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Man arrested after damaging signs and assaulting county commission candidate Derrick Hickey

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Campaign sign vandalism turned out for one candidate for New Hanover County Commission this weekend.

Wilmington Police say they received a call just before p.m. Friday night about a man vandalizing campaign signs. They say Wayne Cole, 69, was using a knife to take down Derrick Hickey campaign signs in the 6200 block of Greenville Loop Road.

Hickey, a Republican running for commissioner, says he was driving home from dinner when he and his wife spotted a man tampering with one of his campaign signs. Hickey says Cole shoved his wife after she got out of the car to take a picture of his license plate. Hickey says the man then began yelling at him and his wife. Hickey says Cole pulled out a knife and threatened his life.

"He pulled out a knife and threatened to stab me," Hickey said. "And then he started striking me, hit me multiple times in the face."

Hickey says the driver of the car Cole was in drove away leaving Cole with Hickey and his wife.

Cole was a volunteer for the Skip Watkins campaign. Watkins, another Republican, says he had no knowledge of the vandalism, and Cole is no longer working with their campaign team.

"I was angry, disappointed and hurt that someone would jeopardize the hard work we did on the campaign," Watkins said.

Watkins says what Cole did was inexcusable, and he hopes the people of New Hanover County will understand.

"I think most people in the community will realize you can't control a volunteer," Watkins said. "Why he chose to do what he did, I have no idea. What escalated between them to cause that, I have no idea."

Police say Cole is charged with two counts of simple assault and one count of property damage.

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