Portsmouth school board member calls obstruction charge ‘bogus’

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth school board member says the obstruction of justice charge she is facing is “bogus” and believes the Portsmouth Police Department is trying to intimidate her as a community activist.

Lakeesha Atkinson (Photo courtesy of the Portsmouth Police Department)

Lakeesha Atkinson, who got elected in November 2016, was booked on the misdemeanor charge Tuesday night and released on bond. She says police arrested her outside City Hall before the city council meeting.

Atkinson released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

First of all, I want to thank everyone who have come forward in the community to support me. Secondly, on the advice of counsel, I will not discuss the case any further. I know I will be vindicated in court.”

The petition for warrant, filed by Officer A. O’Neill, details how the 34-year-old allegedly interfered with an investigation Sept. 9 on Randolph Street at the Harbor Square Apartments. Atkinson says she noticed six police officers who detained two people sitting on the ground.

“They looked like they could be students in the Portsmouth Public Schools. I asked them how old they were,” she said.

Read: Portsmouth Police Department Statement of Facts

Court documents say Officer O’Neill asked Atkinson three times to step back, to which she replied: “Why do I need to step back?”

“I said ‘for what,’ and that’s when [the officer] pushed me with one hand,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson says she backed up and watched the situation unfold from a distance and started recording the scene on her cell phone.

“I was a concerned citizen,” she said, when asked why she got involved. “Those kids looked like they could be my nephews.”

Atkinson says she set up a meeting for Monday with Chief Tonya Chapman through James Boyd, president of the Portsmouth chapter of the NAACP, but the meeting got canceled. Police have not commented on that meeting.

Read: NAACP Statement

Atkinson says she did not break the law, but Officer O’Neill wrote in the petition, “In the time officers had to spend engaging with Ms. Atkinson, it delayed the investigation, not to mention the increased risk of flight due to my attention being drawn away from the persons in custody.”

“I feel like Portsmouth police is trying to silence me as an activist and using the situation as an intimidation tactic,” she said. “I invest so much time, effort and money in this city.”

Atkinson has hired an attorney and says she plans to fight the charge to clear her name.

“I am extremely disappointed by the action of these officers and the Portsmouth Police Department,” she said. “I definitely will beat this charge. It’s bogus.”

The NAACP released a statement Wednesday calling on police to release the body camera footage. Misty Holley, a spokesperson for the Portsmouth Police Department, tells 10 On Your Side the video will not be released because it is part of two criminal investigations.

Stay with WAVY.com for more information on this developing story.