Virigina Officer Convicted in Killing of Unarmed Black Teen

Virginia police officer Stephen Rankin, who is white, was found guilty of manslaughter for killing William Chapman, an unarmed black teen.

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A white police officer in Virginia was convicted on Thursday in the 2015 killing of an unarmed black 18 year old.

Portsmouth officer Stephen Rankin was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter for the fatal shooting of William Chapman in April 2015. The officer was initially charged with first-degree murder, as prosecutors argued he intentionally killed Chapman for not complying with orders after stopping the teen in a Walmart parking lot on suspicion of shoplifting. 

"The law does not say that because you do not comply you have to die," Chapman attorney Stephanie Morales said during her closing arguments. "The defendant brought a gun to what at worst was a fist fight."

The jury suggested a sentence of 2.5 years, shorter than the maximum sentence of 10 years the prosecution was seeking and significantly shorter than the potential life sentence for the initial murder charge. It was the second time Rankin had fatally shot an unarmed man in his career. One witnessed claimed he said, "This is my second one," after killing Chapman. 

There was no video evidence of the killing and witness accounts conflicted. Rankin claimed Chapman said, "shoot me, motherfucker" after he stopped him and "came towards [him] aggressively" after he shocked the teen with a taser. He then shot Chapman in the face and chest. "I thought he was coming to kill me," Rankin said. 

It has not been proven that Chapman actually stole anything from the store. He was found wearing a T-shirt, hooded sweatshirt, and sweatpants, according to the Guardian. Rankin's lawyer James Broccoletti had asked the jury not to give the officer any time at all.

"He has lived an exemplary, professional, responsible, civic-minded life all his life," he said. "If you put him in jail for 10 years, does that bring Mr Chapman back to his family?"

The conviction marks a departure from a series of acquittals of police officers in fatal shootings that have sparked outrage in the US over the last few years. According to the Guardian, the officer sat emotionless in the courtroom and Chapman's mother wept as the verdict was read. "It’s not enough," Chapman's mother said. 

The convicted officer will be out on bond until he is sentenced on October 12. The Chapman family plans to file a civil suit against the city, claiming Rankin should have never been hired to serve to begin with. 

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