Prosecutor: Pittsburgh Police Officer Had ‘No Justification’ for Killing Unarmed Black Teen
Michael Rosfeld, a white cop, was charged with criminal homicide Wednesday, as prosecutors called the killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. an “intentional act.”
A white East Pittsburgh police officer who was sworn into duty only hours before he shot and killed an unarmed black teen last week was charged with criminal homicide Wednesday morning, according to court records.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. told reporters that officer Michael Rosfeld, 30, had “no justification” to fire at 17-year-old Antwon Rose, whose hands were raised in the air as he fled a vehicle.
“Rose never committed any crimes,” Zappala said. “Rosfeld’s actions were intentional and brought about the result he was looking to accomplish.”
According to a police affidavit, Rosfeld gave conflicting statements about seeing “something dark” in Rose’s hand before he fired his weapon at the teen. He initially told investigators he saw what appeared to be a gun in Rose’s hand, but then changed his story during a second interview, saying he never saw that the teen had a gun.
Rose was shot three times: in the face, the right elbow, and the back, according to a medical examiner. “You do not shoot somebody in the back if they aren’t a threat to you,” Zappala said.
The criminal complaint filed against Rosfeld painted a clearer picture of the events leading up to Rose’s death, which sparked protests across Pittsburgh.
Last Tuesday, police were alerted to a drive-by shooting involving a light gold Chevrolet Cruze. Rosfeld, who joined the East Pittsburgh police force three weeks ago, pulled over a vehicle that matched the description, then drew his weapon and told the three passengers inside to get out of the car, according to the complaint.
While Rosfeld handcuffed the driver, Rose and Zaijuan Hester ran away from the car with their hands in the air, according to the complaint. That’s when Rosfeld opened fire on Rose, shocking witnesses who said it was clear they were unarmed when they fled.
Hester, 17, was arrested earlier this week and charged on Wednesday with attempted homicide for allegedly shooting at Thomas Cole Jr. minutes before Rose lost his life. Two stolen guns were found in the car, according to prosecutors.
It’s unclear if the driver, who worked for the ride-sharing service Jitney and is cooperating with investigators, will be charged with a crime, Zappala said.
A lawyer for Rose’s family was surprised Rosfeld was released from jail on $250,000 unsecured bond. ”I’ve never had someone with a homicide get out of a jail,” attorney Fred G. Rabner said during a press conference where Rose’s mom, Michelle Kenney, appeared distraught and in tears.
“He murdered my son in cold blood. If he has a son, I pray his heart never has to hurt the way mine does. But I think he should pay for taking my son’s life,” Kenney told ABC News.
Kenney continued: “To see how handsome my son was, he didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that. No one deserves to have to bury their baby at 17 years old.”
Rose’s murder sparked outrage in the Pittsburgh community, including local protests that blocked bridges and led to nationwide calls for justice.
“We are hurting, and our community is hurting,” Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition said in a statement released on Monday, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Rose, who worked two jobs, one at Domino’s and one at a gymnastics gym, wrote a painfully resonate poem in 2016 called, “I Am Not What You Think,” ABC News reported.
“I am confused and afraid/I wonder what path I will take/ I hear there is only two ways out/I see mother’s bury their sons,” it says.
The poem’s final lines: “I dream of life getting easier/I try to make my dream come true.”