East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld charged with homicide in killing of Antwon Rose
East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with homicide Wednesday in connection with last week’s shooting death of Antwon Rose, and court documents say the officer made inconsistent statements to detectives about why he pulled the trigger.
“You do not shoot someone in the back if they are not a threat to you,” Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said in a news conference.
Rosfeld was arraigned just before 8 a.m. by District Judge Regis Charles Welsh, according to court records. He was released on $250,000 unsecured bond. Reached late Wednesday, Rosfeld’s attorney, Patrick Tomassey, confirmed that Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning modified Rosfeld’s bond to include electronic monitoring.
Here’s surveillance footage from the North Braddock shooting scene (which led to #AntwonRose shooting). Shows rear window come down and individual in a dark shirt open fire. DA says Rose was wearing a white shirt and seated in the passenger seat. pic.twitter.com/nPkNIlRxQJ
— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) June 27, 2018
Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said the office “argued vigorously against the setting of bail,” but does not plan to contest the decision.
Fred Rabner, an attorney for Rose’s family, said the family viewed the filing of charges with “guarded optimism.”
“There is still a long road ahead to a conviction and proper sentencing, which is the only thing we will accept as justice,” Rabner said. “In this area of civil rights we know that from protests to policy is a marathon not a sprint and we hope that this case has the endurance to change the landscape of the country on this important issue of police brutality.”
The shooting happened at about 8:40 p.m. June 19 after East Pittsburgh police pulled over a car near Grandview Avenue and Howard Street. The car matched the description of one involved in an earlier shooting in North Braddock.
As police ordered the 20-year-old driver to the ground, Rose and another passenger, who has since been identified as 17-year-old Zaijuan Hester, ran from the car. Rosfeld opened fire, hitting Rose, also 17, three times.
In an eight-page criminal complaint, Allegheny County detectives detailed their interviews with at least six witnesses to the East Pittsburgh and North Braddock shootings, including two who said that Rose and Hester clearly had nothing in their hands when they ran from the car after police pulled it over in East Pittsburgh.
A person identified in the complaint as Witness 2 lives several houses away from the East Pittsburgh shooting scene and told police they were on their front porch as the incident unfolded.
That witness watched as Rosfeld ordered the driver out of the car and to the ground. After the driver complied, Rosfeld ordered the car’s other two occupants out of the vehicle and they ran toward Route 30, the complaint said.
Witness 2 could “clearly see that neither male had anything in his hands,” detectives wrote in the complaint.
A person identified in the complaint as Witness 3 also lives nearby and reported seeing the person in the front passenger seat get out of the car and begin to put his hands on the roof of the car but then turned and ran away.
“Witness 3 said the officer then fired his weapon three times at the person as he ran away,” detectives wrote. “Witness 3 stated the person’s hands were empty and the officer shot at him as he was running away from the officer.”
Rosfeld provided a conflicting account to detectives, according to the complaint.
Rosfeld initially told detectives that when he ordered the driver out of the car and onto the ground, the front-seat passenger got out of the vehicle.
“(Rosfeld) said this person turned his hand toward (Rosfeld) and he, (Rosfeld), saw something dark that he perceived as a gun,” detectives wrote. “This observation caused him to step from behind the cover of his car door to acquire a better view. He then fired his weapon.”
Detectives later asked Rosfeld to go over the sequence of events a second time.
“During that rendition, Rosfeld told the detectives that he did not see a gun when the passenger emerged and ran,” they wrote.
“When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger’s hand but was not sure what it was,” detectives wrote, adding he “was not certain if the individual who had his arm pointed at him was still pointing at him when he fired the shots.”
The complaint said Rose was struck in the right side of his face, in his right elbow and in the middle of his back. The wound to the back was fatal, according to the complaint.
Statements from witnesses to the earlier North Braddock shooting seem to place Rose in the front passenger seat and Hester in the back passenger seat.
A 22-year-old man identified in the complaint as Witness 1 was standing near another man on North Braddock’s Jones Avenue when he heard gunfire and realized he’d been struck, the complaint said. He would be treated and released from a hospital for a grazing wound to the abdomen.
Surveillance footage gathered by detectives showed the rear passenger window of the car in which Rose and Hester were riding come down and a passenger holding a gun began shooting, according to the complaint. Detectives noted that the front passenger window remained closed.
The man standing near Witness 1 returned fire.
The same backseat passenger then fired at another man on the street, who returned fire, detectives wrote. The driver of the car in which Rose and Hester were riding said shots fired from inside his car came from the rear passenger seat.
The driver told police he knew Rose and Hester, and they hired him that night to drive them from Rankin’s Hawkins Village to Grandview Avenue in East Pittsburgh, according to the complaint.
Police found two guns in the jitney driver’s car: a 9mm Glock model 26 pistol under the front portion of the front passenger seat that was loaded with a 17-round magazine that contained 16 rounds; and a .40-caliber Glock 22 pistol under the rear portion of the front passenger seat with a live round in the chamber and an extended magazine with 18 rounds.
Shell casings found on the ground in North Braddock matched the latter gun, police wrote.
An empty handgun magazine found in Rose’s pocket fit the 9mm pistol found under the front portion of the front passenger seat, according to the complaint.
Staff writers Renatta Signorini and Tom Davidson contributed. Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer.