Rose was sitting in the passenger seat of an unlicensed taxicab when Rosfeld pulled him and another teen, Zaijuan Hester, over. The car matched the description of a vehicle involved in a drive-by shooting that had occurred just minutes earlier. Once stopped, Rose and Hester quickly bolted from the car. Rosfeld then opened fire and shot Rose three times in his back, arm, and face.
Rosfeld, who had been sworn in as a rookie officer with the East Pittsburgh Police Department only hours before the shooting, was charged with criminal homicide in Roses death. A police affidavit used to charge Rosfeld showed that the officer had given conflicting statements to investigators over the course of interviews with detectives. In an initial interview, Rosfeld suggested Rose may have been carrying something resembling a gun when he shot the teenager, but when detectives followed up, Rosfeld clarified that he did not see whether or not Rose was armed.
Video: Protests erupt in Pittsburgh following Antwon Rose verdict
On Friday, however, a jury acquitted Rosfeld of all counts in a deliberation that took fewer than four hours. District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., who tried the case in Allegheny County, said in a statement that he disagreed with the verdict but respected the jurys decision.
In the interest of justice, we must continue to do our job of bringing charges in situations where charges are appropriate, regardless of the role an individual holds in the community, Zappala said.
A Pennsylvania jury just concluded shooting an unarmed black child in the back as he ran away is not Murder, its not even criminal. I will never be able to make peace with that. Everything has to change. pic.twitter.com/gctboRvIOP
Roses family on Friday condemned the verdict. I hope that man never sleeps at night, the teens mother, mother, Michelle Kenney, said according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I hope he gets as much sleep as I do, which is none.
Protests against the not-guilty verdict quickly broke out in Pittsburgh on Friday, as demonstrators expressed their disappointment that yet another police officer failed to be held accountable for shooting an unarmed black child.
Roses case is the latest example of a high-profile shooting in which stark racial disparities were evident — namely that the police officer was white, and the victim was unarmed and black. Black Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to be the victims of deadly police force, The Guardian found in 2016. As many as 221 people have already been shot dead by police this year alone, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
The case is also yet another example of how law enforcement has an exceptional amount of leeway in police-involved shootings. As Voxs German Lopez highlighted shortly after Roses death last June, even when cops are charged with using deadly force, statistics show they rarely face prison time as a result:
If police are charged, theyre very rarely convicted. The National Police Misconduct Reporting Project analyzed 3,238 criminal cases against police officers from April 2009 through December 2010. They found that only 33 percent were convicted, and only 36 percent of officers who were convicted ended up serving prison sentences. Both of those are about half the rate at which members of the public are convicted or incarcerated.
Roses family says they still hope this case will be an exception to that trend. Plans are already in the works to have the case challenged in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the familys attorney S. Lee Merritt told reporters Friday.
Antwon Rose was shot in his back. … He was unarmed, and he did not pose a threat to the officer or to the community, and the verdict today says that is OK, that is acceptable behavior from a police officer, Merritt said.
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PITTSBURGH — A white former police officer said Thursday he thought a weapon was pointed at him when he shot and killed an unarmed black teenager outside Pittsburgh last summer.
Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld took the stand at his homicide trial and insisted he was in fear for his life when he gunned down 17-year-old Antwon Rose II.
Rosfeld, 30, got choked up and dabbed away tears as he recounted finding the mortally wounded Rose on the ground.
The former officer testified after the prosecution rested its case earlier Thursday. Prosecutors said Rosfeld gave inconsistent statements about the shooting, including whether he thought Rose had a gun.
A prosecution witness has said that after the shooting, he heard Rosfeld say repeatedly, “I dont know why I shot him. I dont know why I fired.” But another prosecution witness said he heard the officer ask, “Why did he do that? Why did he take that out of his pocket?”
Rosfeld fired three bullets into Rose after pulling over an unlicensed taxi he suspected — correctly, as it turned out — to have been involved in a drive-by shooting. Rose, a passenger in the car, was shot in the back as he fled.
Rosfeld testified the car that Rose was riding in had its rear windshield shot out. He chirped his siren and turned on his police lights, and the driver complied and pulled over. Rosfeld said he got out of his car with his gun drawn and ordered the driver to the ground.
Demonstrating for the jury what threatening gesture he believed he saw, Rosfeld stood up, raised his right arm to shoulder length and fully extended it as if pointing a weapon.
“It happened very quickly,” Rosfeld said. “My intent was to end the threat that was made against me. I just wanted to end the threat to me. I followed the threat and fired. I just saw that person moving, so I assumed the threat was still there.”
Asked by his attorney, Patrick Thomassey, why he fired his gun and did not simply let the suspects get away, Rosfeld said: “Because I thought one of them was pointing a weapon at me. They were dangerous felon suspects. They had just fired a gun at someone.”
Rose had been riding in the front seat of the cab when Hester, in the backseat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street, hitting one in the abdomen.
Hester, 18, pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault and firearms violations. Hester told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting.
Neighbors and others testified to what they saw in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Antown Rose by a former East Pittsburgh police officer.
Earlier Thursday, Judge Alexander Bicket rejected a defense motion to acquit Rosfeld on the murder counts he faces.
Prosecutors charged Rosfeld with an open count of homicide, meaning the jury can convict Rosfeld of murder or manslaughter. The defense argued a murder charge wasnt appropriate in the case.
“What we have is a police officer doing his duty. Theres not a hardness of heart required for first- or third-degree murder,” Thomassey argued in court. “We have a burst of three shots in one second on a fleeing felon and were going to charge him with murder? Its not fair.”
Prosecutor Daniel Fitzsimmons said the fact that Rosfeld shot a fleeing Rose in the back was evidence of malice, and the judge ruled the murder counts would stand.
Rosfelds decision to testify wasnt unusual. At least three other white officers charged in the on-duty fatal shootings of black people have taken the witness stand in recent years.
In October, a Chicago jury convicted former officer Jason Van Dyke of murder in the shooting death of teenager Laquan McDonald. After the trial, jurors said Van Dykes testimony hurt his defense. Van Dyke got fewer than seven years in prison.
An officer in Balch Spring, Texas, was convicted of murder last August and sentenced to 15 years after a jury didnt buy his explanation that he was trying to protect his partner when he fired into a car full of black teenagers, striking a 15-year-old.
And in 2017, a former South Carolina patrolman was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing an unarmed motorist. The officer pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges following a state trial at which he testified and the jury deadlocked.