Outrage in Pittsburgh Following Officer Acquittal in Antwon Rose II Murder

East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld was found not guilty of all charges last Friday in the June 19 deadly shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II, according to Allegheny County District Attorney spokesperson Mike Manko. The jury’s decision sparked protests in the city over the weekend as demonstrators lashed out against the police’s use of fatal force against unarmed Black youth.

“While the family of Antwon Rose is devastated that former officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted today, they are grateful for the support of the community and from many around the country,” S. Lee Merritt, the attorney for the Rose family, said in a statement. Rosfeld, 30, shot Rose three times after the young man ran during a traffic stop. Prosecutor Dan Fitzsimmons argued that a video shared on Facebook, which captured the shooting, showed Rose running away from Rosfeld, which meant that he wasn’t causing “no danger whatsoever.” Meanwhile, Rosfeld and his defense lawyer stressed that the officer “felt threatened” because he saw “what might have been a gun,” CNN added.

The former officer had faced a criminal homicide charge that included voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, as well as murder. Had he been convicted, Rosfeld could have been sentenced to life behind bars.

On Saturday, demonstrators gathered at an intersection named Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood, an area known for its Black cultural life, according to the Associated Press. Some signs bore the names of Black men killed at the hands of police officers across the United States. “It's very painful to see what happened, to sit there and deal with it,” Rose's father, Antwon Rose Sr., told protesters, AP reported. “I just don't want it to happen to our city no more. It's happening like every other day. We've got to do more in our community so they have more stuff to do.” Following the verdict, a drive-by shooting occurred at the Pennsylvania office of the attorney Patrick Thomassey, just 13 miles east of Pittsburgh. No one was injured, however.

“Certainly we believe that this is in response to the Rosfeld trial, and certainly it’s not something that’s warranted here in any community,” Monroeville Police Chief Doug Cole told AP, adding that residents lived in “many homes” within 50 feet of the office. Rose’s case comes at a time when similar decisions have been reached in court involving the killing of a Black person. In January, a white Chicago officer named Jason Van Dyke was sentenced to almost seven years in prison after being convicted in 2018 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery — one for each bullet fired at Laquan McDonald in 2014 — according to Chicago’s NBC 5. If he behaves in prison, he could be released within three and a half years.

In light of the verdict, McDonald’s family believes that the sentence was “too light,” especially when prosecutors were asking for an 18- to 20-year sentence. According to the local channel, his great uncle said the sentence reduced Laquan’s life to that of a “second-class citizen.”

About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.