A Virginia cop was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter today in the shooting death of an unarmed shoplifter last year.
Portsmouth police officer Stephen Rankin had claimed he was in fear for his life when he shot and killed 18-year-old William Chapmin in Walmart parking lot, claiming the teen had charged him.
But the main witness in the case – the Walmart security guard who had called police to arrest Chapmin – testified against the cop, saying the teen never charged him.
Gregory Provo said Chapman was standing about five yards away when he raised both hands in a boxing style, asking the cop, “Are you going to fucking shoot me?”
The teen also made a jabbing motion with his fists, but never advanced towards the cop.
Rankin responded by shooting him twice.
The incident took place on April 22, 2015 and Rankin was indicted by a grand jury for first degree murder in September, which led to his termination from the police department.
Four years earlier, Rankin had killed another unarmed man, claiming the man had charged him while reaching into his waistband.
He was cleared of any wrongdoing in that shooting but had developed a reputation as an aggressive officer, racking up a multiple number of use of force complaints against him.
Even before he killed a man in 2011, his superior officers had taken note that he was a “dangerous” officer, including one cop who said “He was afraid of his own shadow,” according to a June 1, 2015 investigative report by the Guardian.
According to the Huffington Post:
Most witnesses who testified in the trial said Chapman had his hands up when Rankin approached him. Shortly thereafter, Rankin said, the teen knocked the officer’s stun gun to the ground and charged toward him. Some witnesses backed Rankin’s account, saying Chapman did charge. One witness said the teen took a swift step toward the officer, as if to make him flinch. Rankin said that he did not want to hurt or kill Chapman, but that he had no other choice than to open fire.
It still remains unclear if Chapman actually did shoplift from the store that morning, The Guardian reported.
After fatally shooting the teen in the face and chest, Rankin allegedly told a witness, “This is my second one.” The officer had been involved in another fatal on-duty encounter four years earlier,when he killed Kirill Denyakin, an unarmed 26-year-old cook from Kazakhstan, in a hail of 11 bullets. Rankin later admitted to using a pseudonym to defend the shooting in an online forum. While a grand jury declined to indict him in Denyakin’s death, his superiors barred him from patrol duty for three years.
The jury recommended a sentence of two-and-a-half years, but he will not be officially sentenced until a later date. He was initially charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony, but those were reduced to the voluntary manslaughter charge.