Manslaughter conviction upheld against former Portsmouth Police officer

Posted at 1:12 PM, Mar 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-28 18:02:00-04

Stephen Rankin

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The Supreme Court of Virginia upheld a manslaughter conviction Thursday against former Portsmouth Police officer Stephen Rankin.

Rankin was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the 2015 death of 18-year-old William Chapman. His lawyers believed errors were made during his original trial, where he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

In 2011, Rankin was cleared of any wrongdoing after shooting and killing another man while working as a police officer for the City of Portsmouth. During Rankin's trial, jurors weren't allowed to hear about Rankin's first shooting.

However, video where Rankin is heard saying that Chapman's shooting was "his second one" was heard by the jury.

The Supreme Court of Virginia said in its ruling that it agreed with the Court of Appeals that "any error in admitting evidence of the statement was harmless," as Rankin had a fair trial in which substantial justice was reached in being found guilty of a lesser charge.

Portsmouth Commonwealth's Attorney Stephanie Morales released the following statement regarding Thursday's ruling:

"Today hopefully marks the end of the litigation of this case. We are pleased that the highest court in the Commonwealth of Virginia agrees that the prosecution of this case and the rulings made at trial were appropriate and lawful. We hope that with the end of this case, the healing process can be completed for our victim’s family and the entire community.”

Rankin's wife Dawn tells News 3 the ruling only upholds the court of appeals ruling, saying , "They did not actually rule on his case. They ruled on a filing error. We are exploring our options; we are not out of the fight."

Rankin's attorney, James Broccoletti, did not want to comment on the ruling but confirmed to News 3 that there are no more steps to take in this matter.

Earl Lewis, the spokesperson for the Chapman family, spoke to News 3 on the phone after Thursday's ruling:

"As far as the William Chapman family and Earl Lewis, we truly feel justice was served. Rankin has appealed a couple times, and the last time in Virginia Supreme Court - that was a big one because we didn’t know what was going to happen. But I am here to tell you that Virginia stepped up and has been a very vital part of justice being served from the lowest court to the highest court. With that being said, the family still lost William Chapman. The hurt will always be there. On the day Rankin was convicted, William Chapman's grandma died; that part of our life will never go away.

Today in America, not only do we receive justice, we receive justice for Trayvon, for Mike Brown, for all around the world who lost someone to police brutality. With that being said, we have a long way to go. Police accountability is very important. We need to pass a bill. Along with that, realizing that as a people, we have to come together and heal in the City of Portsmouth around the United States of America. The only way we are going to do this police accountability and dealing with excessive force.

With that being said, I cannot forget that this happened at Walmart. And Walmart has never apologized to the family; they also were part of this and Walmart really shared this. That security officer came outside and said he was possible shoplifter; it was over-exaggerated. No time has Walmart said to family that they apologize.

This is something that will be in our family for the rest of our lives, but justice has been served today and we look forward to having many more family around the United States of American and in Virginia."

To view the court documents, click here.