White Police Officer Is Acquitted in Death of Antwon Rose, a Black Teenager


White Police Officer Is Acquitted in Death of Antwon Rose, a Black Teenager

S. Lee Merritt, left, the lawyer for Antwon Rose II’s family, and Michelle Kenney, center, Antwon’s mother, after closing arguments Friday in the trial of a former East Pittsburgh police officer in Antwon’s death. The officer, Michael Rosfeld, was acquitted.CreditCreditPool photo by Nate Smallwood

By Adeel Hassan

A former police officer in East Pittsburgh, Pa., was acquitted Friday on all counts in connection with the shooting death of a black teenager who fled during a traffic stop last summer.

The verdict in the death of Antwon Rose II came after a four-day trial in downtown Pittsburgh and less than four hours of jury deliberation. The city had been concerned about protests and had cordoned off streets around the massive, gothic Allegheny County Courthouse during the trial.

A video that recorded the fatal shooting was widely viewed on the internet, and it led to days of protests in Pittsburgh and drew widespread attention as another example of the killing of an unarmed black man by a police officer.

The officer, Michael Rosfeld, who is white, had been charged with homicide in the shooting death of Antwon, a 17-year-old African-American, on the night of June 19, 2018. Prosecutors charged Mr. Rosfeld with an open count of homicide, meaning the jury could have convicted him of murder or manslaughter.

Antwon, who was unarmed, ran after Mr. Rosfeld pulled over the car he was riding in with another teenager. The car, a Chevrolet Cruze, matched the description of one involved in a nearby drive-by shooting about 10 minutes earlier.

Mr. Rosfeld shot Antwon, a passenger, three times — in his back, face and elbow.

Prosecutors say Mr. Rosfeld, 30, gave inconsistent statements about the shooting, including whether he thought Antwon had a gun.

A photo of Antwon Rose II was part of a memorial display in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse this week.CreditGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

On Thursday, Mr. Rosfeld testified in his own defense for 90 minutes. “It happened very quickly,” he said. “My intent was to end the threat that was made against me.”

He said on the stand that he thought he saw one of the two teenagers who ran from the car point a gun at him. He said he did not know which teenager made the motion.

“This case had nothing to do with race, absolutely nothing to do with race,” Patrick Thomassey, Mr. Rosfeld’s lawyer, said after the verdict. “And some people in this city have made it that way and it’s sad. Mike Rosfeld was doing his job. He did his job. And it had nothing to do with the color of anyone he was arresting.”

S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for Antwon’s family, condemned the verdict in a tweet. “A Pennsylvania jury just concluded shooting an unarmed black child in the back as he ran away is not Murder, it’s not even criminal,” he wrote. “I will never be able to make peace with that. Everything has to change.” The family’s legal team has filed a federal lawsuit in the matter.

Late Friday night, a few dozen protesters marched in Pittsburgh, chanting, “Three shots in the back, how do you justify that?”

In a statement, Mayor William Peduto of Pittsburgh cited the emotion wrought by the episode.

“Tonight I grieve with Antwon’s family, friends, and the entire community,” he said. “Words cannot heal the pain so many are feeling. Only action can begin the process, a process that will take work and understanding. An understanding that inequality exists and we have a moral obligation to address it. I offer the full support of the City of Pittsburgh, to help us find the light in darkness.”

Jurors, who watched the video of the fatal confrontation, got the case just before 5 p.m. on Friday and returned a verdict about 8:30 p.m.


Michael Rosfeld, the former East Pittsburgh police officer who was acquitted in the death of Antwon Rose II.CreditMatt Rourke/Associated Press

The jurors were chosen at a courthouse in Harrisburg, the state capital, about 200 miles east. They were sequestered all week in Pittsburgh.

The jury consisted of six men and six women, nine of whom were white and three of whom were African-American.

On Friday morning, one of the white female jurors was dismissed by the judge and was replaced by an alternate juror, a white man. A reason was not given.

Mr. Rosfeld had been on the East Pittsburgh police force for about three weeks and had been officially sworn in just hours before the shooting.

Previously, he had been a member of the University of Pittsburgh police force, but he left the job after discrepancies were found between one of his sworn statements and evidence in an arrest, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported.

Antwon, who had just finished his junior year, was in his high school’s honors program. He played basketball and the saxophone, and volunteered for a local charity.

“I see mothers bury their sons,” he wrote in a poem titled “I Am Not What You Think!” in 2016. “I want my Mom to never feel that pain.”

Follow Adeel Hassan on Twitter @adeelnyt.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: Acquittal in Fatal Shooting Of Fleeing Black Teenager. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


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