- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
By JIMMY CARTER
KILGORE — Members of the Navarro Junior College basketball team were left with skin burns after being pepper-sprayed Saturday by a Kilgore College police officer in an incident minutes after a game against the Rangers.
Minutes before the pepper- spray incident, several Navarro players had to be restrained by their fans as they tried to re-enter the court area while Kilgore players and fans celebrated at midcourt.
The Navarro players were ushered back into a Masters Gymnasium corridor leading to the opposing locker room when an unidentified male Kilgore College police officer entered the hallway.
“As I stood between my players and him, I’m telling my players to go back in the locker room because he’s telling them they’ve got to be in the locker room,” said Navarro assistant coach Eric Colbert.
“They’re in the hallway. He sprays over my shoulder, sprays my guy in the face and then rushes into the hallway and sprays all the rest of my players.
“And at that point I just ran out. I couldn’t stay. He just kept spraying. He sprayed the whole team.”
No Kilgore College players, coaches or fans were involved in the incident. The team had made its way to its locker room when the pepper spraying occurred.
Colbert and several others filed a written police report about the incident. The officer who sprayed the team left the arena shortly after the incident, and his name was not disclosed.
“I don’t know the facts,” said Kilgore College Lt. Tony C. Means said. “I can guarantee you an investigation will be conducted.”
The police department could be prepared to disclose the findings of its investigation by Tuesday, Means said.
No ambulances or medical staff were called to the scene, but several Navarro players were still receiving treatment from school personnel 45 minutes after the game.
“Some of them are trying to shower off,” said Navarro head coach Johnny Estelle. “Some of them have asthma and can’t hardly breathe. I tell you what; that big guy showed his colors. Real tough guy.”
Colbert and Estelle said the officer who pepper-sprayed the players mentioned an incident that occurred during one of the schools’ two football matchups in the fall.
“He went nuts,” Estelle said. “He prefaced all this about football. I don’t know what he’s talking about. He said this wasn’t going to be like football. Then he started just escalating the situation.
He started spraying kids in the face.
“My wife and my newborn were there too when it happened. She was right there when he started spraying, and he could have sprayed my newborn in the face, too.”
Kilgore College players were celebrating with students following the game, including members of the football team who sat courtside across from the Navarro bench during the game.
“When I came out they were in the doorway because they kept hearing somebody blowing a whistle, blowing a whistle,” Estelle said. “Because there were situations between the game, from what I gathered, between the fans and the players. If something during the game was going on back and forth, shouldn’t the police do a good job shutting up everybody?”
Despite the win, Kilgore still trails Navarro by a half-game in conference play.
The Bulldogs have two games left in the regular season, while Kilgore has a bye Wednesday and then will play Saturday at Tyler Junior College in its regular season finale.