PORTSMOUTH, Va. — A Virginia judge sentenced a white, former police officer to 2 ½ years in prison Wednesday for fatally shooting an unarmed black teen suspected of shoplifting.
Media outlets report that Circuit Judge Johnny Morrison sentenced Stephen Rankin to the maximum recommendation from the jury that convicted the former Portsmouth officer of voluntary manslaughter in the death of 18-year-old William Chapman II. Morrison couldn’t increase the recommended sentence, but could have reduced it. He denied defense attorneys’ request that Rankin remain free on bond during his appeal.
After the sentence was handed down, Rankin said he was deeply sorry and never meant to hurt anyone. The teen’s mother, Sallie Chapman said Rankin’s apology rang hollow.
“You’re not sorry for me. You’re sorry for you,” she said outside the courtroom. “That man deserves to be exactly where he’s at.”
One of the jurors who convicted Rankin sat behind him in support at Wednesday’s sentencing. Peggy Thorpe said she made a mistake when she found Rankin guilty and information she learned after the trial changed her mind. She said Chapman had a criminal record and was “by no means a good citizen.” She said she apologized to Rankin and he forgave her.
“The wrong decision was made that day,” Thorpe said, adding that it weighs on her every day. “I should’ve stuck with my gut.”
Rankin shot Chapman in the face and chest outside a Wal-Mart last year after a security guard accused the teen of shoplifting. No video recorded the actual killing, and testimony on the details of what happened was conflicting. But most witnesses said Chapman had his hands up, and prosecutor Stephanie Morales said the officer could have used force that was not deadly.
Rankin, who was fired from the Portsmouth police force after being indicted, killed another unarmed suspect four years earlier. But he had been cleared of wrongdoing and the incident was inadmissible at trial.
“I think this is a terrible tragedy; I wish it had never happened. I wish none of it had ever occurred,” Rankin testified after being found guilty in August.
“I can’t begin to fathom how much pain that family is going through. I wish I could have done more to keep him alive,” he added.