Tuscarora Tribal Leader Among 25 Arrested in North Carolina Illegal Casino Swoop

Posted on: July 24, 2018, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: July 24, 2018, 12:15h.

Authorities in North Carolina have arrested over 25 members of the Tuscarora Indian Nation — including tribal leader Kendall Locklear — during raids on three illegal, “full-fledged” casinos in Maxton, Pembroke, and Red Springs, all in Robeson County.

Tuscarora Indian Nation
The fiercely independent Tuscarora Indian Nation openly rejects federal and state laws, despite not being an official sovereign nation recognized by the federal government. (Image: N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement)

Police were taking no chances. Local law enforcement was backed up by the US Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the North Carolina and Virginia National Guard during the Monday night swoop.

While the tribe claims sovereign status and is fiercely independent, rejecting federal and state laws, it has not been recognized by the federal government.

The casinos were protected by the tribe’s own unlicensed police force and heavily armed security, according to authorities.

‘Threats of War’

Terrance Merriweather, head of North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement claimed the tribe group had made threats of “war” against law enforcement.

“Citizens living near the casinos complained of the illegal activity taking place and notified law enforcement,” Merriweather said in an official statement. “This group openly expressed beliefs that neither the laws of North Carolina nor the United States applied to them, putting law-abiding citizens in danger.”

More than 200 illegal slot machines were seized, along with firearms and marijuana. The casinos operated 24/7, and took in “thousands and thousands of dollars,” police said.

Among the arrestees was Timothy Bryan Jacobs, who made the national news in 1988 when he and accomplice Eddie Hatcher walked into the offices of the local newspaper, The Robesonian, brandishing sawn-off shotguns and held 20 people hostage.

The two men said they were protesting about racial bias and corruption among local government in Robeson County– one of the poorest counties in the US. While no one was hurt in the incident, both men were sent to prison for hostage-taking and firearms offenses. Jacobs was sentenced to six years and released in 1994.

Quest for Sovereignty

The Tuscarora of North Carolina have long-sought federal recognition, which could allow them to operate legal casinos on specially designated sovereign land.

Elsewhere in the state, for example, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians own the Harrahs Cherokee Resort in the state, which is permitted to offer certain types of skill-based casino gaming, despite North Carolina’s strict gambling laws.

The only recognized Tuscarora are those of New York State, who are considered the legal successors of the historic tribe. But many North Carolina Tuscarora believe the New York tribe abandoned its ancestral homelands when it migrated north 18th century and that the descendants of those who stayed have an equal or greater claim to legitimacy.