A circuit jury court found former Virginia cop Stephen Rankin guilty of voluntary manslaughter after the shooting death of unarmed Black teen William Chapman in April 2015.
This was the second time Rankin had killed an unarmed man on duty and, while he faces up to 10 years in prison, the jury shockingly recommended just two-and-a-half years.
Rankin had originally been charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony, but the charge was later reduced. Still, it is staggering that a man who was originally facing a first-degree murder charge could now be heading to prison for under three years — far less if he maintains good behavior behind bars.
Chapman's family and friends reacted outside the courthouse, with Sheila Joseph, a family friend saying, "You know how Michael Vick got a little time for a dog? Well, thats the way I feel."
Chapman's cousin Earl Lewis admitted that while the recommended sentence is less than they wanted, the guilty verdict is progress compared to the many, many cops who have been acquitted or not charged at all after killing Black men and women. "We wanted justice and we received justice. Time? Of course it could've been more but at the same time, we have to start from nowhere," he said.
Chapman's mother, Sallie Chapman, had little to say as she left the courthouse in tears. But Lewis defended her silence, saying, "Understand what a mother goes through, you would never imagine, you would never imagine unless you go through it. So, that being said, she's going to have her moments and we will deal with it accordingly."
Many have taken to Twitter to weigh in on the verdict.
Stephen Rankin (the convicted cop) also had murdered a white suspect four years before and often fantasized about killing people on the job.— Sean Jordan (@seanjjordan) August 5, 2016
#WilliamChapman got shot in the face and killed by Officer Stephen Rankin in the parking lot at Walmart. William never touched him.— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 4, 2016
Chapman's family plans to sue the city to extract whatever justice they can.
(Photo: Portsmouth Virginia Police Department)