PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth senator filed a $6.7-million lawsuit against the city’s former police chief and a criminal investigator on Monday, alleging that they worked together to bring baseless felony charges against the politician after a Confederate monument was destroyed by protesters last year.
State Sen. L. Louise Lucas’ lawsuit against former Portsmouth Police Chief Angela Greene and Sgt. Kevin McGee is the latest chapter in a convoluted saga revolving around the June 10, 2020 protest, during which a Confederate monument was painted and beheaded before a piece of the statue toppled and seriously injured a demonstrator.
The protest began as a peaceful demonstration in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. It turned destructive after two Portsmouth NAACP leaders were arrested and charged with trespassing at the monument. Portsmouth police were present as protesters painted and beheaded the statue on High Street in the evening, but didn’t intervene until demonstrator Chris Green was injured by the fallen monument.
In an interview immediately following the protest, 10 On Your Side investigators questioned Greene about the lack of police intervention. She said she didn’t give her staff an order to ignore the destruction of property, but that an elected official — later alleged to be Lucas — directed officers to let the protesters vandalize the statue. In a letter dated Aug. 24, 2020, Greene wrote that then-City Attorney Solomon Ashby advised her that the department’s focus during the protest should be the preservation of life, not property, and that she passed that message along to her officers.
Although she allegedly told then-City Manager Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton and Portsmouth City Council that she had a conflict of interest in the case, Greene supported her sergeant, McGee, in his investigation into the protest and fallen monument. The investigation resulted in charges being filed against 14 people, including Lucas, in August 2020. More charges were filed against several others later. The senator was charged with destruction of property and conspiracy to commit a felony, according to the lawsuit.
The charges stem from events that happened during a 30-minute period that Lucas spent at the monument in the afternoon on the day of the protest. She told 10 On Your Side investigators that she visited the monument after the NAACP leaders were arrested to ensure that criminal charges weren’t lodged against other peaceful protesters. In a sworn statement to a magistrate, McGee said that Lucas told police that the protesters were going to paint the monument and that the officers could not arrest them. Lucas denied telling police to ignore vandalism or property destruction.
10 On Your Side obtained police body camera footage of the interaction through a Freedom of Information Act request in July 2020. The video showed Lucas telling police:
“I’m Senator Louise Lucas. I know I’m in disguise, but they are going to put some paint on this thing. You can not arrest them. You need to call Dr. Patton, because they are going to do it. You can’t stop them. This is city property.”
In the lawsuit, Lucas alleges that McGee made false statements to a magistrate to obtain the arrest warrants against her without probable cause. She also accused Greene of defamation related to statements the former police chief made about the criminal charges during an August press conference.
Lucas alleges that she was humiliated by the arrest, and that facing the potential of jail time caused her emotional, mental, and physical harm.