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Local News in Virginia

Portsmouth Officer Indicted In Death of Unarmed Black Man

By Leonard E. Colvin

Chief Reporter

New Journal and Guide

For the second time this year, a White police officer has been charged by a special grand jury with the shooting death of an unarmed African-American man in Hampton Roads.

On September 3, the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney announced that a special grand jury charged Police Officer Stephen D. Rankin, who was involved in the shooting death of William Chapman II, 18, in April.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales announced the decision on September 3, during a press conference where she said she did not recommend Rankin be issued a bond.

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Rankin, who has been fired from the Portsmouth Police Department, was immediately booked for the shooting which took place at the Frederick Blvd. Wal-Mart.

Rankin, 36, was charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

Rankin had previously been cleared of wrongdoing in a fatal shooting in 2011.

The incident occurred April 22, around 7:30 a.m. after Wal-Mart security personnel called police when they allegedly spotted Chapman shoplifting and exiting the store.

In a police report, Rankin said Chapman had walked across the parking lot and when he confronted him, the suspect charged him and a struggle ensued. He was shot in the face and in the chest, according to an autopsy report.

One aspect, which has disturbed civil rights activists and African-Americans, in general, is a report that Rankin, after fatally shooting Chapman, then handcuffed the dead man’s arms behind his back.

Earlier this year In Norfolk, a special grand jury charged Police Officer Michael Carlton Edington Jr. with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of David Latham, 35, on June 6, 2014.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood and his office requested the grand jury a year after the incident occurred.

Norfolk police had responded to Latham’s residence eight times before to deal with his incidents related to a history of mental illness.

Latham and his family lived at 411 West 30th Street in Park Place.

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On prior police calls to the home, officers were able to quell the disturbance and had developed a pattern for interacting with Latham and his family. He had been transported to the hospital for treatment on at least one occasion.

On the night of the shooting, officers claimed that Latham was armed with a knife and retreated into the home when he was asked to drop it. Officers said they fired at him fearing he was endangering the lives of people inside the dwelling.

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