Pepper spray incident: Navarro says Kilgore College PD was 'out - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Pepper spray incident: Navarro says Kilgore College PD was 'out of control'


Navarro College released a 29 page incident report on Friday detailing their internal investigation of an incident that occurred on February 23 following a basketball game between Kilgore College and Navarro College. The report comes just over two weeks after Kilgore College released their own report prepared by the Kilgore College police chief.

Richard Sanchez, the district president of Navarro College, said in February that he is extremely disappointed in how his team was treated and expects something to be done about it.

In the report, Navarro College Chief of Police Kraig Hawkins expressed concern that "certain perceptions" adopted by the Kilgore College Police Department did not agree with those of the NC coaching staff and other witnesses. He also stated that few of the Navarro staff members' comments appear in the KCPD report.

According to the report, witnesses, including Navarro Athletic Director Roark Montgomery, reported that several males, seated near the floor level, were yelling obscene and vulgar comments toward the Navarro team. Deborah Bonner, the Navarro soccer coach, reported the incident to Kilgore College staff, but the heckling continued.

Following the game, several spectators congregated at midcourt to celebrate Kilgore College's victory. Several of the hecklers then approached the Navarro bench. The team's videographer blew a whistle on his key ring, fearing a fight was about to break out. Navarro College coaches say the videographer, who volunteers his time to help the team, has carried the whistle for years to signify trouble. The coaches also noted that the videographer has been diagnosed a mild form of autism.

While Johnny Estelle, the head basketball coach at Navarro College, was dressing in the locker room, he heard the manager's whistle, and, believing it to be a policeman's whistle, entered the hallway outside the locker room. In the hallway, his players expressed concern for the Navarro fans. The report says a KCPD officer then entered the hallway and began yelling and screaming at the coaches and players, allegedly stating "this isn't going to be like football." At that point, the officer pushed past Estelle and dispensed pepper spray. Another officer also entered and dispensed peppery spray.

According to Navarro College assistant basketball coach Eric Colbert, while his players were not quiet, due to the presence of the KCPD officer, their behavior was not threatening at any point.

Montgomery believes that the driving force behind the heckling was a football game held at Kilgore College in November 2012 when Kilgore College expressed that Navarro College ran up the score late in the game. After the football game, Montgomery said he met the same KCPD officer who pepper sprayed the basketball team. The same officer reportedly threatened to dispense pepper spray in the Navarro College locker room following the football game.

Estelle alleges that the Kilgore College head coach incited the hecklers following the basketball game by pumping his fist at midcourt.  

The report concludes by saying that the viewpoints of the Navarro coaching staff conflict with the viewpoints of the KCPD officers. Chief Hawkins alleges that the situation was exacerbated by poor crowd control. It goes on to say that the officer held preconceived notions that the Navarro players were there to cause trouble. The report questions the officer's need to extend his baton and deploy pepper spray in an attempt to calm the situation.

In a statement released by Kilgore College on Friday, they say, "As with any volatile situation, there are always two sides to the same story.  What happened after the game Feb. 23 was unfortunate, but Kilgore College Police officers acted in a manner that diffused a situation that could have easily escalated into something much worse. KCPD, before releasing its report on March 27, reviewed dozens of written reports from both KC and Navarro spectators and coaches who were actually at the game. The safety of players and spectators at all college athletic events is a top priority of our police department and the KCPD is already working on ways to prevent something of this nature from ever happening again."

Navarro College has continued its spring sports schedule with Kilgore College as planned. Navarro says relations are strained, but professional.

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