Hampton University officials have hired renowned
attorney Johnnie Cochran and two Texas lawyers to consider taking legal
action against the city of Lubbock, Texas, for the wrongful arrest and
detainment of the Hampton women’s basketball coach, her husband, and an
Hampton women’s basketball coach Patricia Bibbs, her husband Ezell
Bibbs, and assistant coach Vanetta Kelso were arrested by Lubbock
police on Nov. 16 in the parking lot of a Lubbock hotel after a witness
misidentified Kelso as a suspect in an attempted con. The three were
alleged to have participated in a con game, called the “pigeon drop” at
the site of a nearby Wal-Mart department store.
A “pigeon drop” involves a con artist telling a potential victim
that a purse with a lot of money has been found. The con artist then
tries to persuade the intended victim to put up some money to secure a
lawyer so that they both can lay claim to the purse.
Police handcuffed Bibbs, her husband, and Kelso and took them into
custody the day before the Hampton women’s basketball team was
scheduled to play the nationally ranked Texas Tech team in Lubbock.
At a news conference, the three said they never were read their
rights and were not informed for hours what crime they allegedly had
committed. The three were later released and allowed to leave Lubbock
County with no charges brought against them. The game was canceled.
On Nov. 19, Lubbock police chief Ken Walker told reporters during a
news conference the arrest resulted because of “mistaken identity” and
he declared that no charges would be fried against the Bibbses or Kelso.
“It is unfortunate that visitors to our city were apparently in the
wrong place at the wrong time,” Walker said. “But I want to reinforce
the fact that our officers lawfully initiated the inquiry and conducted
the investigation by the book and with complete professionalism.”
The police chief also denied allegations by the president of the
Lubbock chapter of the NAACP that race was a factor in the case.
“We would have handled the case the same way if the suspects had
been Hispanic or Anglo or any other ethnic origin,” Walker said at a
Lubbock Mayor Wendy Sitton traveled to Hampton University in
Virginia on Nov. 20, and apologized directly to the Bibbses and Kelso.
“I hope you will accept my deep regret that your coaches were in
our city and they had to go through that terrible experience,” Sitton
said at a news conference in Hampton.
Hampton’s president, Dr. William R. Harvey, told The Washington
Post that the university hired Cochran and two Texas attorneys to
“provide the university with [possible] legal remedies.”
Roger Wilkins, professor of American history at George Mason
University and an assistant attorney general in the Johnson
Administration, says the Lubbock arrests have all the appearances of
the mistreatment that African Americans have experienced at the hands
of law enforcement officials for generations.
“Every Black person who has lived as long as I have has had some
contact in their lifetime where the police came on to them when it was
utterly baseless and totally unwarranted. It’s happened to me four
times in my life,” Wilkins says.
Faye Lucas, general counsel for Hampton University, says Cochran is
meeting with Hampton officials early in December. She says university
officials are announcing their legal plans in early December.
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