The Portsmouth police officer charged with first degree murder for killing an unarmed 18-year-old man during a shoplifting investigation in April was freed from custody on a $75,000 bond, a judge ruled Friday.
The judge also ordered Officer Stephen Rankin to hand over all of his personal firearms. However, his wife is still allowed to possess them.
Stephanie Morales, Portsmouth’s commonwealth’s attorney, argued against bond. When the judge decided to grant it, Stephanie Morales asked for it to be set no lower than $200,000.
Before that point in the hearing, a Va. State Police agent read statements prosecutors said Rankin made an hour before the shooting that killed 18-year-old William Chapman: “The city sucks, but so does the rest of the world. People are just bad.'”
Rankin turned himself in Thursday afternoon after being indicted by the Grand Jury. A couple dozen officers were in the courtroom. Rankin’s attorney said they were there to support their co-worker.
During the hearing, his attorney requested bond, arguing Officer Rankin was not a flight risk or danger to community.
Morales disagreed, saying first degree murder is “the most serious charge we have.”
She also said there were too many unknowns about Rankin’s mental stability and character to allow him to be freed.
The city manager has sent a termination letter to Rankin and he has five days to quit or be fired. He has already surrendered his badge and service weapons.
Early in the morning of April 22, Rankin responded to a shoplifting call at the Walmart on Frederick Blvd.
When Rankin arrived, he saw Chapman leaving the store.
Police say there was a struggle and the officer opened fire, killing the teenager. Police have not said whether Chapman was the suspect in the reported shoplifting.
The attorney for Chapman’s family says he was shot in the face and chest. Citing information from the autopsy report, he says Chapman did not appear to have been shot at close range.
Rankin was also indicted for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Morales held a press conference Thursday to announce the charges.
“It is paramount for everyone to respect the judicial process,” said Morales.
Chapman’s mother called Rankin a “psychopath” and a “murderer’ as she left court furious following the judge’s decision to grant bond.
“He needs to be locked away! We are not safe, nobody is safe!” screamed Sallie Chapman.
Ultimately Rankin’s attorney, Nicole Belote, swayed the judge to free him citing his family and local ties to the area, and that he posed no flight risk or danger to the community.
“I’m pleased that the court agreed with the argument that the presumption against bond was in fact overcome,” Belote said. “Officer Rankin I would say is quite relieved at the moment that we have overcome this first hurdle.”
A rally was scheduled for the Chapman family Friday night. However, a family friend told 13NewsNow the victims mother was too overwhelmed to attend.
The announcement made today regarding the indictment of Stephen Rankin sends a strong message throughout our community that the badge is not above the law and those who betray the public trust by not valuing the dignity of human life will be held accountable.
We are pleased that William Chapman II will finally have his day in court. Though the announcement today is just one step of the necessary legal journey, we are pleased that the wheels of justice are still moving forward for the Chapman family.
The work to ensure that justice reigns throughout every aspect of our city still remains, and we will continue to be vigilant to that ongoing work for the Portsmouth community. In lieu of today’s announcement and several other incidents we are currently involved with, we believe that further actions of accountability should ensue throughout our law enforcement community and we will have further comment on that within the next few days.
Rankin’s attorney, Nicole A. Belote, statement:
I have received a copy of the indictment charging Officer Rankin with first degree murder and use of a firearm. While I am quite surprised that a charge of first degree murder was presented to the grand jury and returned as a true bill because the facts do not support such a charge, it does not change our defense. We will continue to prepare for trial and zealously defend Officer Rankin.