A Portsmouth, Virginia, police officer was indicted on a first-degree murder charge Thursday in the shooting death of an 18-year-old man during a struggle at a Walmart store in April.
Officer Stephen D. Rankin, 36, who is white, was also charged with use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the shooting of William Chapman II, who was black. Chapman, who was shot in the face and the chest, had no alcohol or drugs in his system, and his pockets had been turned inside out, an autopsy found.
Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales was scheduled to brief reporters at 2 p.m. ET.
“I am so happy that I feel sick,” the teen’s mother, Sallie Chapman, told NBC station WAVY of Portsmouth. “My son can now be at peace. Thank you Lord.”
Nicole Belote, Rankin’s attorney, told the station she was “quite surprised” by the murder charge.
“It does not change our defense,” she said. “We will continue to prepare for trial and zealously defend Officer Rankin.”Rankin was responding to a shoplifting report at the Walmart store about 7:30 p.m. April 22 when he and Chapman began struggling, witnesses told police. The autopsy didn’t say how many times Chapman was shot.
The NAACP said in a statement that the indictment “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.”
“We are pleased that William Chapman II will finally have his day in court,” it said.
A grand jury cleared Rankin of the 2011 fatal shooting of another unarmed man, Kirill Denyakin, a Kazakhstani national. In a civil suit brought by Denyakin’s estate, Rankin testified that Denyakin charged him and refused to take his hand out of his pants, court records show.
Rankin shot Denyakin 11 times, according to records on file with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A civil jury and the appeals court both found for Rankin after evidence showed that Denyakin had almost three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood and had a history of making violent threats.