Sheriff, police chase mayor down over expired car sticker

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) — The mayor of a small Virginia city refused to pull over as law enforcement officers chased him over an expired inspection sticker on his car, the sheriff said, and he now faces charges.

Portsmouth Sheriff Bill Watson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he noticed the car — with its sticker, expired in June — on Tuesday night. Watson says that at first he didn't realized it belonged to Mayor Kenny Wright, but he stopped to get a closer look and saw something in the car indicating it was Wright's.

Watson said he waited for Wright to arrive at the vehicle after a City Council meeting.

"Once he gets in the car and starts it up, now he's in violation," Watson said. "That's when I turned the lights on my car, and I stepped out and I said, 'Hold it right there, mayor.' He looked right at me and kept right on going. I thought, 'OK, this is the way it's going to be.' So I got in my car and took off after him."

Watson said he caught up with Wright a half-block away at a traffic circle and asked the mayor to roll down his window, but the light turned green and Wright took off again.

Watson said he summoned for assistance from Portsmouth police and Wright stopped eventually, was asked for his license and registration, and was cited for the expired sticker.

Watson said that on Wednesday, he also obtained a warrant for a felony eluding charge against Wright after researching state code.

Watson said Wright has to learn "that no one is above the law."

Messages left with Wright and Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney Stephan Morales weren't immediately returned.

A majority of the city's 96,000 residents are black, and so is Wright. Watson is white. Racial tensions in the city escalated at an October City Council meeting in a debate over city contracts. White residents reprimanded a black council member over his remarks to white speakers, and council members argued with one another.

And in September, a white police officer who shot and killed a black man in a Wal-Mart parking lot was indicted on first-degree murder and firearms charges. Police have said the officer, Stephen D. Rankin, was responding to a shoplifting complaint when a struggle ensued and 18-year-old William Chapman II was shot.

Rankin, who is no longer on the police force, is set for trial March 21.