Tribal critic says fire was attempt to kill

Bob Shiles Sarah Willets swillets@civitasmedia.coms

January 21, 2014

PEMBROKE — The person leading a campaign to recall Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks is calling a fire that heavily damaged his Pembroke home Sunday night an effort to kill him.

The late-night fire is still under investigation by local, state and federal officials, and as of this morning investigators were not ready to declare that the fire way connected to Eric Locklear’s activism within the Lumbee community.

They also say that there is no indication that the cause of the fire was a Molotov cocktail, as claimed by Locklear.

“We’re not going to limit it (investigation) to any one direction,” said Lt. Brian Duckworth, fire investigator for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office. “There is no evidence it was a Molotov cocktail. We did find a piece of granite a little bigger than a baseball in the middle of the bed that we do think was thrown through the window.”

But Locklear, the spokesman and head of the newly formed non-profit Lumbee Revolution, told The Robesonian this morning that he has not doubt about the intent.

“It was definitely an attempt to kill,” Locklear said. “Where they threw it, I would have been sitting watching television. They had to have known that’s where I would be.”

Locklear was not at home Sunday night when the fire broke out at his home at 67 Pine Cone Court in the Arrow Point subdivision, located just outside of Pembroke off Chicken Road. Locklear believes the rock, found in debris in the middle of his bed, was used to break his bedroom window before something else was thrown into his house.

“This is all still under investigation by local officials, the SBI and the FBI,” Locklear said. “When the investigation is complete, there will probably be charge of intent to kill filed.”

Stephanie Chavis, fire marshal for Robeson County, said that out of five pieces of evidence found at the scene, a dog identified four pieces to contain some an accelerant. She also said that some neighbors said they saw someone running through the yard when the fire erupted.

Duckworth estimated damage at $50,000 to $75,000, saying about 20 percent of the home was burned and that smoke and water damage make it uninhabitable. Pembroke and Deep Branch firefighters put out the blaze, which began just after 10 p.m. Sunday.

Locklear has repeatedly spoken out in opposition against the actions of Brooks and his administration, most recently standing before the Lumbee Tribal Council and outlining the legal process for recalling an elected Lumbee official.

Locklear said that he has not heard from he Lumbee Tribe.

“They have not even offered any condolences,” he said.

Locklear is pushing a petition drive to recall Brooks and have him replaced by newly elected vice chairman, Charles Bullard. Brooks earlier this month was found by the tribe’s Supreme Court to have disobeyed court orders, and Brooks was found in contempt of court in regarding six allegations. The court has ordered an independent auditor be appointed to examine tribal financial records.

Mark Locklear, a spokesman for the tribal administration, said Brooks did not want to comment.