The officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose, another unarmed Black male, was charged with criminal homicide on Wednesday, following eight protests over five days across Pittsburgh.
Three hours on the job in East Pittsburgh, Penn., Michael Rosfeld shot multiple rounds into unarmed Rose while he was running away last week. The officer didn’t run after the teen or Tase him, but instead cuffed an almost lifeless body. Rose died on the way to the hospital.
The bullet in Rose’s back, which hit his spine, lung and heart, was one of three that were unnecessarily fired, according to District Attorney Stephen Zappala, who said: “You do not shoot somebody in the back if they are not a threat to you.”
The family’s lawyers said that the officer had a history of violence and violence toward “a certain type of person.”
Protestors, including Democratic State Rep. Ed Gainey, agreed and said, “There is no justification for shooting someone in the back.” Nationwide, police have fatally shot at least 504 people so far in 2018, and 18 percent of them have been Black.
Protests across Pittsburgh, which called for Rosfeld to be arrested and fired, began the day after Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted a response to Shaun King’s viral tweet about the incident.
Hundreds gathered outside East Pittsburgh Police headquarters, chanting “Say his name!” and the crowd’s response of “Antwon Rose Jr.!” last Wednesday.
The next day, thousands of protesters gather outside the Allegheny County Courthouse downtown. Later that evening a second protest, which lasted overnight, started outside East Pittsburgh Police headquarters and moved through local streets and drew hundreds who marched.
On Friday, a crowd of 50 turned into hundreds downtown and ended six hours later on Saturday morning, having blocked baseball fans from exiting the park after a game. Another protest took place on Saturday where Democratic state representatives spoke in support, followed by a second protest in the evening where hundreds marched into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
On Tuesday, the day after Rose’s funeral, a group of protestors gather just before 7 am at Freedom Corner in the Hill District and marched downtown. After the charges were filed protesters surrounded Rosfeld’s Penn Hills home Wednesday night.
Zappala objected to Rosfeld’s release to house arrest and said that murder in the first degree should be argued. That carries up to a life sentence in Pennsylvania, if convicted. Charges against officers involved in fatal police shootings are not likely, and while the family will push for conviction, they are cautiously optimistic.
There is a history of falsifying records, according to the Rose family attorneys, and in the complaint that was filed, the officer changed his account of the incident regarding Rose and a gun he originally said was in his possession. Rosfeld was fired with cause from the University of Pittsburgh Police Department after six years, and was hired by East Pittsburgh’s force just months later.
The East Pittsburgh Police Department may also be under fire for its lack of policies and procedures. Zappala stated he plans to discuss that with the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI regarding a possible federal civil rights case.
Rosfeld’s bail was set at $250,000. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for July 6th, according to court records.