The Malverne community is rallying around longtime varsity football coach Kito Lockwood, who was arrested on June 13 and arraigned Sept. 13 in Nassau County Court on six weapons charges.
A community show of support is planned for Friday, at 7 p.m. at Harold Walker Park.
Lockwood, 49, of West Hempstead, was one of 12 people indicted as part of a nine-month investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Long Island District Office Task Force into drug trafficking. Lockwood pleaded not guilty at his arraignment. He is not charged with any drug offenses.
His attorney, Frederick Brewington, said that Lockwood is innocent.
Felisha Tucker, who has had two sons and two nephews she raised coached by Lockwood, said that he is a man of good character who teaches his players to be respectful and take responsibility for their actions.
“I grew up with him, and I put four boys under his tutelage,” Tucker said. “There is no way he would be involved in anything that wasn’t in agreement with the laws of this land.”
Brewington, who was Lockwood’s football coach at Malverne in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said that Lockwood was at a friend’s house on Derrick Adkins, Lane in West Hempstead, watching an NBA game, on June 13, and decided to sleep on a couch after having a “few drinks,” when the DEA Task Force arrived. Three guns and high-capacity magazines were found at the house, in addition to cocaine and fentanyl.
“Not only is he not the owner of any of the guns, he didn’t even know they were there,” Brewington said. “Anyone who knows Kito knows he is a role model and staunch supporter of doing the right thing, and teaching that to children.”
Teresa Wilkinson, co-president of the Malverne High PTA, said that Lockwood has the community’s support, and that the rally on Friday would demonstrate that people believe the longtime coach is innocent.
“We would like to stand up and show our support for Coach Lockwood,” Wilkinson said. “We want our side of the story reported, that we support him one thousand percent.”
Tucker said that Lockwood was not aware of any illegal activity at the West Hempstead house when he visited friends there. “God only knows what people have in their house,” Tucker said. “No one goes into a house saying, ‘Hello? Are there any guns or drugs, or anything else that’s going to get me in trouble?’”
Lockwood coached Malverne’s 8-0 win over Locust Valley High School on Sept. 14, the night after his arraignment.
In an emailed statement, Malverne school district Superintendent Lorna Lewis said, “The individual is an employee of the district, as well as a coach. We are aware of the allegations, and do not have any comment at this time, as it as a matter of personnel.” The district later added, “There has been no change in his employment or coaching status.”
Brewington said that Lockwood is thankful that the district is standing by him, and that the district’s actions show the trust and faith Lockwood has earned in the community.
“Coach Lockwood is so thankful to the district for crediting his history with the district,” Brewington said. “As they say, leaders are shown by their actions. His leadership has demonstrated that all benefits and all doubts should be given to him.”
Many have credited Lockwood for not driving on the night of June 13, after having consumed alcohol, including Brewington and Tucker. They both said had the coach tried to drive home, he would have been doing the opposite of what he preaches to his athletes.
“If he would have been drinking and drove home, that would have been a problem,” Tucker said. “You do the adult thing.”
Tucker said she felt bad for the football players, who have set their sights on a county championship this season. Now, she said, the players will have to put aside the distraction and focus on football. The team is off to a 2-0 start.
“This is going to be a season like no other,” Tucker said. “And then there’s this roller coaster. He didn’t do it. The media has him looking like a monster. If your kid has the privilege of being under Coach Lockwood, trust and believe he will turn that young boy into a man with respect.”
The DEA also charged 35-year-old Tatiana Lopez, of West Hempstead, with multiple weapons felonies. Lopez is a former star basketball player at Malverne High and a former volunteer coach. She was arraigned in Nassau County Court, and pleaded not guilty.