PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Six years ago, on April 22, 2015, 18-year-old William Chapman was shot and killed by Portsmouth Police Officer Stephen Rankin in what started as a case of suspected shoplifting.
Rankin was tried and convicted of manslaughter following hours of testimony that included taser camera video from the deadly confrontation.
Chapman’s cousin and family spokesperson, Earl Lewis, held his breath Tuesday as he waited to learn the Minneapolis jury’s verdict in the case of fired police officer Dereck Chauvin. The former veteran officer showed little emotion as the panel found him guilty of all charges in the knee-on-neck death of unarmed motorist George Floyd.
“It brought tears to my eyes because I know what it’s like to be in a situation where you actually have to wait for a verdict,” said Lewis.
In a closely-watched case, Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales secured an indictment for first-degree murder, but in August of 2015, Rankin was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. He appealed the conviction but it was later affirmed by the Virginia Supreme Court.
WAVY-TV 10 reporter Regina Mobley interviewed Lewis via Zoom video on the eve of the 6th anniversary of Chapman’s death.
When asked how he reflects on his cousin’s death all these years later, Lewis replied, “It still makes me teary-eyed… because Rankin did not have to shoot my cousin in the head and in the heart for a petty crime — if a crime occurred at all. So, therefore, as a United States Veteran willing to die for my country for 13 years, it breaks my heart; it breaks my heart.”
It was a counterfeit $20 bill that landed George Floyd under Dereck Chauvin’s knee. The killing, captured on camera, shook the world and energized the Black Lives Matter movement.
But, since Floyd’s death, multiple Black and brown men and women have been killed by police, including Donovon Lynch, who was shot by a Virginia Beach police officer in March during a night of chaos at the Oceanfront.
“Until someone gets in the Department of Justice and regulates police training and how they handle us, the public, who pays the bills, we will continue to have this problem,” said Lewis.
Attorney General Merrick Garland Wednesday announced the city of Minneapolis and the entire Minneapolis police department will be investigated to determine whether it has a practice of unlawful policing.