PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Former Portsmouth police officer Stephen Rankin has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for the shooting death of William Chapman II.
A jury found Rankin guilty of voluntary manslaughter during a trial in August. Rankin was originally charged with first-degree murder. Jurors could have recommended up to 10 years for Rankin, but instead recommended two and a half years.
Supporters of the Chapman family applauded when the judge affirmed the jury’s recommendation.
The former police officer shot and killed Chapman outside of a Walmart on Frederick Boulevard during an April 2015 encounter.
The judge heard from several witnesses, including Dawn Rankin, the defendant’s wife.
“Steve is my partner in life and unwavering support. He is not a perfect man, but he works hard to be present, loving, and kind,” she said, through tears.
Rankin’s ex-wife Cori Johnson painted a different picture, saying she was concerned that without consequences, Rankin would “become further empowered to do something worse next.”
A sergeant with the Portsmouth Police Department testified that Rankin was “a good officer” who was “fun to be around.”
Rankin apologized to the Chapman family and addressed William’s mother directly.
“Ms. Chapman, I hope that one day you find peace and that one day you’ll be able to forgive me,” he said.
“I can’t,” she responded.
Defense attorneys James Broccoletti and Nicole Belote are appealing the verdict.
“This is not a day to celebrate anything. Their family lost a child. They should be concerned about that and they should be grieving for the child not celebrating the fact that another family has now been torn apart,” Broccoletti said.
During a recess in the hearing, Rankin talked to one of the jurors who convicted him. Peggy Thorpe now regrets the role she played.
“The wrong decision was made that day. I should have stuck with my gut and my heart and followed that and said not guilty, because he is not guilty,” she said outside court.
Chapman’s family held a news conference and addressed the media Tuesday night before the sentencing. A peace rally was organized Wednesday morning outside of the Portsmouth Courthouse, ahead of Rankin’s hearing.
Chapman’s mother said she was ready to see Rankin go to prison.
“I want the whole world to see that this man is not above the law just because he was an officer. Anybody that takes somebody’s life deserves to be punished,” she said.