Lawyers: Evidence counters Portsmouth officer's account

Posted to: Crime News Portsmouth


Officer Stephen D. Rankin says a man he thought was a burglar put his right hand deep into his pants just before charging at him in April, prompting the officer to open fire.

Lawyers for Kirill Denyakin's estate argue that's impossible because one of the 11 bullets that hit Denyakin grazed the side of his right wrist, but there was no hole in his jeans.

The position of Denyakin's right hand and pants is central in newly filed court papers as attorneys try to persuade a federal judge to see their side in a $22 million excessive force lawsuit against Rankin.

Rankin shot Denyakin on April 23 outside an apartment building at 454 Green St. after responding to an emergency burglary call. He found Denyakin banging on the glass door of the building with both hands, and the officer pointed his gun at him. Rankin said Denyakin did not obey commands to stop and put his hands where Rankin could see them, instead charging with his hand in his pants, prompting Rankin to use lethal force to defend himself. The 32-year-old officer had been on the police force for about three years.

Denyakin, 26, was unarmed; the shooting sparked outrage in Olde Towne and in Denyakin's native Kazakhstan.

Rankin's attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the circumstances justified deadly force. But the plaintiff's lawyers say forensic evidence does not match Rankin's statements.

In a handwritten document Rankin made shortly after the shooting, he wrote, "His hand was still in his pants during the charge at me. And I believe it was when he went down."

Another officer arrived, called to Rankin, and said "cuff him." Rankin handcuffed Denyakin's hands behind his back and rolled him into a position to help him breathe; he wrote that he felt a pulse then heard a sound he described as a "death rattle."

In a deposition on Nov. 22, Rankin repeated his statement, saying he was about 35 feet away from Denyakin when he challenged him.

"He reached his right hand into his waistband past his wrist and began digging," Rankin said in the deposition. "He was continually digging for an object inside his waistband."

When asked where Denyakin's jeans were fastened, Rankin replied, "around the waist."

Rankin called on his radio for help, turned on the light on his firearm and gave more commands. He said Denyakin came at him "at a full run."

The deposition includes this exchange between plaintiff's attorney C. Stewart Gill Jr. and Rankin:

Q: Why aren't there any holes in Mr. Denyakin's pants?

A: I don't know.

Q: You don't have an explanation for that?

A: I don't have an explanation for that.

Q: Were you aware that there were no holes in Mr. Denyakin's pants, his jeans?

A: It had been brought to my attention recently.

The plaintiff's lawyers argued there "is substantial and compelling forensic evidence that Denyakin did not thrust his right hand into his pants as described by Rankin. Likewise, there is credible evidence that Denyakin never charged at Rankin."

Photos of Denyakin at the scene after he died show his jeans down around his thighs. His blood alcohol content was 0.28. Denyakin was living with friends in an apartment in the building, but they had brought him outside that evening because he was intoxicated and had upset his friend's wife. A resident of the building called 911 after Denyakin began banging loudly on the glass door to the foyer.

Richard J. Cromwell, an attorney for Rankin's defense, filed a response Thursday.

"Plaintiff also argues that the position of Denyakin's jeans on his body after the shooting somehow supports the argument that Denyakin did not thrust his hand inside his pants before he started to charge at Officer Rankin. To the contrary, the position of Denyakin's jeans after the shooting most likely explains why he stuck his hand inside his pants in the first place - the jeans were missing the top button, they were unzipped, and he needed to hold them up to run - all facts that were obviously unknown to Officer Rankin in the seconds before the shooting."

Cromwell cited a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stating that the Constitution "simply does not require police to gamble with their lives in the face of a serious threat of harm."

Commonwealth's Attorney Earle C. Mobley has not yet decided whether to charge Rankin with any crime; he has reviewed an investigation by Virginia State Police.

The Portsmouth Police Department has scrutinized postings Rankin made on his Facebook page under the name "Steve Danger Rankin," some of which appeared militaristic.

In his deposition, Rankin said he made a Facebook comment before the shooting about buying a case of ammunition at a gun show and posted, "I got a whole bucket of bullets to dump into the Comies."

He said in the deposition: "It was just a stupid joke.... If my friends were to read it and understand my sense of humor, which my friends do, they would find it funny."

He later deleted his Facebook page. Rankin testified in his deposition that he did not know Denyakin and had never heard of him.

Rankin also said he posted a number of comments on PilotOnline under the screen name "yourealythinkthat" after his girlfriend became upset over comments on stories about the shooting. In the comments, he disputed other commenters who were critical of his actions.

Rankin has been working desk duty; police departments generally place officers on administrative duty while a shooting is investigated.

Patrick Wilson, 757-222-3893,

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The story started out

The story started out questionable, lunging then charging, now we see why. There's just no room for lies and half truths. So Rankin himself actually cuffed Denyakin. It was previously reported to the Medical Examiner that the 2nd arriving officer cuffed Denyakin. Here is a blatant lie.

The autopsy report, you see a downed man receiving most of these bullets.

Also states that Kirill Denyakins' right hand was deep in the pants, continously digging for something while charging at Rankin, causing Rankin to open fire; whooops no holes in the pants. (But the right wrist has a deep graze) Another blatant lie? Time to tell the truth, nothing but the truth.

He states he didn't know Kirill Denyakin, never seen him before. OK, if he says so...(also questionable.)

And 7 bullets to kill a dog...What else will he do? Will history keep repeating itself? Is this "doing whatever is necessary?"

And it's pretty creepy to read "yourealythinkthat" comments on the other stories, being that he was the officer that did the shooting.

Is serving subpoenas or warrants for the last 8 or 9 months considered desk duty I wonder?


At first the PPD reported that the suspect lurched towards the officer, then it was changed to lunged, now its a full scale charge. One other thing, what burglar worth his weight in swag would pound with both hands on the front door of his prospective victim. This whole thing stinks of a cover up.

which part of the

which part of the nonsensical actions you mention make the investigation stink?

For all we know the Commonwealths attorney is preparing to charge Rankin. Unless you have some info I don't it seems to me that Earl Mobley and the VSP investigator have acted quite properly and even more professionally in light of some of the buffoonery and uneducated emotional responses made here.

Leave the deceased family to grieve and permit the REAL FORENSIC professionals to do their job.

Im sorry anyone had to die or be injured...but for cryng out loud when yold to freeze ......FREEZE.....if your to drunk to understand simple verbal commands than be SURE to have a friend or 2 to ensure you make it inside safely.

which part did you not comprehend..........

.......Denyakin was living with friends in an apartment in the building, but they had brought him outside that evening because he was intoxicated and had upset his friend's wife...........he was inside trying to get back in. So he gets shot by the responsible responding answer for having his hands in his pants and behaving like someone that isn't under any capacity to make sound judgement calls given the level of sobriety that he is under..... The officers are trained to identify weapons and people under the influence of drugs, you still think its okay to shoot someone with their hands in their pocket, their pants, their coat.......come on, drunk trying to get back in his house. Not a threat, especially under the influence unarmed.

Honestly sir theres no way

Honestly sir theres no way for us to be sure of WHAT the officer was feeling....I can TELL YOU from personal experience Steve is not out to shoot....that is a nightmare scenario for him. When I was an officer it was my #1 concern and question every night....can I pull the trigger....

On one occasion I had a firearm pointed at me...a Taurus PT- .40Cal

I remember screaming at the individual drop it over and over.....he didnt...and I screamed don't make me do this....don't make me shoot. He eventually dropped the pistol.
POINT IS NO ONE or at least 99.99999 of people wants to shoot another..... much less a police officer shooting a civilian officer who knows the carnage and terrible after effects that follow. As a LEO I knew I would be criminally investigated for murder....I would have to face my peers,my supervisor,the deceased or injured persons family........and possibly destroy a family...take a Father/Wife-Daughter or Son etc.....

Steve is no different....he is no cowboy....he is a caring person who became a police officer to help.....WHAT HAPPENED IS INCREDIBLY SAD....

Every officer I have spoken to wished they could have pulled the bullets back in the pipe.....we all make choices based on whats happening then and I know Steve is suffering and likely wishes he to could pull back every round just because taking a life is so disturbing to your OWN soul. So try putting yourself in his shoes because I know the man isn't celebrating.

The officers own words when he is posting under

"youreallythinkthat" would discount his alleged "caring" nature.

The officer in question, when he believed he was anonymous

posted the following under his user name "youreallythinkthat"
in the comment section of the Pilot story "Family Sues Portsmouth Officer";

7/2/11 - 8:49am - "Cause that will bring back their son, right? 15 mil in damages. Most of us don't make 15 mil in a career, let alone a habitual drunk working as a hotel cook. I dont mean to be disparaging of the dead, but if his family really wants peace, maybe they should look to God instead."

and again same day 9;27AM
"...22 mil won't buy your boy back, but it will pay off this ambulance chasers house."

Remember this is the officer who shot the victim, referring to his victim
and the victim's gieving family, when he wrongly thought his own name
could not be found out and released into court records.

more likely his girlfriend

more likely his girlfriend responding to the littany of unwarranted attacks that had been spewed at Steven.

Just as today hordes of the deceased friends and supporters or the typical anti police commenters take advantage of this forum to bash a man they know cannot respond.

Personally I find it rather cowardly,alot like kicking a man that cannot defend himself. The law will prevail and whatever the outcome will be the end.

In the meanwhile it brings me both anger and laughter to read some of the posts where people who clearly have NO GRASP of law, law enforcement, self defense and forensics.......the forensic comments are best....clearly some of you are in dire need of a hobby as CSI/NCIS and other programs have destroyed any hope you may ever have of understanding real forensics.

True forensics are time intensive...monotonous...cycles that often turn up nothing trial worthy much less enough to single handedly convict ANYONE.

As a member of the "hoard" you described, I find it

rather amusing that you think us "cowardly for taking advantage of this forum to bash a man that can't respond" which translates in plainspeak to
actually commenting on any facts of the case, while you slander and
defame an innocent victim who can't speak and defend himself, or his

The "man who can't respond" certainly had enough responses when he thought he could hide his identity - I refer you to his two above quotations.

please support your

please support your accusation that I have defamed or slandered the D
deceased......other than to indicate he drank that night.....had been previously arrested...which was proven after several of his supporters lied and said he had NEVER been arrested. Provided my opinion of his decisions......

Again I dont know that HE himself posted I believe it was his girlfriend.......and considering many of the deceased supporters were calling for all sorts of mean and nasty thing I hardly blame her for responding.

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