LUMBERTON — Some unlikely visitors to the Robeson County Courthouse disrupted proceedings Tuesday morning and caused a judge, bailiffs, attorneys and defendants to be moved to another courtroom.
A wheelchair bound man appearing in Courtroom 3C was infested with of bed bugs and lice, said Angelica Chavis McIntyre, county assistant district attorney.
Court proceedings, which normally start at 9 a.m., were delayed for one hour because of the evacuation.
People sitting in the front pew in the public area behind McIntyre noticed small brown and white bugs crawling on the courtroom divider and alerted court staff.
“We just started court proceedings,” McIntyre said. “I could see lice. It was apparent. Lice were jumping around.”
Screams could be heard shortly after the bugs were spotted, McIntyre said.
“There were some obnoxious reactions,” she said. “The man was in court on panhandling charges. I am pretty sure he is homeless. It was quite sad. He needs some help.”
The courtroom was cleared out and fumigated, McIntyre said.
“You can have a public safety issue when 300 people are exposed. It can cause an infestation,” she said. “They have to fumigate, clean and sanitize that courtroom.”
Everyone was relocated to the courthouse’s fourth floor because of health concerns, she said.
A bailiff was tasked with unlocking and performing a routine security sweep before people and court files could be moved to Courtroom 4A, which added 20 minutes to the delay.
Deanna Glickman, a Robeson County public defender, was called and responded immediately to assist the infested man.
“She helped him with his living and hygiene situation and with his case,” McIntyre said. “A waiver was obtained so she can represent him on his behalf.”
In the seven years McIntyre’s worked at the Robeson County courthouse, this is the first time an entire courtroom had to be evacuated when she was in it.
“I’ve been here from internship to working here. This is the first time I had to leave the courtroom,” she said. “Six months ago the same thing happened. I wasn’t in that courtroom but it delayed court that day as well.”
The courtroom is expected to be back in use by 9 a.m. today.
“We’ve had this done in the past, it usually takes about a day for the cleaning process to be completed,” McIntyre said.
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.