State prosecutor will seek indictment against Virginia cop who shot and killed William Chapman
William Chapman (family photo)

Virginia state prosecutor will seek indictment from grand jury over death of unarmed black 18-year-old, who was shot dead by a white police officer in April


A state prosecutor in Virginia will seek to prosecute a police officer who shot dead an unarmed black 18-year-old outside a supermarket in the city of Portsmouth earlier this year, it was announced on Thursday.

Stephanie Morales, the commonwealth’s attorney for Portsmouth, will request an indictment against the officer who fatally shot William Chapman, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor said in a statement. The officer has been identified by the Guardian as Stephen Rankin.

“The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has reviewed all evidence and will seek an indictment before the next grand jury,” the spokeswoman, Tamara Shewmake, said, adding Morales “will provide an update following grand jury presentment”.

Chapman was shot in the head and chest by Rankin outside a Walmart superstore on the morning of 22 April. The pair engaged in a physical struggle after Rankin tried to arrest the 18-year-old on suspicion of shoplifting, according to police. Witnesses said Chapman broke free and then stepped back towards the officer aggressively before being shot twice.

Authorities have declined to say whether Chapman was found to have stolen anything. An autopsy report obtained by the Guardian said Chapman’s body showed no signs of a close-range shot, indicating that he was shot from several feet away.

In April 2011 Rankin fatally shot Kirill Denyakin, a Kazakh cook, less than three miles from the site of Chapman’s death. Denyakin was shot 11 times by Rankin, who was responding to a 911 call about the 26-year-old aggressively banging at the door of a building where he was staying.

Rankin said he shot Denyakin because the cook, who was drunk, charged at him while reaching into the waistband of his jeans. The officer said he feared Denyakin would pull out a weapon. No weapon was found.