In an eyebrow-raising column this morning in The N&O, Barry Saunders ventures the suggestion that the startlingly vicious mugging of Martin Eakes, co-founder and CEO of Self-Help Credit Union, was not a garden-variety crime but a targeted attack.

Saunders notes that Eakes has certainly made adversaries over the years, and perhaps one of them is thuggish enough to order the kind of attack we normally associate with The Sopranos.

If you closed one eye and squinted real hard out of the other one — view the assault on Self-Help Credit Union co-founder Martin Eakes in the elevator of a downtown Durham parking garage Nov. 24 as a random attack. Perhaps Eakes was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And the fact that the four thugs who used his head as a punching bag coordinated their positioning — there was one dude on each stairwell blocking any potential escape route and two on the elevator — why, that’s what all street robbers do, right?

If you believe that, I’ve got a low-interest, subprime loan for you. Sign here.

Neither Eakes nor Durham police are saying he was targeted because of his work on behalf of poor people and against those lending organizations that prey on the poor.

But I am.

Saunders asked Eakes who might his enemies be, and Eakes replied:

“When we first started,” Eakes said, “the KKK used to threaten us. Then it was the drug dealers” who didn’t want his organization fixing up rundown neighborhoods. After that, he got on the bad side of predatory lenders with usurious rates who don’t like Eakes providing lending options for poor people.

“When Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi are your heroes,” Eakes said, “chances are you have enemies.”