Love and Lakeview. That’s what neighbors came together to celebrate in a show of support for Malverne High School football coach Kito Lockwood.
“A leader, a role model, a father figure,” the Rev. Latesha Tucker, of the Power of Prayer Evangelistic Ministries Church, said of Lockwood. “He is a pillar in the community.
“That’s why we’re here to support him,” Tucker added. “Because we are a family. A Malverne family.”
More than 60 people gathered in Harold Walker Memorial Park last Friday to stand in solidarity with Lockwood, who has been the varsity coach for 15 years. He is facing three counts of criminal possession of a firearm and three counts of criminal possession of a weapon, after he was arrested during a police raid of an alleged drug trafficking ring in West Hempstead.
Lockwood pleaded not guilty. He is not charged with any drug-related offenses.
“Our society gets into the habit of doing guilt by association,” said Frederick Brewington, Lockwood’s attorney and former football coach. “He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get pulled in. That’s not this man.”
The Malverne school district has not suspended Lockwood from his coaching position, which is nearly unprecedented for a faculty member facing criminal charges. “They recognize his personality,” Brewington said. “The norm is, you jump to conclusions, you do a knee-jerk reaction. Here the superintendent took the time to speak to her lawyer and hear out what the facts were, and not respond to inappropriate public comment.
“The response to truth,” Brewington added, “is better than the response to rumor.”
The rally was less a protest of the charges than it was a celebration of Lockwood’s character. A DJ played music. Attendees greeted their friends and family members. Toddlers shrieked with delight as they played tag on the nearby playground. People chanted Lockwood’s name as they gathered on the blacktop. One by one, people took the microphone to speak about who they know Kito Lockwood to be.
“Young people need someone to imitate,” said Tucker, whose sons play on the varsity football squad. “I’m thankful that our children have someone like Coach Kito to watch, observe and imitate. He allows our young men to see what leadership and family looks like.”
It seemed clear that there is no doubt in community members’ minds that Lockwood was not involved in the drug ring, and that he was charged with possession of a gun that was not his. For many Lakeview residents, it was time to stand up and speak about his character.
“Kito’s Kito,” Kamari Jackson said with a smile. “Very community-oriented, very humble, very outgoing, loves the community, loves the kids. He plays an instrumental role in the kids’ lives and the community as a whole.”
Jaden Manzanillo and Darren Bowes, who graduated from Malverne High in June, and Mike Warren, a member of the Class of 2021, have firsthand experience under Lockwood’s coaching. They said he taught them the importance of having one another’s backs, of expecting the best from yourself — even of being on time.
“He’s a great role model, a great father figure,” Manzanillo said.
“He’s a good man on and off the field,” Bowes added. “He taught us a lot.
“It’s a family,” Bowes said. “We’re all a family.”
Warren said that the spirited turnout didn’t surprise him — it’s a reflection of the love people have for Lockwood.
“People know what he does for the community,” Warren said. “This is nothing new. This is just people appreciating what he has done.”
To many neighbors, the importance of the coach’s leadership for the kids of Lakeview cannot be overstated. Brewington said that Lockwood is a man dedicated to pulling young boys back from the brink. Tucker recalled a time when he came to her house looking for her son — now a sophomore member of the team — who hadn’t show up for practice.
“He holds the children accountable, as a leader and a father figure, which some children don’t have,” Tucker said. “He steps in that place and provides them comfort, love and nurturing — things that children need in order to be successful in their academic career, athletic career.”
“He’s everything to his community,” Jackson said. “Born and raised. And now he’s giving back through coaching.
“It’s to support somebody who’s from the community, and strives to make the community better by being a good influence,” Jackson added. “A good African American influence for the kids who need it.”
As the sun set, the attendees made L’s with their hands, standing for “love and Lakeview” and, they said, celebrating the 15 years of love that Lockwood has invested in the community, the guidance he has given their children, and the hope that will be able to continue to be a role model and a pillar of Lakewood.