Officer who charged Lucas says senator should look ‘in the mirror’ for blame

Published 4:45 pm Friday, September 4, 2020

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The day after protesters beheaded four statues attached to Portsmouth’s Confederate monument and caused one to fall on a man, an officer with the city’s Police Department told City Council members via email that, in his opinion, state Sen. L. Louise Lucas should “start by looking in the mirror” when assigning blame for what happened.

That was on June 11, the same day Lucas, in a TV interview, had blamed Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene for not intervening before the statue fell, and had called for her immediate firing.

More than two months later, that same officer — Sgt. Kevin McGee — was the one Greene tasked with appearing before a magistrate to secure warrants against the senator and others who had attended the protest.

The Tidewater News obtained a copy of McGee’s email via a Freedom of Information Act request. Greene made no mention of this letter on Aug. 20 when she denied claims Portsmouth City Manager Dr. L. Pettis Patton had made the day before regarding the police having a conflict of interest in investigating Lucas and other protest-goers.

“During our investigation, it was determined that although felonious acts were committed by several individuals, no conflicts of interest for this department were revealed,” the chief had said.

Now, text messages between the chief and Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales indicate McGee’s email had, in fact, triggered an internal investigation into the sergeant’s conduct.

WAVY-TV 10 was the first to report the existence of the thread of texts between Greene and Morales. The Tidewater News issued its own FOIA request to Morales’ office earlier this week to obtain copies of the texts, but as of press time, had not received them.

“For anyone to attempt to place blame on Chief Greene or the men and women of the Portsmouth Police Department to continue to try to use us as pawns on their political agenda is absolutely disgusting and offensive,” McGee had written of Lucas on June 11. “The blame for the events of June 10th rest squarely on the shoulders of several elected and appointed officials. Not on us.”

McGee had then characterized Lucas’ remarks as giving protesters “the green light” to do what they wanted, and had claimed several protesters had told him the day of the protest that Morales had said they would not be prosecuted.

Lucas was caught on camera saying to Portsmouth Police officers “They’re going to put some paint on this thing, and y’all cannot arrest them,” but the senator denies having outright told protesters to do anything illegal.

“I do not know for sure if the Commonwealth Attorney told the protestors she would not prosecute them or not, but I have a pretty good idea,” McGee writes. “I also have a pretty good idea of what would happen had one police officer used force to attempt to stop the protestors and what reaction some of the elected  officials including the Commonwealth Attorney would have been if we had attempted to intervene … Over the last two weeks a number of police officers across the nation, not involved with the murder of George Floyd, have been suspended, fired, and charged with crimes without due process and without investigations simply for doing their jobs when they have been thrust into volatile situations not of their making …  The only thing I was actually afraid of was persecution and prosecution for doing my job.”

According to WAVY, Morales had told Greene that McGee’s statements about her and her office’s stance on prosecution were “incorrect and unprofessional at best.”

“I would never allow the members of my department to speak about you in that way,” Morales is to have said via text.

In the same thread, Greene is reported to have told Morales of the internal investigation into McGee, stating, “I’ve sent the letter to our professional standards unit to start an investigation.”

The Tidewater News reached out by phone and email to Victoria Varnedoe, a spokeswoman for the Portsmouth Police Department, multiple times this week. The paper had intended to ask if Greene knew of McGee’s email at the time she had made her “no conflict” statement and what role McGee’s assertions regarding Morales had played in the department’s decision to seek warrants via Portsmouth Magistrate Mandy Owens rather than providing Morales’ office with complete investigative results. Varnedoe acknowledged having received the questions but did not provide answers by press time.

Greene indicated in her Aug. 20 statement that the decision to go around Morales’ office in securing warrants was because the department had reason to believe the commonwealth’s attorney could be called as a witness. Morales, however, has denied ever being on-site the day of the protest to witness anything.