Grand jury to review Portsmouth police shooting

Posted at 3:08 PM, Aug 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-29 15:08:14-04

A Virginia grand jury will review the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old man by a police officer.

William Chapman, 18, was fatally shot by a Portsmouth police officer in April at a Walmart parking lot.

"The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has reviewed all evidence and will seek an indictment before the next grand jury," according to a press release from the prosecutor's office.

Though police and the prosecuting attorney have declined to name the officer who pulled the trigger, he has been identified as Stephen Rankin.

The Chapman family is "very pleased" with the decision to pursue an indictment against the officer, said Jon Babineau, an attorney for the family.

On April 22, police initially responded to a call regarding shoplifting, according to Babineau. The officer approached Chapman, who was unarmed, according to Babineau.

There was a struggle between the officer and Chapman before the 18-year-old was shot, according to a witness.

"The guy charged at him -- like took two steps toward him to come fight him, so the cop opened fire," a witness told CNN affiliate WTKR.

Babineau told CNN, "The police officer had the ability to either step back or step aside. There's no evidence of lunging."

CNN was unable to reach Rankin for comment. Virginia Police Benevolent Association executive director Sean Mcgowan declined to comment.

The Portsmouth Police Department is allowing "the justice system to take course," said Misty Holley, spokeswoman for the department.

An autopsy report obtained by CNN shows that Chapman was shot in the face and chest. The shooting was ruled a homicide.

Babineau said the autopsy results are troubling because they indicate the shooting did not occur at close proximity.

"This notion that William lunged at the police officer within his personal space, within his wingspan, within area that the police officer may feel threatened, I think may be largely disproven by the science," Babineau said.

The autopsy also indicted that Chapman was handcuffed, "presumably after William was shot," according to Babineau.

Rankin was involved in the fatal shooting of another unarmed man in 2011, according to the police department. A grand jury cleared the officer of wrong doing, as did a jury in a civil trial.

The officer returned to full duty in March of 2014 following a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI, according to police records.

Babineau said the family plans to sue the city of Portsmouth, the police department and the officer.

In a letter of intent to sue, he writes that the actions of the officer included "the wrongful detention, arrest, shooting and death of William L. Chapman."

"He was not a bad child," Chapman's mother, Sallie, said in a press conference after the shooting. "If he was struggling with the officer, it was because he was afraid. That's the only reason."

According to Tamara Shewmake of the Commonwealth Attorney's office, the case will be presented to a grand jury September 3.