On Friday night, a Pennsylvania jury found former police officer Michael Rosfeld not guilty of shooting seventeen-year-old high school student Antown Rose II in the back in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as he fled from a traffic stop.
Rosfeld, who had been sworn in as a police officer mere hours before the June 2018 shooting, opened fire on Rose and another individual who ran away on foot after they were pulled over in an unlicensed taxi. Rose was a passenger in the taxi, which had been involved in an earlier drive-by shooting. Rosfeld shot Rose in the back, side, and face as he fled, justifying his actions by saying he was protecting the community because he believed one of the occupants of the cab had a gun.
The shooting was captured on video by a bystander who can be heard asking the police why they are shooting at people who are running away. Protests were held in the city of Pittsburgh in response.
Zaijuan Hester, an eighteen-year-old who was also in the taxi, later pled guilty to gun charges and admitted he was the one who committed the drive-by shooting.
“We don’t shoot first and ask questions later,” said Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi during closing arguments.
But the jury, who deliberated for only four hours, reached a decision to find Rosfeld not guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter.
“The verdict was too fast,” Antwon’s aunt, Carolyn Morrison, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “The trial was too fast. The verdict was too fast. It was all too fast.”
As with many cases, the verdicts hinged on whether the officer believed he was preventing death or injury to himself or others when he opened fire on Rose.
S. Lee Merritt, a civil rights attorney who represents Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, told the Post-Gazette: “The charges the jury received today and deliberated on made it seem OK to shoot an unarmed fleeing suspect in the back,” adding, “It is incredibly difficult to get a police officer held accountable anywhere in the United States.”