Ferguson in Virginia: Cop Who Shot Unarmed Man Dead in 2011, Shot...

Ferguson in Virginia: Cop Who Shot Unarmed Man Dead in 2011, Shot a 2nd Dead in 2015


Denyakin was shot 11 times by Rankin, who was responding to a 911 call about the 26-year-old aggressively banging at the door of a building where he was staying,” — The Guardian, June 2015.  

Question: How many unarmed people can a cop shoot dead before being fired? Portsmouth, Virginia Police Officer Stephen Rankin has outdone former Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson.  And he’s probably outdone any other cop in the United States.  You see, Stephen Rankin should be contacted by the Guinness Book of World Records as the only cop in America who has shot two unarmed people dead since 2011 and yet still remains on the job.  Is police work complicated? Of course.  But it’s uncanny that Stephen Rankin keeps encountering unarmed people involved in non violent offenses that end up needing to be shot dead.

Rankin has shot two unarmed men so far, according to The Guardian, a newspaper that is conducting their own research on police involved shootings.  Just as in the case of Mike Brown (jaywalking/theft), the alleged offenses were non violent and no weapon was used or being carried by the two men who were shot dead by Stephen Rankin.  One man was African American, the other was an immigrant from Kazakhstan.  A grand jury failed to indict Rankin back in 2011 for the first shooing.  Rankin was put on desk duty for over two years after he shot Kirill Denyakin 11 times in 2011.  Rankin was then allowed back on the street by the Portsmouth Police Department in March 2014 and 13 months later — bingo — he shot another unarmed person dead: an African American teen named William Chapman, who was 18.

Predictably, Portsmouth official have used the Ferguson-Ohio Guide to Communications Strategy and have said close to absolutely nothing on the case of Chapman.

There’s more.

Rankin, 35, “was once disciplined for posting violent remarks and Nazi images online” according to a report in The Guardian in June.  Translation: There were hints of trouble beforehand.  The cases of NYPD cop Dan Pantaleo, who choked Eric Garner to death during an arrest because Garner selling cigarettes, and Tim Loehmann, who shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice dead less than two seconds after arriving on the scene, are two examples of how there were signs these sops were trouble beforehand.

Portsmouth, Virginia and the surrounding towns that make up Hampton Roads, Va., are not known for officer involved shootings.  But another Portsmouth Police Officer, shot an unarmed Black man, Walter Brown, 29, dead in March 2015.

Officer Stephen Rankin shot William Chapman in a Walmart parking lot in Portsmouth back in April. “The Virginia chief medical examiner’s office said in a statement only that the cause of Chapman’s death was “gunshot wounds of face and chest” reported The Guardian on June 1st.

Baltimore, South? Another interesting aspect of the case is that all the key elected officials in the area are Black.  When the Virginia State Police are done with their investigation, they will hand over the findings to Stephanie Morales, Virginia’s commonwealth attorney, who is African American.  The Mayor of Portsmouth, Kenny Wright, is African American.  And a Black State Senator, Ken Alexander, who owns a funeral home, is handling the arrangements for the family of William Chapman.

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Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is a writer, comms strategist and political analyst. She created Crewof42, a blog focused on African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke also writes for NBC BLK, The Root, NNPA and is the Managing Editor of Politic365. As part of a diverse career in politics and media, she has served as a congressional staffer for the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee, Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) and Director of Communications for Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor of Virginia. From 2014 to 2017, Ms. Burke appeared each Monday on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin on TVOne. Ms. Burke holds a B.A. in History from The American University. She was born and raised in New York. Email: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. IG: @laurenvburke. Periscope: @LVBurke


  1. Lauren – Your reporting is terrible:

    You wrote “Just as in the case of Mike Brown (jaywalking/theft)”

    But Mike Brown and his associate were told to get out of the road due to a local ordinance “manner of walking in the roadway” – but he was shot when first trying to take to gun from the officer – then – per multiple witnesses (please read the testimonies) – he turned, did not put his hands up, and started running towards the officer.

        • rabid beast? was he foaming at the mouth, biting bystanders, leaping or darting in an erratic manner? let’s allow the dead to retain a little of the humanity denied to them in life and not follow the smear campaign of an 18 year old young man. if we must paint anyone as a villain let’s reserve that for the people guilty of violent crimes and mass genocide.

          p. s. I have never met, nor can I imagine meeting, an unarmed individual that charges at a police officer while having a gun leveled at them, and I grew up in the South Bronx. nor have I seen anyone that is in life or death peril walk away with a bruised cheek. and I grew up in the South Bronx.