Arrest of two football prep officials still under investigation

James Radcliffe, left, and Christopher Gambino. Show caption
James Radcliffe, left, and Christopher Gambino.

The Louisiana High School Activities Association is continuing to investigate an incident that led to the arrest of two officials during Friday night’s football game between Mandeville High School and St. Paul’s.

Head referee James Radcliffe and line judge Chris Gambino bonded out of St. Tammany Parish Jail early Saturday, according to Keith Alexander, the LHSAA’s assistant executive director and head of officials. They were charged with “public intimidation of an officer,” according to booking documents.

“We have to have the home team management, the officials and the police authorities cooperating with each other,” said Alexander. “When we have a breakdown in one of those areas, it makes for a bad scene. We’ll be investigating more when we get an official statement from the police department.”

It isn’t Radcliffe’s first run-in with the law, records show. He was arrested in Orleans Parish for assault in a drive-by shooting in 2005. The case was set for trial, but was dropped in 2007.

Friday’s arrests occurred midway through the third quarter on the visitors’ sideline of the game played at St. Paul’s between the north shore rivals. Radcliffe and Gambino were unable to be reached on Saturday, but Alexander shared what he learned from the investigation.

“The officials were having some problems with the chain crew and also some equipment managers or some other people with Mandeville,” Alexander said. “The officials were basically told by the police department that they needed to get the game going on and not worry about what’s going on with the fans. At that time, Jim Radcliffe said he would just get the home team management involved. That’s when the officer said, ‘No, I will be involved in it now.’ ”

Covington Police Department interim chief Jack West didn’t return phone calls on Saturday, but gave a statement on Friday following the incident.

West said the referee was asking that a group of people on the sideline be moved, but the officer said he should handle the situation if someone needed to move. The referee allegedly became confrontational and was later removed from the field, along with Gambino, West said.

“In talking to several witnesses, it is as the officer described it,” West said.

West wouldn’t release the name of the arresting officer, but according to official police documents, Stephen Short was the arresting officer.

St. Paul’s athletic director Craig Ketelson gave his version of the incident.

“The sideline referee had asked some of the Mandeville fans to back up and asked the Covington police who were working security to back some of the Mandeville fans up,” Ketelson said. “There was a disagreement between the line referee (Gambino) and the Covington policeman. He went and got the head ref (Radcliffe) and there seemed to be more disagreement and eventually the referees were taken off.”

The fracas caused about a 25-minute game delay. St. Paul’s went on to win 20-3 over Mandeville, which was ranked No. 7 in The New Orleans Advocate’s large school rankings.

“The thing I was most happy about was that both teams, coaching staffs and all of the fans were extremely calm,” Ketelson said. “They were great throughout the entire process. What I am most disappointed about is that we had an incredible rivalry game and a big win against a highly ranked team and that’s kinda lost in the whole situation.”

Alexander says neither school appears to be at fault in the incident. St. Paul’s is scheduled to play at Northshore Friday, while Mandeville plays Hammond.

“Certainly we want the police and sheriff departments to work with the officials and the administration to try to maintain order in the game,” Alexander said. “There are enough sportsmanship issues in a regular game, so we don’t need anything like this.”

Dan Lawton contributed to this article.