Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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February 25, 2013

Conflict in Kilgore: Bulldog player pepper-sprayed

KILGORE — Navarro College district president Dr. Richard Sanchez said Monday night that he was waiting for Kilgore College officials to complete their investigation into an incident after Saturday’s basketball game between the schools that resulted in Kilgore campus police deploying pepper spray on several Bulldogs coaches and players.

Sanchez said he has spoken with Navarro athletic director Roark Montgomery about what transpired in the minutes after Navarro lost to Kilgore 88-78 in an emotionally-charged game between the top two teams in the Region XIV standings.

At least four Navarro players and two coaches were sprayed after Kilgore campus police tried to get the Bulldogs back into their locker room.

 “I’m very disappointed because it seems like the action was extremely unwarranted,” Dr. Sanchez said. “I don’t know what my team did. From what my athletic director tells me my team didn’t do anything. They may have said something but Roark said he didn’t hear anything.”

In a 17-paragraph statement released by Kilgore College on Monday, school officials said no criminal charges have been filed against any players or fans at the game, but the possibility has not been ruled out.

The response from Kilgore officials also said that “the control measures used by KCPD officers will be investigated and a determination will be made as to whether these actions were done in accordance to departmental policy and/or state law.”

A nine-minute video was released Monday afternoon by Kilgore College that shows some images of the aftermath of the game.

View the video by clicking here

The video starts with what appears to be an ordinary handshake between the teams, followed by a celebration at midcourt with Kilgore players and fans after the Rangers had won a close game that kept them in contention for the regular season title (Navarro could have clinched a trip to the national tournament with a win).

The next two minutes of the video shows one area where the colleges are in conflict. Kilgore’s statement reads that “several individuals from Navarro were upset from the celebrating that was taking place and began verbalizing their disapproval which began to inflame the crowd.”

The Kilgore College response also states that “KC students were at midcourt, but never at any point crossed the floor to the Navarro side of the gym.”

The video provided by Kilgore of its streamed broadcast of the post-game shows otherwise. The video shows at around the two-minute, 30-second mark that several Kilgore fans made their way across the court to Navarro’s bench area, where team managers and Bulldog fans still remained.

Those fans were asked to move to the other side of the court by Kilgore campus policeman and administrators. But those same Kilgore fans also milled around the court up until the six-minute mark of the video.

Kilgore’s statement goes on to say Navarro players twice tried to re-enter the gym floor, the second time because a Navarro student manager who sitting in the stands began repeatedly blowing a whistle.

Navarro coach Johnny Estelle said Saturday several members of his team left their locker room after hearing a whistle going off in the gym out of concern over protecting their own fans and family.

“My wife and three-week old baby were out there,” Estelle said Saturday night.

It was at that point that Kilgore campus police instructed the Navarro players to get back into their locker room. “The players ignored the request by KCPD and made threats toward the KC officers who were giving instructions,” the Kilgore College statement reads.

KCPD officers tried to back the Navarro players down the hallway toward their locker room, with the pepper spray cans clearly visible.

“Navarro players were still being uncooperative and were still making threats toward KCPD officers. At this point, two KCPD officers deployed pepper spray in an attempt to gain control of the situation,” the Kilgore response states.

Montgomery, who had a similar issue with one of the officers at a Navarro-Kilgore football game last fall, said he will discuss the supposed threats with Kilgore College’s campus police chief on Tuesday morning.  

“We’ve seen their statement,” Montgomery said. “I’m going to respond to some inaccuracies of their statement since I was on the court, in the corridor and in the locker room and saw what happened.”

Chris Craddock, Kilgore College coordinator of public and sports Information, said campus police will make no further statement at this time.

As part of the investigation, KCPD is currently taking statements from fans who witnessed what happened at the game.

    —————

Todd Wills may be reached by email at twills@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “soundoff” on this story? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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