Portsmouth(Virginia), Aug. 5 : Stephen Rankin, a police officer in southern Virginia was convicted of manslaughter and jurors recommended a sentence of two and a half years in prison for his fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old over alleged shoplifting.
Jurors at Portsmouth circuit court on Thursday found Rankin guilty of voluntary manslaughter for killing William Chapman in April last year.
It was Rankin's second fatal shooting of an unarmed man, reports the Guardian. Rankin had been charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony. The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for 13 hours after hearing four days of detailed testimony from witnesses to the shooting, a series of experts and Rankin himself.
Rankin, 36, was terminated from his job at the police department after being indicted for murder. Prosecutors argued that Rankin intentionally killed Chapman with premeditation after the latter resisted arrest and defied his orders.
The officer tried to stop Chapman in the parking lot of a Walmart superstore on the morning of 22 April 2015 to investigate a suspected theft from the store.
Rankin and his attorneys had however insisted that the officer opened fire only as a last resort after Chapman fought with him aggressively and then charged towards him.
Rankin had earlier shot Kirill Denyakin, an unarmed hotel cook, four years before his confrontation with Chapman.
Rankin said Denyakin, 26, reached into his waistband and charged at the officer during a confrontation outside an apartment building where Denyakin was banging loudly on a door.
Denyakin was shot 11 times. A grand jury declined to bring charges. The jury recommended a sentence of two and a half years in prison, as Chapman faced up to 10 years. Judge Johnny Morrison will formally sentence Rankin at a later hearing. The rare trial of a white officer for shooting a young black man played comes amid an ongoing nationwide controversy over the use of deadly force by the US police against African Americans.