BLACK VOICES

Virginia Cop Indicted In Murder Of Unarmed Black Teen

Stephen Rankin is charged with shooting William Chapman II in the face and chest outside a Walmart.

Portsmouth, Virginia, officer Stephen Rankin was indicted on a first-degree murder charge Thursday after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old earlier this year.

A grand jury decided to charge Rankin, who shot and killed William Chapman II outside a Walmart on April 22, according to The Virginian-Pilot. Autopsy reports obtained by the paper show that Chapman was shot in the face and chest, and that his body was carted off to the city medical examiner's office with his hands cuffed behind his back.

“After a methodical deliberation of a thorough investigation by the Virginia state police, the state’s attorney determined that William Chapman was murdered by a police officer,” Chapman family attorney Jon Michael Babineau told The Guardian. “Today, the citizens of Portsmouth agreed.”

The pair had engaged in a physical struggle after Rankin tried to arrest the 18-year-old on suspicion of shoplifting, according to police.

Witnesses said Chapman broke free and then stepped back towards the officer aggressively before being shot twice. The 18-year-old was the second unarmed man shot dead by Rankin in Portsmouth. An autopsy indicated Chapman was not shot at close range.

The shooting was investigated by the Virginia State Police, which passed its investigation to Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Morales earlier this month. She said last week that she'd seek an indictment in Chapman's death.

Rankin's lawyer said the cop's actions were justified.

“He gives Mr. Chapman commands, and it’s at that point Mr. Chapman charges at him and the officer had to respond,” Nicole Belote told WTKR.

Rankin was in the media spotlight in 2011 when he shot and killed another unarmed man, Kirill Denyakin, though he was cleared of all wrongdoing. Denyakin's lawyer told 13 News Now that he was "unsurprised" the latest incident occurred and "thought he would do this again." 

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