Former East Pittsburgh officer found not guilty of homicide in shooting of teen

Antwon Rose, Michael Rosfeld

EAST PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A jury has found former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld not guilty of one count of homicide in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II, according to Allegheny County District Attorney spokesman Mike Manko.

Rosfeld testified he thought a handgun was pointed at him when he fired his gun June 19. Prosecutors said Rose didn’t pose a threat to Rosfeld.

The shooting sparked protests in Pittsburgh.

[Previous update posted at 8:47 p.m. ET]

Former East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld thought a handgun was pointed at him when he fatally shot 17-year-old Antwon Rose II last June, he testified at his homicide trial.

Jurors will begin deliberating Friday afternoon and continue through the weekend if necessary.

The unarmed teenager’s killing triggered protests and outrage in Pittsburgh over the officer’s use of deadly force.

Rosfeld said he initially pulled over the gold Chevy Cruze because it matched the description of a car involved in a drive-by shooting 20 minutes earlier. The car with a shattered rear windshield was riddled with bullet holes when Rosfeld called in a felony traffic stop.

On the witness stand Thursday, he demonstrated the hand motions he said he perceived as a threat to his life seconds before he fired three shots toward Rose and the other passenger trying to flee.

During the direct questioning by his own defense attorney Patrick Thomassey, Rosfeld testified that he was following procedure for a felony stop and communicated that over the police radio, signaling a raised-risk situation to other officers.

“I’m not going to wait to be attacked,” Rosfeld said on the stand when pressed by prosecutor Dan Fitzsimmons on why he didn’t wait in his police vehicle until other officers arrived on the scene.

Rosfeld said he saw both Rose and the other passenger, now known to be Zaijuan Hester, then 17, move from the car at the same time. He acknowledged that he couldn’t differentiate between the two to say which one was pointing what he thought was a handgun at him, so he fired his gun in the general direction of both.

“I meant to fire until the threat against me had been ended, whether it be if I missed and he surrenders, stops, gets on the ground. I just wanted to end the threat to me,” Rosfeld responded when asked by the prosecutor whether he meant to kill.

Fitzsimmons also pressed Rosfeld on what exactly he knew about the drive-by shooting in the moments leading up to when he shot Rose.

Rosfeld testified that he knew from radio dispatch communication that there had been between 10 and 12 shots fired during the drive-by shooting that happened just about a mile and half from where he encountered the suspect vehicle and Rose, which Rosfeld said signaled to him that there may have been more than one armed suspect in the car.

Rosfeld initially told police his intention had been to get all three occupants on the ground as he awaited backup, according to the original criminal complaint.

After ordering the driver onto the ground, he said, the front seat passenger, Rose, exited the vehicle and “turned his hand toward Officer Rosfeld and he, Officer Rosfeld, saw something dark that he perceived as a gun.”

Rosfeld has been criticized for an inconsistency in his tellings of the incident, because when asked again to recount the events, Rosfeld “told the detectives that he did not see a gun when the passenger emerged and ran. When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger’s hand but was not sure what it was,” the complaint said.

Though unbeknownst to Rosfeld when he fatally shot Rose, police later found two stolen guns in the car, traces of gun residue on Antwon Rose’s hand and the empty clip of a handgun in his pants pocket, according to court records.

Several witnesses during the trial testified that Rosfeld was distraught and emotional after realizing he fatally shot Rose.

A witness, Pat Shattuck, who was at the East Pittsburgh Borough Senior Citizen Center at the time of the incident testified Wednesday that he heard Rosfeld through sobs say, “Why did he do that? Why did he do that? Why did he take that out of his pocket?”

Rosfeld testified that he’d been sworn in in that same building just nearly an hour before the incident. He’d been working on the job for about two weeks before that, and had been a police officer in other jurisdictions since 2011, Rosfeld said.

The defense rested Friday morning. The only other witness in the defense case was a use-of-force expert, Clifford Jobe.

Judge Alexander Bicket also ruled Friday morning in favor of the defense’s request to lift the gag order that had been in place since September. Jury deliberations will go through the weekend if necessary, according to Allegheny County District Attorney’s office spokesperson Mike Manko.

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