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East Pittsburgh police to disband Saturday; state police to patrol borough

Tribune-Review
| Monday, November 26, 2018 12:06 p.m
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Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
East Pittsburgh Borough Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2018.

The East Pittsburgh police department will end operations Saturday, and Pennsylvania State Police will begin policing the borough, state police said Monday.

State police received a formal written request from East Pittsburgh police Nov. 13, according to a news release from Trooper Melinda Bondarenka. The department “requested that the PSP provide full-time police services to the borough following the abolishment of their police department on Dec. 1, 2018.”

Borough officials have said they’ve been mulling disbanding their police force for years but pursued that option with new vigor following the June 19 shooting of unarmed teenager Antwon Rose II. Officer Michael Rosfeld is charged in the shooting, which sparked weeks of protests across Allegheny County.

Bondarenka said state police are obligated to provide services at no cost to any municipality without its own law enforcement.

“The PSP provide full police services for political subdivisions that are without the protection of an organized police department and will respond to all calls for police assistance,” according to the release.

The borough has been down to four part-time officers and Chief Lori Fruncek for two months — half the number it had at the time of the shooting. Rosfeld has been on leave since that time. Officers Nathaniel Calebro and Brian Jenks resigned in September, and officer Brian Neff resigned in October.

East Pittsburgh officials could not be reached for comment.

Rose had been a passenger in a car suspected in a drive-by shooting in nearby North Braddock minutes before the car was pulled over in East Pittsburgh. Police say the car had gunshot damage to its rear window, likely from the earlier shooting. As Rosfeld ordered the driver to the ground, Rose and backseat passenger Zaijuan Hester fled on foot, authorities said.

Witnesses told police that Rose got out of the car and briefly raised his empty hands before turning and running from the scene, according to charging documents against Rosfeld, who allegedly fired three shots at the teen and hit him in the back, head and elbow. Rosfeld faces a homicide charge, and his trial is scheduled for Feb. 26.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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