Calls for peace and unity on eve of high profile Portsmouth murder trial

Posted at 9:23 PM, Jul 26, 2016

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - About two dozen people held hands, formed a circle, and prayed outside of the courthouse on Tuesday evening, the night before the trial of former police officer Stephen Rankin begins.

Rankin is charged with first degree murder in the death of William Chapman. Rankin shot Chapman outside of the Walmart on Frederick Boulevard in April 2015 during a confrontation. Rankin's attorneys have said they plan to use a self-defense argument during the trial, which begins Wednesday.

The focus on Tuesday was peace. "We need to pray for the layers, the prosecuting attorneys. We need to pray for the judges, the officer's family, William Chapman's family," said Barry Randall, an organizer. "We are better together as a city."

Chapman's mother and cousin attended. "We got to build on this. It happened for a reason," said Earl Lewis, the family spokesman. "We didn't like what happened, but let's move forward and let it never happen again."

Outside of the courthouse, there's a camera keeping watch over the courtyard. Inside, there was a bigger law enforcement presence than normal on Tuesday during a hearing. Police aren't going into specifics, but say they're ready for any situation requiring them to get involved.