PATASKALA, Ohio (WCMH) — A high school football game has kicked off two criminal investigations around incidents that happened at Licking Heights High School, with Pataskala police saying there could be assault charges.
Kareem Caldwell said he was watching his son play football for Licking Heights High School when things took a turn.
“We just heard someone say, ‘They’re fighting, they’re fighting over here,’” Caldwell said.
He said he knew one of the students involved.
“He pretty much said he got jumped in the stands,” Caldwell said.
But even after this incident, something else happened outside the stadium.
Licking Heights Local Schools Superintendent Philip Wagner said they are not sure if the two incidents are related, but they both involve people from Licking Heights.
“There was a problem in the stands with students and another altercation that was physical in the parking lot as well,” Wagner said.
Police said around 30 people were involved. Parents said at one point, they heard a weapon was also involved.
“It definitely was a scary situation, especially the second part. Some of the administrators closed the fence and kept us in,” Caldwell said.
Wagner said that was part of the protocol.
“When there is a threat of a weapon, we have to determine what the protocol has to be and they went into a safe lockdown-type situation,” Wagner said.
However, Wagner said there is no evidence of pepper spray or use of any other kind of weapon.
“Police searched some people and cars and didn’t find one,” Wagner said.
There are now two criminal investigations and possible assault charges for those involved. And Wagner is urging people to come forward with information and stop posting it to social media.
“If someone has information about that whether it’s a weapon, pepper spray, discharging weapon, we need to get that information as soon as possible to police,” Wagner said.
Monday afternoon, the district sent out a notice to parents that reads, in part:
“We remind our community that any threats, especially threats involving weapons, are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly by our district administration, school safety officers, and local authorities.”
As for the people involved, Caldwell said he has a message for them.
“There is so much division in the world right now. We are all a family. The Licking Heights is like a community we need to stop the fighting and violence, it’s getting out of hand,” Caldwell said.
The superintendent said the district is reviewing protocol and surveillance video from around the school. And it plans to have more officers at the next game.
Ellis E. Booth, athletic director for Heath City Schools, which was the visiting team Saturday, posted the following on the high school’s Facebook page Sunday:
Community of Heath,
I’d like to clarify some of the rumors and misconceptions from the post game incident last night. Licking Heights staff and Pataskala police became aware that there might be a person on the premises with a weapon. It was initially believed at the time, that person was in the direction of the locker rooms. That person was not an athlete involved in the game and I can’t even tell you if they are a LH student. The LH staff tried to shut the exit gates to keep fans from going in the direction of the area of concern. This added to the chaos but they were trying to keep people out of harms way. I tried to direct Heath fans to an exit away from the situation. There were lots of young people running. Some kids were running for unknown reasons and Licking Heights players who were still exiting the field at that time were being told by their coaches to get to their locker room. Like many of us, we did not know what was going on at the time. I was at the fence and was able to get some information the LH athletic director. I was only told there may be a weapon. By the time I was able to get to our locker room all of our players and cheerleaders were accounted for. We spent the next ten or so minutes working with law enforcement to determine an exit strategy once the situation was clear and safe for us to leave. LH coaches, game officials, Heath coaches, myself and others took the team’s equipment and loaded it on to our equipment truck. Once that was done we quickly loaded our students onto the busses. We told them to keep their heads down and under the direction of Pataskala Police we left the school. One of the concerns listed on Facebook questioned why parents weren’t notified sooner. There was a flurry of activity going on, all of which centered around accounting for everyone, calming some people down, and keeping our kids safe until Pataskala Police determined it safe for us to leave. While that was going on nobody really had the time to communicate with anybody and we already knew from the rain delay the night before that communication out of that building was very poor. As soon as the team, cheerleaders, and staff left the area, I made my way to the safety of my vehicle and called Dr. Thomas to inform him of what had happened and to ask that he put something out on the district’s Facebook page to let everyone know that our students were safe and on their way home. In communication with the LH athletic director she has informed me that no weapon was found. I hope everyone fully understands that the only thing on our minds for about a 30 minute period was making sure all of our kids were safe. All of us involved empathize with the concerns of parents, many of us are parents ourselves and several staff members involved have children who found themselves in this unfortunate and extremely unusual incident. I can assure you that the safety of everyone involved was paramount and if we did not communicate quickly ENOUGH, that is your determination and I respectfully disagree. I’d like to thank the Pataskala Police, the LH coaches and game staff, our Heath coaches, the officials, Mr. Keller, Jay Morrow, Mr. Bonham, Lloyd Haas and several others who worked to get our kids to safety and to help get them on the busses and back to Heath.
Ellis E. Booth
Heath City Schools