DeWine responds to arrest of woman who refused to wear mask at football game

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — People seeing images of a woman arrested at a middle school football game after refusing requests to put on a mask should not rush to judgment, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday as he called the incident “very unfortunate, very unpleasant.”

A stun gun was used on the woman after she wouldn’t leave the football stadium in Logan in southeastern Ohio Wednesday, the Logan Police Department said in a news release. The woman, who told police she had asthma and wouldn’t be wearing the mask, was arrested on a criminal trespassing charge and not for refusing to wear a mask, the agency said.

It was unclear if the woman was a parent: Only parents and other close relatives are permitted at fall sporting events under Ohio health orders.

“Once she refused to leave the premises, she was advised she was under arrest for criminal trespassing, she resisted the arrest, which led to the use of force,” the agency said. “This is an unfortunate incident for everyone involved. The incident remains under investigation.”

The mask-wearing requirement was widely publicized both before the game and as spectators entered, Theresa Schultheiss, the Logan-Hocking schools athletic director, told The Marietta Times.

DeWine used his twice-weekly news briefing to caution people against judging the actions of the police department and the school. He said the incident was the only in the state he was aware of.

The Republican said times are tense, with the presidential election in the final stretch, some people frustrated by the statewide mask order, and others angry with the outcome of investigations into police shootings of Black people, including Wednesday’s decision in Louisville not to charge officers directly in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor during the execution of a warrant.

School officials were following guidelines set out by the Ohio Health Department and the state’s high school sports athletic association with the sole goal of having students play sports again, the governor said.

“Before you just look at the video, look at what led up to that video, and I think that you’ll get a full picture of what happened,” DeWine said. “Very unfortunate, very unpleasant to look at. No one wants to see that happen. It’s sad when we see something like that.”

The governor’s Aug. 19 order allowing fall sports prohibits spectators at events other than family members or individuals close to athletes, with final decisions on those people left up to schools.

One in six districts asked the state for permission to add additional spectators for fall sporting events while still following social distancing and mask-wearing rules. Logan-Hocking was not among those.

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