A Portsmouth police officer was suspended and subsequently arrested on a first-degree murder charge for shooting an unarmed 18-year-old black individual in April, police said.
Officer Stephen D. Rankin, a white, also faced a charge of use of firearm in the commission of a felony when he fatally shot William Chapman II, as reported by NBC News.
The shooting occurred after police responded to a shoplifting incident at a Walmart store. A struggle ensued between Rankin and Chapman.
“The guy charged at him — like took two steps toward him to come fight him, so the cop opened fire,” a witness said, as reported by CNN.
Jon Babineau, an attorney representing Chapman’s family, said, “The police officer had the ability to either step back or step aside. There’s no evidence of lunging.”
An autopsy conducted revealed that Chapman was shot in the face and chest. There was no trace of alcohol or drugs in his system. His pockets were turned inside-out as well.
Police Chief Dennis Mook expressed his condolences to the Chapman family. “I understand that this tragedy does not end today,” he said. “A family has lost a loved one, an officer and his family’s lives have been turned upside down and our community is hurting.”
Mook further said that Rankin had been “terminated” from his post. Nicole Belote, Rankin’s attorney, said that “the facts do not support” a first degree murder charge, as reported by The Virginian-Pilot.
“We will continue to prepare for trial and zealously defend Officer Rankin,” she said.
“Clearly the evidence and the facts, which we have not seen, are of such a significance that the commonwealth’s attorney sought the first-degree murder indictment, which as an essential element includes premeditation Premeditation involves someone thinking about what they are going to do before they do it,” Babineau said.
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Chapman’s mother, Sallie Chapman, said she felt “justified” by Rankin’s arrest.
“We’re going to always hurt,” she said. “Even though he’s been indicted and he might do some time, we’re going to still hurt.”
Portsmouth NAACP spokeswoman Roddena Kirksey said that the arrest “sends a strong message throughout our community that the badge is not above the law and those who betray the public trust by not valuing the dignity of human life will be held accountable.”
As reported by Fox News, this is not the first time Rankin has killed an individual on duty. In 2011, Kirill Denyakin was fatally shot by Rankin after the officer responded to a burglary call. An autopsy revealed that Denyakin was struck 11 times.
Rankin said that Denyakin had charged at him and did not take his hand out of his pants. An ensuing civil suit filed by Denyakin’s family was turned over, and Rankin was cleared of wrongdoing.
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