Pursued by police and patrol

Both trooper and magistrate conferred with an investigator's target

Staff writerMay 21, 2011 

What happened that night?

On Monday in a Durham courtroom, Rick Eatmon testified that on the evening of May 25, 2005, he cruised by the Rocky Mount home of the woman he'd been hired to watch. As he pulled away in his silver Dodge van, he said, the woman approached in her white Lexus from the opposite direction. She immediately turned around and began to follow him.

Soon, Eatmon said, he also spotted the red Corvette belonging to David Hawkins, an off-duty Rocky Mount police sergeant, in his review mirror. According to the state Highway Patrol's internal affairs report, Hawkins, who was off duty at the time, called for backup from his fellow Rocky Mount officers to stop a "suspicious vehicle." Hawkins later told investigators he had been warned that his girlfriend's husband might have them under surveillance.

Two Rocky Mount police cruisers soon joined the convoy behind Eatmon's van, but by then they were outside Hawkins' jurisdiction. The patrol's report says Hawkins then called his daughter, Trooper Stephanie Young, who was miles away patrolling another highway.

Young then called the patrol's Raleigh communications center to ask that troopers in neighboring counties be on the lookout for the silver van, according to the report.

When another trooper called Young on her cellphone to find out what made the van "suspicious," Young said the driver had "threatened" a Rocky Mount police officer. Young also started following other vans on I-95 looking for the license plate number her father had provided, according to the patrol's investigation.

Eatmon, worried about being followed home, drove all the way to Roanoke Rapids before turning around to return home to Wilson, a route that would take him back through Rocky Mount. Not long after he crossed back into Nash County, Eatmon testified, he spotted a Highway Patrol cruiser sitting by the side of the interstate. As he passed, driving the speed limit, Eatmon said, he saw the cruiser put on its blue lights and speed after him.

Hawkins learns ID

Eatmon said he read Young's name tag and knew who she was. He testified that he immediately provided her with his driver's license, as well as his private investigator's license and permits for the two handguns he had in the van. He said his registration was in his glove box, and he'd need a minute to look for it.

Young returned to her cruiser where, according to the patrol report, she called her father and read him Eatmon's name off his license. She then called for backup, telling a dispatcher that a motorist was being "unruly and uncooperative," according to the report.

Within minutes, Eatmon saw Trooper Timothy Pope pull up. Believing he was about to be arrested, the private investigator called an acquaintance, Capt. Ken Castelloe, then the head of the Highway Patrol's Internal Affairs unit.

Eatmon said he explained what was going on, clipped his phone to his belt, and let the internal affairs captain listen in.

Eatmon claims that before putting him in Young's cruiser, the troopers handled him roughly, slamming him against his car and tightening the handcuffs so tight that his circulation was cut off. Young and Pope deny that.

"I had done nothing wrong," Eatmon testified Monday. "It's a very scary situation to be by yourself, under the complete control of a law enforcement officer, when you don't trust that law enforcement officer."

Eatmon said he then watched the troopers search his van, including opening the briefcase that contained his case files on Young's father and videotapes of Hawkins with the married woman.

As Young and Pope searched the car, a third trooper, 1st Sgt. J. Keith Stone, pulled up.

Eatmon says he told Stone that he was a private investigator who had a case involving Young's father.

"I found out this was more than a run-of-the-mill traffic stop," Stone, who has since been promoted to captain, testified Monday.

Stone and Pope testified that Young had told them Eatmon had refused to provide her his driver's license and registration. Both troopers testified that they saw no evidence that Eatmon was being uncooperative.

Stone said the investigator appeared "pleasant and composed," and that he decided to move Eatmon's handcuffs from behind his back to the front in an effort to make him more comfortable.

Still, during the drive with Young to the Nash County jail, Eatmon said, he was concerned for his safety.

At the jail, Castelloe met the group. He "observed" as Eatmon was booked on charges of resisting a public officer, failing to signal before changing lanes, and two counts of carrying a concealed weapon.

Magistrate's warning

As he processed the charges, the county magistrate conferred by phone with Hawkins, according to the patrol report. The magistrate then placed the private investigator under a $1,000 secured bail and ordered his handguns impounded until trial.

The magistrate also warned Eatmon to stay away from Hawkins and his married girlfriend, saying he had no right to investigate a law officer.

A District Court judge dismissed all charges against Eatmon at his 2006 trial after Young admitted on the witness stand that the investigator had, in fact, provided her with his driver's license.

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