrong.″

But Bibbs also said she still feels a sense of loss after being placed in handcuffs and taken to jail for something she didn’t do. ``I feel something has been taken away,″ she said.

Police chief Ken Walker said Thursday that the woman who made the accusation was no longer sure of the identity of people who attempted to con her out of money in a Wal-Mart parking lot Monday night.

Walker also denied race was a motive in the arrests of Bibbs, her husband, Ezell; and assistant coach Vanetta Kelso. The three, who are black, said that might have been the case.

``Race was not a factor in this incident,″ Walker said. ``We responded to a complaint from a citizen, we went forward on an identification made by that citizen and we have handled the case the same way if the suspects had been Hispanic or Anglo or any other ethnic origin.″

He said that after examining the store’s security tape, police discovered that the three could not have been involved.

``We found what we believe is the victim leaving the scene and two people leaving the store right behind her,″ Walker said at a news conference. ``At another, later point in time, we see the coaches entering the store ... we don’t believe the coaches could have had anything to do with this.″

``We knew they were innocent, and now the world knows that they were innocent,″ said Hampton University President William R. Harvey.

Harvey added that Lubbock Mayor Windy Sitton told him she would come to the university on Friday to personally apologize.

Elenita Hester, who reported the scam attempt, told police she was no longer sure the Hampton coaches were the ones who tried to con her after seeing them speak on television during a news conference at the school in Virginia.

``She was less sure than before after she saw the press conference,″ Walker said.

The three were in Lubbock as Hampton was to play No. 12 Texas Tech on Tuesday night. The game was canceled.

Walker said the three had been suspected of trying a con game called the ``pigeon drop.″ In the ruse, a con artist says he or she has found a purse with a lot of money and tries to persuade the victim to put up money to retain a lawyer so that they can both lay claim to the purse.

The Bibbses and Kelso said they went to the store to buy supplies for the team and some personal items.

All said police repeatedly ignored them when they asked why they were being detained, searched their van without permission and never read them their rights.

Kelso, who is pregnant, said she vomited in the back of a squad car because she could not breathe properly. She was taken to a hospital for treatment, then to jail. She said paramedics accused her of trying to vomit on them, and that one threatened to stuff a towel in her mouth.

Bibbs is in her second year at Hampton, a private, predominantly black university. She was selected the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference coach of the year last season and her team was the MEAC co-champion.

She previously coached 13 years at Grambling State. The women’s basketball program there was placed on two years’ probation by the NCAA in 1997 for violations committed while she was there.

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