News & Politics

Virginia Officer Accused of Murdering Unarmed Black 18-Year-Old Tells Witness, 'This Is My Second One'

Judge rejects request by defense to have this evidence removed from the case.

Photo Credit: Brian J Clark/The Virginian-Pilot

“This is my second one” said Virginia police officer Stephen Rankin to a witness after he shot and killed an unarmed black 18-year-old in the town of Portsmouth last year, a court was told Tuesday.

The quote was provided courtesy of a Taser camera attached to Rankin at the time. The officer uttered this sentiment while standing beside a Walmart employee in the store’s parking lot moments after he’d shot the victim, William Chapman, in the head and chest. 

As the Guardian reports, this piece of evidence almost never made it to court. During the final pretrial hearing before Rankin stands before a Portsmouth circuit court jury for first-degree murder, his defense team argued that the comment should be censored as it didn’t serve to prove anything. The motion was denied by Judge Johnny E. Morrison.

According to the police report, the killing took place after Rankin, a U.S. navy veteran, tried to arrest Chapman on suspicion of shoplifting. Following a brief physical struggle Rankin claims the 18-year-old provoked, the officer fired his gun. Rankin is subsequently denying the charge against him, pleading he acted in self-defense.

Given this version of events, the prosecution argued for the need not to “sanitize the evidence” that could prove Rankin acted otherwise. “The defendant made the comment not just in the presence and earshot of a witness, but to the witness,” said Stephanie Morales, the prosecuting attorney heading up the case against Rankin.

Rankin’s previous use of deadly force was dismissed by a grand jury in 2011. In that instance, Rankin similarly shot an unarmed suspect 11 times, claiming the man had reached into his waistband and charged at him. Morrison has already ruled that prosecutors could not bring up the prior case.

In another ruling Morrison made Tuesday, the defense’s attempts to censor Rankin’s prior shooting may prove null and void. Rankin’s defense attorneys requested that the jurors be sequestered during the trial to ensure they did not have access to external information. Morrison promptly rejected the request.

It was a nice try at least.

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.

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