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Ref assaulted, two charged



Two spectators at a middle school girls’ basketball game face criminal charges after a referee was assaulted at the end of the game.

A source who asked not to be named said Nikki Sanders, 27, of Redfox in Knott County and Billy Joe Smith, 32, of 98 Fall Drive, Whitesburg, could be heard cursing throughout the ballgame between Beckham Bates and Cowan elementary schools. With about two minutes left in the game, a BBES player didn’t leave room for Cowan player who had gone up for a shot and referee Mike Eldridge called a foul.

The source said that with about a minute to go in the game, Eldridge talked to Sanders and Smith about their behavior. After the game, the referees shook hands with the coaches and were ready to leave the gymnasium when Sanders came down from the stands and started poking Eldridge on his shoulder asking him his name, the source said. The source said that after Eldridge refused to give his name to Sanders, she cursed at him and pushed him so hard that he hit a wall. Smith then started punching Eldridge. Other people also started throwing punches.

Sanders and Smith were arrested by Letcher County School Resource Officer Wade Adams on Oct. 6. Sanders was charged with menacing, and Smith was charged with fourth-degree assault. Both were released from the Letcher County Jail after posting a property bond.


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