VSP explains delay in telling family about man killed by officer

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia State Police (VSP) responded Friday to a mother’s claim she wasn’t notified soon enough of her son’s death by officer gunfire.

William L. Chapman II, 18, was killed Wednesday morning. State police say he was suspected of shoplifting from the Wal-Mart on Frederick Boulevard, and when a Portsmouth police officer approached him in the store parking lot, a struggle ensued. The officer shot Chapman, and he died at the scene around 7:45 a.m.

Almost nine hours later, state police say they were able to identify the body as Chapman, through fingerprint verification. On Thursday, they released his name to the public.

Sallie Chapman, the young man’s mother, said she didn’t find out about the shooting until she called 911, reporting her son missing. She publicly criticized police on Thursday for not telling her about the death sooner.

On Friday, VSP Sergeant Michelle Anaya released the following statement, explaining the process by which the agency made positive identification and then notified Chapman’s family:

The processes of making positive confirmation of an individual’s personal information, and then seeking out and confirming an individual’s next of kin take time to complete. There is absolutely no room for error for either task and two law enforcement practices that the Virginia State Police take very seriously.

After taking all necessary steps to confirm the decedent was William L. Chapman II, he was conclusively identified through fingerprint verification at approximately 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, and the next step was to identify and notify his next of kin.

Virginia State Police Special Agents had obtained multiple addresses for Mr. Chapman’s immediate family. Each address was checked and it was discovered that no immediately family resided at those addresses.

While State Police personnel were checking these addresses, Ms. Chapman called the Portsmouth Police Department to report her son missing and provided a current phone number. Once that phone number was made available, a State Police Special Agent was able to speak with Ms. Chapman and determine her current address. State Police personnel immediately responded to her home, where they, along with the City of Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney, notified her of her son’s passing.

Still, very few details have been released about the shooting incident. Police have not said how many times the officer shot Chapman or if any video cameras captured the incident.

Paul Akey, who was working at a nearby construction site at the time of the shooting, said he saw Chapman knock what looked like a Taser out of the officer’s hands.

“It looked like at one time he had a handcuff on him, like his left hand was behind him and the cop had him, and then, all of a sudden, the guy went nuts and started whaling on the cop,” Ackey said.

Virginia State Police are leading the investigation of the shooting, at the request of Portsmouth Police Chief Ed Hargis. The Portsmouth Police Department is conducting a separate internal investigation into the officer’s actions to see if he followed police department policy.

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