An East Pittsburgh police officer has been charged with criminal homicide for fatally shooting an unarmed teenager less than two hours after being sworn in.
The Allegheny County district attorney charged Michael Rosfeld with criminal homicide on Wednesday, court records show. Rosfeld turned himself in on Wednesday morning and is out on $250,000 bond, his attorney Pat Thomassey told CBS Pittsburgh.
Rosfeld shot Antwon Rose, 17, three times during a traffic stop on June 19. Rose was killed while fleeing a vehicle police suspected was involved in an earlier shooting according to a criminal complaint against Michael Rosfeld. He was a passenger of the vehicle; both the driver and the other passenger survived the encounter with police.
The criminal complaints states that Rosfeld had initially said that he saw a gun. But in going over the sequence of events again, Rosfeld told detectives that he didn’t see a gun when Rose emerged from the car.
“Antwon Rose didn't do anything in North Braddock other than be in that vehicle,” said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala in a statement Wednesday.
Zappala had excoriating words for Rosfeld’s “intentional” actions.
“He was not acting to prevent death or serious bodily injury. It is my position that he is not entitled to a justification charge to a jury as a defense,” the district attorney said. “Taking human life is one of the most important things in this community, dealing with these types of tragedies. You do not shoot somebody in the back if they are not a threat to you.”
This comes a day after protestors of Rose’s death said they had a candidate to take on Zappala in next spring’s Democratic primary, according to KDKA-TV, a CBS local station in Pittsburgh. “Hey, hey, ho, ho. Steve Zappala has got to go,” protestors chanted outside of Allegheny County Courthouse on Tuesday.
Rosfeld had been on duty in the East Pittsburgh area for three weeks prior to the shooting and was sworn in a mere 90 minutes before the shooting took place, reports KDKA-TV.
He’d previously worked for the University of Pittsburgh Police Department, beginning in 2012, but was reportedly dismissed due to a personnel matter in January 2018. Authorities had found discrepancies between the evidence in an arrest and his sworn statement, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The teen’s death, which was captured on cellphone video, sparked widespread outrage and protests on the streets of Pittsburgh.
S. Lee Merrit, the attorney representing the slain teen’s family, wrote on Twitter after the charge, “This is a small stride toward justice but we have a very long road ahead.”
Journalist and activist Shaun King shared a screenshot of a Facebook post by Rose on Twitter before the funeral, saying that Rose's mom requested he post it.
In the post, Rose wrote that he couldn't wait for the day he could "move my mom out of the hood and buy her a nice house on the hills because she goes to hell and back for me and she deserves it." He also said he looked forward to when his sister "have a single worry in the world" and he could buy his niece “whatever she wants...and put her through all 17 years of school because she deserves the world and more.”
[Photo: Allegheny County Jail]