PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Former Portsmouth police officer Stephen Rankin, who was convicted in 2016 of killing an unarmed teenager, was released from prison Monday afternoon.
Rankin was serving time a facility in Buckingham County for the April 2015 shooting death of 18-year-old William Chapman II. He shot Chapman during a confrontation outside the Walmart on Frederick Boulevard in Portsmouth. A security officer called police, accusing Chapman of shoplifting and Rankin was the first officer to respond.
A judge sentenced Rankin to serve two and a half years in prison on a voluntary manslaughter charge.
While he served all his time, last month, the Virginia State Supreme Court granted Rankin’s request to appeal his conviction.
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“It’s a matter of him, of being exonerated and clearing his name and removing a felony conviction from his record which is a significant aspect,” said James Broccoletti, his defense attorney. “We’re not sure, when the end is in sight.”
Rankin has maintained his innocence through the entire process, according to Broccoletti, who said the shooting was in self defense.
There is a risk with the appeal. If the Supreme Court upholds the conviction, Broccoletti will remain free.
“If the court overturns the conviction, sends the case back for a trial, he is convicted again of voluntary manslaughter, Than he could get more (prison) time than the time he has already served,” Broccoletti said. “That’s a risk he is aware of and willing to take.”
Chapman’s cousin, Earl Lewis, says he would like to sit down with Rankin and ask just one question. “For William to lose his life maybe over a piece of cotton. I think that’s kind of a negative. I would like to just sit down with him face to face and ask him what happened. At the end of the day we can’t retry him.”