A grand jury has opted not to indict a police officer who fatally shot an unarmed Kazakh man outside an Olde Towne apartment.
The decision ends the criminal investigation of the April 23 shooting of Kirill Denyakin, 26, by Officer Stephen D. Rankin. A Virginia State Police agent presented evidence Thursday, and the grand jury considered a charge of voluntary manslaughter, Commonwealth's Attorney Earle C. Mobley said.
Mobley said he wanted a grand jury to consider the case because of the questions about the shooting and to allow the public to have a say after hearing all the evidence. "It's not just one person making a decision in a vacuum," he said.
Friends and co-workers of Denyakin's had rallied in support for him and questioned the use of deadly force.
The shooting also prompted anger in Denyakin's native Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic and a U.S. ally. The U.S. State Department called Mobley's office numerous times about the investigation, and an assistant secretary of state in May expressed condolences to the family and friends of Denyakin and the people of Kazakhstan. About 20 people protested at the U.S. consulate in the city of Almaty.
"It has been investigated by the state police. It has been reviewed by the Justice Department," Mobley said. "The state police did a very exhaustive investigation."
Ali Sprinkle, Rankin's attorney, said Rankin fully cooperated with the state police investigation.
"We're happy," she said. "An independent body of citizens reviewed the evidence that the state police presented and found that there was no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing."
Denyakin, an immigrant who cooked at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center, had a blood alcohol content of 0.28 when he was shot about 10:10 p.m. outside the building at 454 Green St. He had been living there with friends since around March. His friend had moved him outside and taken his keys because Denyakin had upset the friend's wife in the apartment.
After Denyakin began banging on the glass door to the foyer, a building resident called 911.
Rankin, 32 and a three-year member of the department, responded to an emergency dispatch for a burglary in progress. When he arrived, he pointed his gun at Denyakin, identified himself and commanded him to stop and get on the ground. Rankin has said that Denyakin instead reached into his pants and charged at him, prompting the officer to open fire to stop what he believed was a threat to his life.
Denyakin was struck 11 times and died at the scene.
His peers said Denyakin was honest and wouldn't harm anyone. Court records show he had been arrested on allegations of stalking an ex-girlfriend and public drunkenness. He was not convicted of the misdemeanors. Federal court records show Denyakin drank often and told friends he was depressed, missed his family and was worried about being deported.
A civil case against Rankin, alleging excessive force, is pending in U.S. District Court. He was reassigned to administrative duty after the Denyakin shooting. The department had no comment Thursday on Rankin's status.
Also Thursday, Mobley released new details about Denyakin because the criminal investigation is now resolved.
When Denyakin was arrested Feb. 21 on the misdemeanor stalking charge, he would not take his hands out of his pockets when police ordered him to do so, Mobley said.
"They actually had to draw down on him," he said. "They had to pull their service weapons in order to get him to comply."
An officer asked him what would happen in his native country if he did that, and Denyakin replied that he would be shot, Mobley said.
The officers said that when they asked Denyakin what he was going to do if he got inside his girlfriend's house, he said he was going to beat her, and then said he would beat the officers if he were not handcuffed, Mobley said.
Rankin came under scrutiny over postings on his Facebook page and has been the subject of an internal police investigation. In one posting, he said he bought ammunition at a gun show and "got a whole bucket of bullets to dump into the Comies," according to a deposition he gave in the civil lawsuit. There was no evidence that Rankin knew Denyakin.
Rankin also said he logged in to PilotOnline.com and left comments on stories about the shooting to defend himself after his girlfriend became upset by online comments.
Mobley said Denyakin had been in the United States since 2006 on a work visa, but he overstayed and a removal process was initiated in 2009. Denyakin failed to show at an immigration hearing in November 2010, and asked for a new one. He was scheduled for a hearing in Alexandria in July 2011 and had been meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Mobley said.
He said state police did "an incredibly thorough job" investigating, and he reviewed all the evidence, meeting dozens of times with the investigator, Special Agent Keenon Hook, a former assistant commonwealth's attorney in Culpeper.
Mobley and police Chief Ed Hargis wanted the investigation to be done independently of Portsmouth police.
Since 2008, shootings by Portsmouth police have resulted in seven civilian fatalities, according to a Pilot-Online.com database.
Patrick Wilson, 757-222-3893, firstname.lastname@example.org