PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – 10 On Your Side can confirm there is missing video in a high-profile first-degree murder case involving a former Portsmouth Police Officer.
A source close to the case confirms, there is a 15 second window in which there is no video or audio recorded, from the taser of former police officer Stephen Rankin during the shooting of William Chapman.
Earl Lewis is a Chapman family spokesperson and spoke only to 10 On Your Side, “I think they were tampered with, I think the Portsmouth police tampered with the video. Let’s remember this when this first happened Portsmouth Police was here first.”
Rankin is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Chapman in April.
The source who has seen the video confirms there is taser audio and video of the encounter before and after the actual shooting, but not during that 15 seconds. It appears Rankin’s attorneys were looking at the video given to them by Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales. Obviously the attorneys realized there was a gap in the recording, and questioned Morales about it.
She wrote Rankin Attorney James Broccoletti, “The taser video provided by the Commonwealth has not been edited or manipulated in any way by the Commonwealth. The Taser company informed Virginia State Police that the taser was corrupt before the point of download.”
James Broccoletti wrote Morales he had been advised, “Portsmouth Police Department downloaded the information and video footage…taser prior (to it being sent to the) Central lab.”
That would suggest Portsmouth Police may have been altering the original video or at least dubbing it Morales wrote back, “My inquiry of the Portsmouth Police Department has yielded the same results…that no downloads were created by Portsmouth Police.”
The 18-year-old Chapman was accused of shoplifting from the Frederick Boulevard Walmart.
Witnesses to the shooting have stated that Rankin was acting in self-defense after Chapman knocked the taser out of Rankin’s hands.
The Chapman family is very concerned about these developments, and they will seek a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. Earl Lewis told WAVY.com, “I think they tampered with it. I think Portsmouth Police tampered with the video. Let’s remember this when this first happened Portsmouth Police was here first. They took the video from Walmart and rushed it down to the police station.”
We have also learned that Morales has filed a motion for a “gag” order in the case preventing attorneys from talking about the case. You can read the entire order, here.
Rankin’s attorneys have also filed a motion to have Taser International do an independent analysis on the taser and the video. We are told Taser International already has the taser and the video. In her Motion for Independent Analysis of Evidence Rankin’s other attorney Nicole Belote writes, “The certificate of analysis…indicates that ‘additional evidence may be present.’ ” Belote wants to explore that.
Steve Tuttle, spokesman with Taser International, told 10 On Your Side, “In the event there is a disconnect between the taser cew and the taser cam recorder, by dropping it or any other means, the camera will stop recording and power down.”
The trial is still set to begin in late February, despite Rankin’s attorneys requests to push it back.