Jury selection begins in police shooting of Antwon Rose
Jury selection is scheduled Tuesday in the trial of Michael Rosfeld, a former East Pittsburgh police officer charged in the shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II.
The death of the unarmed teenager last year triggered protests and outrage in Pittsburgh over the officer’s use of deadly force.
On June 19, Rosfeld, 30, shot Antwon three times as he fled a car after a traffic stop. According to Allegheny County police, Antwon was a passenger in a car that authorities suspected of being involved in a nearby shooting. When the officer ordered the driver out of the car, Antwon and another passenger “bolted” from the vehicle, and Rosfeld opened fire, striking the teenager, police said.
In response to his death, several groups shut down highways and intersections across Pittsburgh during protests last year, demanding accountability for Antwon’s death. He was shot on the right side of his face, right elbow and to the right of his spine.
“Three shots in the back. How you justify that?” the protesters had chanted.
Those who knew Antwon described him as a generous, promising student who volunteered regularly at a free store that provided clothes, food and other items to members of the community.
Jurors to be selected from another county
Rosfeld faces a criminal homicide charge in a trial expected to begin March 19. Under Pennsylvania law, criminal homicide includes murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.
Jurors will be selected from Dauphin County, which is about 200 miles from Pittsburgh, after a ruling that the publicity around the case had affected the jury pool in Allegheny County. The selected jurors from Dauphin County will be brought to Pittsburgh for the trial, according to CNN affiliate WTAE.
The trial is being watched closely as few officers ever face trial for shooting deaths. In anticipation of the trial next week, Pittsburgh is taking steps to prepare for possible protests, reported CNN affiliate KDKA.
What happened on June 19
Antwon had been a passenger in a car that was stopped by police on June 19, because it matched the description of a car that was involved in an earlier shooting in North Braddock, according to Allegheny County police.
Police had been searching for a light gold Chevrolet Cruze with tinted windows, after a surveillance video showed a man roll down the Cruze’s rear passenger window and open fire with a handgun.
Rosfeld had pulled over a light gold Cruze with its rear window broken and with two bullet holes, according to the criminal complaint. Antwon was in the car suspected in the earlier shooting, but did not appear to be the shooter, according to the complaint.
“By all accounts, Mr. Rose never did anything in furtherance of any crimes in North Braddock,” Allegheny County District Attorney Steve Zappala said in June.
Witnesses told investigators that Rosfeld ordered the driver out of the car and appeared to handcuff him before turning his attention to the other occupants. Antwon and another passenger ran from the vehicle, and Rosfeld opened fire, Allegheny County police said.
A witness to the shooting captured it on video that was posted on Facebook.
In the video, a police SUV is seen stopped in the middle of the street as another police car pulls up behind it. Two people are seen running from the Chevy Cruze. Within seconds, three shots ring out. The runners appear to drop to the ground.
The woman recording the video says, “Why are they shooting at him?”
“All they did was run and they’re shooting at them.”
What Rosfeld told police
Rosfeld told police his intention had been to get all three occupants on the ground as he awaited backup, according to the complaint. After ordering the driver onto the ground, he said, the front seat passenger exited the vehicle and “turned his hand toward Officer Rosfeld and he, Officer Rosfeld, saw something dark that he perceived as a gun.” He stepped out from behind his car door for a better view and opened fire.
Asked again to recount the events, Rosfeld “told the detectives that he did not see a gun when the passenger emerged and ran. When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger’s hand but was not sure what it was,” the complaint said.
“I find that Rosfeld’s actions were intentional,” Zappala said on June 27, when announcing the charges against Rosfeld.
“I don’t think it’s a murder case. I don’t. I don’t know if there were mistakes made in police procedure — that’s to be determined later — but I don’t see it as a murder case,” Rosfeld’s attorney Pat Thomassey told WTAE after the charge was announced.
Rosfeld had been sworn in to the East Pittsburgh police force just hours before the shooting, the complaint said. He’d worked with other local departments for seven years, CNN affiliate WPXI reported.
Months after Antwon’s death, the East Pittsburgh Police disbanded in December. Officials said it was because the department was small with limited resources and couldn’t compete with larger police agencies that offered full-time work with better pay and benefits.