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Events leading up to former Portsmouth Officer Rankin’s trial for murder of 18-year-old

Posted at 3:23 PM, Jul 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-27 10:49:34-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The trial for former Portsmouth Police Officer Stephen Rankin is underway.

A review of the details of the case:

Former Portsmouth Police officer Stephen Rankin shot and killed 18-year-old William Chapman during an incident that occurred around 7:35 a.m. on April 22, 2015 in the parking lot of the Walmart located at 1098 Frederick Blvd. in Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Police were alerted by Walmart security about a suspected shoplifter. The 18-year-old male, identified as William L. Chapman II, was spotted crossing the parking lot on foot and was approached by a Rankin.

During the encounter, a struggle ensued that resulted in Chapman being shot by the police officer. The officer immediately requested medics. Chapman died at the scene.

A construction worker nearby said he saw Chapman charge at the officer before he was shot:

"We had looked over and the officer had the man against his car trying to put cuffs on him, I guess. And once he went to put the cuffs on him, the man started resisting and tussled with the cop. He had got away and the cop pulled his Taser gun out, and when he did that the man had swung and knocked the Taser or something out of his hand. When he had done that, the cop had stepped back a couple steps to pull his real gun out and they had a verbal exchange or something. We couldn't hear everything. The cop was saying something to him and the man went to charge at him while he had his gun out and it was like one step, two steps, the cop fired two times, and the man hit the ground. As soon as he hit the ground, the cop put his weapon away and ran over and started giving him CPR."

Chapman's body was sent to the Office of the Medical Examiner in Norfolk for examination and autopsy.

Virginia State Police took the lead role in the investigation. They were asked to investigate the case by Former Portsmouth Police Chief Ed Hargis because it is the second officer-involved shooting in Portsmouth within the last month.

The day after the shooting Candy Chapman, Williams’s mother spoke out about her son’s death and made an emotional statement to the public.

“That’s my son, I have to speak for him. I have to be his voice. He didn’t deserve this,” says Candy Chapman.

“I called 911 myself after I found out it was a boy that was 18. I have not seen my son for hours. I told them my son’s name, detectives came and told me yes, it was your son, and that was about seven something in the morning.”

During the press conference, she smiled and recalled happy memories of her son about how he loved the library and books. She described him as a compassionate person who was soft spoken and stayed out of trouble. She says she can’t believe he’d charge at an officer the way that eye witnesses described.

“If he was struggling with the officer, it’s because he was afraid. That’s the only reason. Not because he wanted to harm the officer or get some type of attention.”

She said after she talked to dispatchers, she knew it was her son who had been killed.

“When I called 911, they asked my son’s name. I said William Chapman. She put me on hold, then she said I’m going to get a detective to talk to you. She said 'Do you also want to do a missing person’s report', so I said 'yeah.' She said, “What’s your son’s name again?’ So I said, 'William Chapman, II.' She said, 'William Chapman, II'? Right then when she said that, I already knew.”

She said she has four other children and William was her oldest son.

Related: Funeral held for teen shot by Portsmouth police officer

When asked about the investigation, she says she hopes it is done fairly but all she wants is the truth.

In August 2015, the Commonwealth's Attorney announced that they had completed their investigation into the shooting death of Chapman and announced that officials were seeking an indictment against Rankin.

Then, News 3 obtained a copy of Chapman's autopsy report.  It stated that there were no drugs or alcohol found in his system when he died.  It also outlines that Chapman was shot in the chest and the face.

The autopsy also stated that Chapman's pants pockets were turned inside out.

Chapman family attorney John Babineau said, "It’s also interesting to note in the autopsy report that William’s pockets were turned inside out consistent with the evidence we had received that said when William was confronted he said I don’t know what you’re talking about I’m not shoplifting.”

The report also stated: "There is no evidence of close range fire to visual inspection by the medical examiner; definitive testing is deferred to the Department of Forensic Sciences."

Rankin's lawyer Nicole Belote issued the following statement back in August 2015:

"We were made aware of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s intention of presenting an indictment to the grand jury when it was publicized through various media outlets.  We are still awaiting notification regarding the charge(s) to be presented.  However, it is our hope that the grand jurors take their oath to “diligently inquire” seriously and consider all of the circumstances involved and make a decision based on the facts; it is our strong belief that if the grand jurors do so, they will agree to not return a true bill."

On September 3, 2015 Rankin was indicted on charges of first degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony by a grand jury. He was then fired by the city.

Later that day the Commonwealth's attorney held a press conference but did not release many details about the case. They asked everyone to respect the judicial process.

Chapman's mother, Candy Chapman, answered questions about the incident.

She said she was happy to hear the officer had been charged, but her family is still dealing with the loss of their loved one.

“Even though he’s been indicted and he may do some time, we’re still going to be hurting,” says Chapman.

Rankin's lawyer Nicole Belote said they have been preparing for the worst since the shooting happened.

She claims Rankin'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," said Belote.

Rankin's actions were put into the limelight in 2011 when he shot and killed another unarmed man.

Belote said that case should have no effect on the current case.

She issued a statement following the indictment announcement:

"I have received a copy of the indictment charging Officer Rankin with first degree murder and use of a firearm. While I am quite surprised that a charge of first degree murder was presented to the grand jury and returned as a true bill because the facts do not support such a charge, it does not change our defense. We will continue to prepare for trial and zealously defend Officer Rankin."

Related: Can 15 seconds of video be the deciding factor in a police officer’s murder case?

In July, a Portsmouth judge denied a request to delay the trial of former Portsmouth Police Officer Stephen Rankin.

His attorneys entered a motion to delay the trial because Rankin believes that the recent police shootings nationwide could impact the case.

Sunday, a group of protesters walked through Walmart.  They were first met with resistance, then allowed in the store.  They did the walk through Walmart that William Chapman did before he walked out of the store where he was shot and killed.

Then they stood in the spot where he died.

On Tuesday, the judge is expected to hear and rule on 11 motions.  The defense wants the trial continued and moved out of town.  They said there have been threats on social media against Rankin, more officer involved shootings in other cities along with efforts to hold a peaceful protest outside the courthouse the morning of the trial.

Protest organizers are also calling for a boycott of all Walmart stores until the case is over.  They said they don't like the way they've been treated by the company since the shooting took place.

His trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday.