LUMBERTON, N.C., FEB. 1 -- Two heavily armed gunmen of the Tuscarora-Cherokee Indian tribe released their seven remaining hostages unharmed from the offices of The Robesonian newspaper tonight after state officials agreed to look into alleged discrimination in local law enforcement and the death of a young black man in the county jail.
Eddie Hatcher and Timothy Jacobs, who seized the newsroom and 17 employees at about 10 a.m., were arrested by FBI agents about 8 p.m. and taken to a jail outside Robeson County. Under the agreement negotiated by federal and state officials, John Hunt, a Lumbee Indian, also will be transferred from the Robeson County jail.
Hatcher and Jacobs did not ask for immunity from federal kidnaping charges as part of the deal. In telephone calls to wire services and radio stations shortly after the siege began, they had demanded the ouster of Sheriff Hubert Stone and a chance to speak to the governor.
"We're trying to get some justice in Robeson County among the minorities," Jacobs told The Associated Press.
Police Chief A.L. Carroll said negotiators huddled all afternoon in a van near the newspaper, separated from the jail by a parking lot, and spoke with Hatcher by telephone. "He did all the talking," Carroll said.
Under the agreement signed by Phillip Kirk Jr., chief of staff for Gov. James G. Martin (R), Hatcher and Jacobs surrendered to the FBI, and Kirk pledged that a governor's task force would investigate local law enforcement and the recent death of Billy McKellar in the Robeson County jail.
The Rev. Sidney Locks, a state representative, said McKellar, 27, who was charged with auto theft, suffered from asthma and died Jan. 13 when he asked for medical treatment he did not receive.
The county is among the state's poorest, and its 103,000 residents are about 41 percent white, 32 percent native American and 26 percent black. Longstanding racial tension has run high since November 1986, when the sheriff's son, Deputy Kevin Stone, fatally shot Jimmy Lee Cummings, an unarmed Lumbee Indian thought to be dealing drugs.
Cummings' family said after the shooting that Cummings "feared for his life" after twice buying cocaine from a supplier who had stolen it from the sheriff's department evidence locker.
A former sheriff's deputy, Mitchell Stevens, and two others were indicted the following month on charges of stealing drugs from the locker. A coroner's jury ruled Cummings' death, which occurred when he was stopped for a traffic violation, "accidental or self-defense."
The controversy was unresolved last April, when hundreds of marchers converged on the Lumberton courthouse -- across from The Robesonian office -- to protest Cummings' death and the "kangaroo outfit," as his sister described it to United Press International, that cleared Kevin Stone.
Larry Blue, 33, a reporter covering county government, said he was working on a story today when the gunmen walked into the newsroom at about 10 a.m. "This guy just shoved a gun in my face and told me to hang up the phone," Blue said.
Then, he said, they went from office to office, rounding up other employees. Blue said he was released about noon, alone, probably because he had interviewed Hatcher on two previous occasions. He estimated Hatcher's age at 25 to 30, Jacobs' at 19 or 20.
The Robesonian is an afternoon daily with a circulation of about 15,000. Lumberton, the county seat with a population of about 18,500, is about 90 miles south of Raleigh and was the setting for the recent movie "Blue Velvet."
Blue said the captors did not seem to want to be violent, and no lives were threatened. "There's no specific beef that I know of" against the newspaper, he said. "I think we were just there."
"We're not going to hurt the people," Jacobs said. "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."
Shortly before the siege ended, more than 100 townspeople milled behind the police cordon a block from the newspaper building, and some heckled police officers. Several said their sympathies were with the captors. Hatcher "could never get any attention from you people," one husky man said. "All the cameras is what this town needs."