COVINGTON, La. - The tables turned Thursday, for the good, for two football referees arrested after an argument with a police officer on the Northshore last weekend.
City leaders in Covington announced at a press conference that they requested the public intimidation charges against the officials be rejected, and the District Attorney’s Office has agreed.
The move comes with an apology to the men, and the community, less than a week after the arrests first stirred up controversy.
Mayor Mike Cooper said, “I think it’s been a distraction. I think they feel that we should be dealing with other matters as opposed to something like this, but it is appropriate that we handle it appropriately and expeditiously and I think today we did so."
The incident, at the Mandeville vs. St. Paul’s game Friday night, started with an attempt to move fans off of the sidelines and escalated into a confrontation between the officials and a Covington Police Officer working security at the game. New Police Chief Tim Lentz and Cooper said dropping the charges was the right thing to do.
"There was a law enforcement action that probably needed to take place,” said Lentz, “It wasn't an arrest."
"Perhaps it could have been a more conflict-resolution, a better way of resolving the conflict as opposed to an arrest," said Cooper.
The officials association involved has also backed away from an effort to keep Covington Police from working future games in the area. Many involved say this is not a win-win.
Lentz said, “Police officers sometimes are a little stubborn and they can't say I'm sorry. I truly apologize for what happened the other night. It wasn't right. We want to make amends and move forward."
Now that the criminal case is over, the administrative investigation begins into whether the officer involved will see punishment. There was no timeline set for that decision.
We tried to contact both referees from comment, but could not reach them. The Greater New Orleans Referees Association told Eyewitness News it is pleased with the outcome, but had no comment on whether the officer involved should be punished.