Families, attorneys react to Rankin trial verdict

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Emotions were strong on all sides Thursday after a jury found former Portsmouth police officer Stephen Rankin guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

The jury recommended Rankin serve two and a half years for the shooting death of 18-year-old William Chapman.

William Chapman (Photo courtesy Chapman’s family)
William Chapman (Photo courtesy Chapman’s family)

Chapman’s mother, Sallie, cried after the verdict was read. Later, she was escorted out of the courthouse by loved ones, unwilling to comment.

Family spokesperson Earl Lewis, Jr. told 10 On Your Side that he is pleased with the outcome.

“We wanted justice. We received justice,” he said. “The [jail] time, of course, it could have been more, but at the same time, we have to start somewhere.”

But according to Rankin’s attorneys, this isn’t the end just yet.

James Broccoletti and Nicole Belote said they plan to appeal the verdict. They told 10 On Your Side that the jury didn’t see the whole picture, including Chapman’s prior criminal record.

“I think it impacted the jury’s sentencing, because he was portrayed in one particular fashion, and we were unable to present the true facts and the true circumstances,” Broccoletti said.

“That’s the unfortunate piece,” Belote said. “As well as the fact that our client now is a convicted felon, his life is forever changed.”

Rankin’s defense attorneys spoke to 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox and said they were disappointed by the outcome of the trial.

Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales said she felt there was enough evidence to indict Rankin on the first degree murder charge. She also said she has felt at peace since the verdict came down Thursday.

Chapman was the second unarmed person Rankin had fatally shot.

In 2011, he fatally shot Kirill Denyakin, of Kazahkstan. Police were responding to reports of an intruder, and claimed Denyakin lunged at them.

Investigators eventually cleared Rankin of any wrongdoing in Denyakin’s death. The judge also ruled the jury was not allowed to hear that piece of Rankin’s history in Chapman’s trial.

Denyakin’s mother, Yelena, traveled 6,000 miles from her home country to see the outcome.

Through an interpreter, she said the guilty verdict served as vindication for her son’s death.

The Portsmouth NAACP said in a Facebook post that “justice has sounded in the city of Portsmouth” with Rankin’s conviction:

Tonight the voice of justice has sounded in the city of Portsmouth with the conviction of Stephen Rankin in the voluntary manslaughter of William Chapman. Although we will always be affected by William’s death, the Chapman family and Portsmouth community can take some small comfort that the person responsible for recklessly taking of William’s life will be held accountable by the criminal justice system. We will always remember the gentle smile of an 18 year old man that had the promise to change his family and community. ‪#‎blacklivesmatter ‪#‎williamchapman

Stay with 10 On Your Side on air and online for continuing coverage of this developing story.

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