Anger boils over following robbery of Durham couple in wheelchairs
Posted July 16, 2018 11:20 a.m. EDT
Updated July 16, 2018 2:54 p.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — The initial court appearance Monday for a man charged with robbing a disabled Durham couple earlier this month ended in a confrontation outside the courthouse between neighbors of the robbery victims and supporters of the suspect.
Eric Lemel Campbell, 29, of Durham, faces charges of common-law robbery, attempted common-law robbery and two counts of assault on a handicapped person in the July 6 robbery on Chestnut Street.
Police said a Wayne and Barbara Huggins, both in wheelchairs, were headed home from a bus stop when a man approached and yanked a gold chain of 78-year-old Barbara Huggins' neck. The thief also tried to pull rings off her fingers, causing cuts to her hands, but 65-year-old Wayne Huggins was able to get out of his wheelchair and fight off the thief, who then ran off, police said.
"He tried to get my rings," Barbara Huggins said Monday. "He couldn’t get them off. My hands are all black and blue.
"He knew there was nothing I could do," she added.
Campbell, who has been convicted more than a half-dozen times over the past decade on burglary, theft and fraud charges, had been under a $25,000 bond since his arrest on Friday. But Sherman Hinson, a neighbor of the Hugginses, got up in court and asked for the bond to be raised to at least $150,000. The robbery has left many elderly and handicapped people in the community scared, he said.
The judge raised Campbell's bond to $100,000 and appointed an attorney for him.
After the hearing, Campbell's friends and family chased Hinson and his wife down outside the courthouse, where a heated exchange took place.
"If I were you, I wouldn't run up on me like that," Hinson told one woman. "I don't run."
As the woman cursed at him, Hinson said a $100,000 bond was too low for the alleged crime.
"He was wrong by robbing handicapped senior citizens," Hinson yelled as the woman and several other people stormed off. "Don't never run at me like that, because I'm not handicapped."
Hinson later explained his position on Campbell's bond to WRAL News.
"He followed them off the bus. When they get to their apartment building, he was in the hallway. He tried to take their house keys to get into their apartment. No telling what he would’ve done to those folks," Hinson said. "I'm not going to stand by here and let these people say anything or do anything they want because somebody's going to stand up for our senior citizens."