Charges Dropped Against Refs Arrested at SPS Football Game

Press Conference

Covington mayor, SPS alumnus Mike Cooper, announced that charges were dropped against the referees.
(image from nola.com)

At the request of the mayor and newly sworn-in police chief, the charges against the two LHSSA referees arrested for public intimidation of a police office during the Oct. 11 St. Paul’s vs. Mandeville game were dropped less than a week after the high profile incident that halted play for 25 minutes during the third quarter of the home football game.

During a press conference held on Oct. 17, Covington Mayor Mike Cooper offered an apology to the referees, the Greater New Orleans Football Officials Association, and both schools for how the matter was handled. “We all agree it could have easily been handled differently. It is my goal to put this matter behind us, gain credibility for the Covington Police Department under its new leadership, and restore a positive image to our great city,” Cooper said.

The referees involved in the incident were head official Jim Radcliffe and linesman Chris Gambino, who were charged with public intimidation of a police officer. The police report claims the referees attempted to throw an officer out of the stadium.

“A referee asked a police officer to move some people back, and the officer moved them back.  Another referee came up to the officer and told him, ‘that’s not far enough,'” Capt. Jack West of the Covington Police said to WWL. “The officer explained would you please handle the game and we will handle the crowd for you. The second referee told the officer, nose-to-nose, ‘You’re out of the game, get outta here.’”

The mugshots of the officials who were arrested.

High school officials Chris Gambino and Jim Radcliffe were arrested during the game. (photo from St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office)

This was when the argument between the two referees and the officer became heated. The referees have jurisdiction over the entire stadium, and the officer is supposed to cooperate with the referee, according to Sports Illustrated’s SI Wire. This did not happen, which lead to the arrests.

The officer who made the arrest was Stephen Short, father of Mandeville High football player, Stephen Short, Jr.

“He has been apologetic to me and remorseful, but I’m sure people can understand him not going out in public and making those statements,” new Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz said during the press conference.

According to WWLTV, the referees were put through the normal arrest process. They were brought to the jail, booked into the St. Tammany Parish Jail, and put into the holding cell. They spent the night there and were released the next morning at 5:30 a.m., when they posted a $5,000 bail.

Brian Greenwood, head of the Louisiana High School Officials Association, said the two referees are well-respected in their organization.

“They will absolutely continue to work with us, they have done nothing wrong, and it is not going to affect them with our organization at all,” said Greenwood, as reported by Sports Illustrated SI Wire.

The referee association had requested to all St. Tammany schools that the Covington police no longer provide security at the football games as a result of this incident. During the press conference, Mayor Cooper announced that this request had been withdrawn once the charges were dropped.

This story about the arrests made its way into the national arena, reported on by MSN, the Associated Press, and Sports Illustrated, among others.

“This controversy took the attention away from a great win by our football team over our district rivals,” said St. Paul’s President/Principal Bro. Ray Bulliard, FSC. “This was the first time I had to go on the field (during a game), and hopefully this is the last.”

The school’s Athletic Director, Craig Ketelsen, echoed Bro. Ray’s sentiments.

“The thing that bothers me the most is that this whole incident took the attention away from a great win against a highly ranked opponent,” Ketelsen said regarding the Wolves’ 20-3 victory over Mandeville once play resumed.

Even through all the controversy, the two referees will continue to work and referee games this season, according to Nola.com.

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