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Bell trial opens in W.Va.

January 23, 2001

Bell trial opens in W.Va.



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An African-American man testifying in a civil rights case Tuesday said he believes a white man who confronted him with a gun in a field two years ago would have pulled the trigger had their argument over hunting privileges intensified, according to testimony in court Tuesday.

Clyde M. Eggleton said he was convinced the man was about to fire his gun because of the "intensity of the eyes."

Eggleton's testimony came in the first day of David Lee Bell Jr.'s trial. Bell was indicted on three charges of wanton endangerment involving a firearm and three counts of violation of the civil rights of another person, according to Jefferson County Circuit Court records.

The case stemmed from an incident on Nov. 25, 1998, when Eggleton and his two sons were hunting in a field near the intersection of Wiltshire Road and Leetown Pike west of Charles Town.

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A man later identified as Bell approached Eggleton and his two sons and told them he was the owner of the property, according to a criminal complaint filed by West Virginia State Police.

Eggleton told police he believed the land was owned by someone else.

The man pointed a rifle at the three men and threatened to shoot them if returned to the property, the criminal complaint alleged.

The father and sons also alleged that the man used a racial epithet, according to court records.

Eggleton, worried that the argument could get out of hand, told the man it was best that the situation remain under control, Eggleton's son, Conte Yates, testified.

"He was scared and we were too," said Yates, who works as a youth services coordinator at the FOCUS drug prevention group in Charles Town.

Conte Yates said he called 911 on his cell phone and told dispatchers that police needed to "get here fast" because someone had just pulled a gun on him, his father and his brother.

Eggleton said he reached for the keys to his truck after the confrontation and the man apparently thought Eggleton was reaching for a gun.

Eggleton testified that the man said "'go ahead pull, go ahead pull.' I replied, 'I'm only getting my keys.'"

According to allegations in a West Virginia State Police report, the man encouraged Eggleton to "pull 'something' out because he had six bullets for each of them." The trial continues today.

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