A jury on Friday acquitted a white former police officer in the killing of a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager last year. Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld had been charged with homicide for killing Antwon Rose II in June. Rosfeld, a rookie who had been sworn in mere hours before the shooting, said he thought Rose or another suspect had a gun. The panel of seven men and five women appear to have been persuaded by the argument and acquitted Rosfeld after fewer than four hours of deliberations.
Rose’s death had been captured on video and it sparked widespread protests last year. There were also protests Friday night after the verdict although they were smaller as some 100 protesters gathered and blocked intersections Friday night to protest the verdict.
S. Lee Merritt, the family’s attorney, said the legal fight will continue. “It will have to be challenged, in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. It will have to continue to be challenged on a federal level,” he said. “Antwon Rose was shot in his back. … He was unarmed, and he did not pose a threat to the officer or to the community, and the verdict today says that is OK, that is acceptable behavior from a police officer.”
Michelle Kenney, Rose’s mother, said that while the verdict was disappointing, she wasn’t really surprised. “It isn’t what I hoped for, but it’s what I expected,” she said. Rose had been riding in an unlicensed taxi that had been involved in a drive-by shooting. Rosfeld then shot rose in the back, arm, and side of the face as he ran away after he was pulled over. “I hope that man never sleeps at night,” Kenney said of Rosfeld. “I hope he gets as much sleep as I do, which is none.”
Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto issued a statement after the verdict that he grieves with Rose’s family and friends. “Words cannot heal the pain so many are feeling. Only action can begin the process, a process that will take work & understanding,” he wrote. “An understanding that inequality exists & we have a moral obligation to address it. I offer the full support of the city of Pittsburgh, to help us find light in darkness.”
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