March 23 (UPI) — A state jury acquitted former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld late Friday in the 2018 shooting death of unarmed African-American teenager Antwon Rose II.
Rosfeld, who is white, was initially charged with criminal homicide last June in the 17-year-old’s death. The ex-officer shot Rose as he and a second person ran from a vehicle after it was stopped during an investigation of a drive-by shooting in North Braddock, Pa.
Pennsylvania law gives a law enforcement officer wide leeway in such incidents, allowing police to use deadly force if the officer believes the suspect is fleeing and is a threat to himself and others.
Rosfeld was found not guilty on first-degree and third-degree murder charges as well as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges.
“I don’t have any question in my mind it was the proper verdict,” Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I give this jury a lot of credit. This was a very hard case. I will point out to you this was not an all-white jury. There were African Americans on this jury. They listened to the facts. They listened to the law.”
S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney representing Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, hinted at civil litigation after the verdict.
“Michelle is upset,” Merritt said. “She’s angry. She is not broken. It is not over, and she will continue to fight for her son.”
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. issued a statement saying that he disagreed in the verdict.
“While I respectfully disagree with their verdict, it is the people of this commonwealth who decide guilty or not guilty, and they have spoken to this matter,” Zappala said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “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.”
The shooting last year brought days of protests around the city. A crowd gathered outside the Allegheny County Common Pleas courthouse expressing displeasure over the verdict Friday. Most gathered downtown shouting Rose’s name before dispersing.