Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A jury in Pennsylvania has acquitted Michael Rosfeld, a white former police officer who fatally shot Antwon Rose II, an unarmed black teenager in the back, setting off a series of angry protests.
Michael Rosfeld was a rookie officer with the East Pittsburgh Police Department who had been sworn in just hours before shooting 17-year-old Antwon Rose II last June. Rosfeld was charged with murder.
He testified that he pulled over an unlicensed taxi that had been involved in a drive-by shooting and that Rose and another occupant fled the vehicle. Rosfeld told the jury that he thought Rose or the other suspect had a gun. He shot the fleeing Rose in the back, arm and side of the face.
Rosfeld testified that he had shot Rose to protect himself and the community.
Another occupant of the car, Zaijuan Hester, 18, pleaded guilty last week to gun charges, telling a judge that he, not Rose, did the drive-by shooting.
Rose’s death was captured on video and later posted on Facebook.
“Rose’s death sparked weeks of protests that shut down local roadways,” said Herring. “Demonstrators felt that Rose’s death fit a national pattern of police brutality against black residents.”
Rosfeld was acquitted by a jury of seven men and five women — a panel that included three black jurors — who viewed the video recording. They deliberated for less than four hours on the fourth day of the trial.
In his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi said that Rosfeld had acted as “judge, jury and executioner.”
“We don’t shoot first and ask questions later,” said Fodi.
The jury’s decision to acquit Rosfeld was unanimous.
“I don’t have any doubt in my mind that this was the proper verdict, I give this jury a lot of credit,” Patrick Thomassey, Rosfeld’s lawyer, told reporters outside the courtroom.
The verdict was met by expressions of grief and stoicism by Rose’s family and supporters. Some sang and chanted Rose’s name inside and outside the courtroom.
The family of a black teenager who was shot in the back and killed by a white police officer outside Pittsburgh remained stoic after the man was acquitted.
Antwon Rose II’s sister had tears streaming down her face after the jury cleared former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld of a homicide charge late Friday. Her mother urged her not to cry.
The jury deliberated fewer than four hours before reaching its verdict. There were tears and gasps from black people gathered in an overflow courtroom, and several broke out in song: “Antwon Rose was a freedom fighter, and he taught us how to fight.”
Rosfeld’s wife burst out sobbing as the verdict was announced. She and Rosfeld were hustled out of the courtroom by deputies.
Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey, told reporters that Rosfeld is “a good man.”
The district attorney in Pittsburgh says he disagrees with a jury’s decision to acquit a former police officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager as he ran from a car involved just minutes earlier in a drive-by shooting.
But Stephen Zappala Jr. says it is the people of Pennsylvania who decide guilt in criminal cases, and “they have spoken.”
A jury deliberated fewer than four hours Friday before clearing ex-East Pittsburgh Officer Michael Rosfeld of homicide in the shooting of Antwon Rose II last year.
Rosfeld’s lawyer called him “a good man.” During the trial he said the officer feared for his life and had to make a split-second decision.
Zappala said that in the interest of justice, he’ll continue to bring charges where charges are appropriate.