‘Charge with murder’ posters in Portsmouth feature officer’s face

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A campaign involving posters and t-shirts is demanding a Portsmouth police officer be charged with murder.

The posters, which were hung in various spots across Portsmouth, feature the face of Officer Stephen Rankin and read, “Charge Stephen Rankin with murder!!!” The t-shirts feature the same image.

Community activist Michael Muhammad, who has organized Don’t Shoot rallies and meetings at his location on East 26th Street in Norfolk, posted an image of himself wearing one of the t-shirts on Instagram. He said he did not have direct involvement with starting the campaign.

“It was groups of young people, some in high school, some college, from Portsmouth,” Muhammad said. “They called on me to help them get their message out.”

Four years ago, Rankin was involved in a fatal shooting when he responded to a burglary 911 call near the Olde Towne section of Portsmouth. Rankin was cleared of any wrongdoing. He is currently on administrative duty, after a police officer shot and killed William Chapman last week outside a Portsmouth Wal-Mart. Rankin has not officially been identified as the officer who was involved.

Muhammad refused to be more specific about who the groups of young people are behind the t-shirts and posters. Reminded that Chapman’s death was still under investigation, Muhammad said neither he nor the organizers of the campaign are satisfied with that level of transparency from police.

“We want the charge [of murder against the officer], so it can play out in a courtroom, and people can hear the facts for themselves and make a determination in the form of a jury,” Muhammad said.

10 On Your Side asked Muhammad what can be expected if the case of Chapman’s death results in no charges against the officer involved.

“I can’t speak to that, because I’m not a seer in that regard,” he said. “I’m not looking toward the future. In the meantime, we will continue to organize and mobilize.”

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