‘He can lay to rest now’: Community reacts to officer being charged for killing Antwon Rose
Emotion washed over Nicole Hall when she heard that the East Pittsburgh police officer who shot and killed Antwon Rose had been arrested.
“Oh my God, my prayers have been answered,” she said Wednesday after hearing the news.
She took a moment to cry while sitting on her front porch in Hawkins Village. She raised a hand to the sky. Rain fell steps away.
“Thank you, Jesus,” Hall said. “Oh my God, yes Lord. Thank you, Jesus. This is the first step.”
Rose and his family live nearby in the same public housing complex in Rankin.
“That means the world to me, my son was really close to him,” Hall said. “As a mother, it makes me feel good because I’ve seen him grow up, well try to anyway.
“You don’t shoot a kid in the back and think that’s OK because it’s not.”
Rose’s friend Romello Ballard, 21, also was glad to hear the news.
“He can lay to rest now,” Ballard said. “It’s good that he’s finally being charged and my brother can be laid to rest.”
Hall asked for police violence nationwide to stop, encouraging officers to talk to children and take their time when dealing with young people.
“Just see these kids for kids,” she said, adding that their skin color should not matter. “They deserve to have a future.”
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Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. on Wednesday charged officer Michael Rosfeld with homicide.
District Judge Regis Charles Welsh released Rosfeld on $250,000 unsecured bond.
On June 19, Rosfeld shot Rose, 17, three times in the back as he fled a traffic stop after the officer pulled over a car believed to have been involved in a drive-by shooting in nearby North Braddock.
Also on Wednesday, authorities announced charged against 17-year-old Zaijuan Hester, a Swissvale teen who Zappala said was the drive-by shooter.
Rose did not fire any shots, Zappala said.
“You do not shoot someone in the back if they are not a threat to you,” Zappala said.
Debra Jones can finally get to sleep.
It’s been a tough week for the East Pittsburgh woman who witnessed Rose being shot from her front porch.
“I’m at ease,” she said Wednesday. “I feel at peace, at least he’s getting charged because it’s wrong and he was a baby.”
Jones recalled seeing the traffic stop. She remembered ducking down when Rosfeld pulled his gun.
“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Please don’t run,'” she said.
Jones saw Rose lying facedown, motionless just feet from her home.
For four or five days, she had trouble sleeping. Now, with the Fourth of July approaching, firecrackers startle her.
She didn’t expect charges to be filed so quickly, but she thinks Rosfeld’s unsecured bail is unfair.
“What makes him so different just because he’s a police officer?” Jones asked.
James Hairston of Monroeville and Brandon Christian of Wilkinsburg agreed.
“I just feel he gets an easy hand of it,” Christian said. “The whole situation is crazy.”
Both were happy to hear about the arrest.
“The officer’s dead-ass wrong,” Hairston said. “Just because (he) ran, you don’t shoot him.”
Pittsburgh City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, of the Hill District, was among a group of local elected officials who called for Rosfeld’s arrest.
“The most important thing at this point is that we get a fair and impartial jury, one that is reflective of the community,” he said.
The jury should accurately mirror the social, economic, gender and racial makeup of Allegheny County and Zappala should seek a jury from another county if necessary, he said.
“I do know, having already heard from community members just this morning, that they’re concerned about the jury,” Lavelle said, “but they’re at least glad that charges have been brought forward.”
Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of Pittsburgh’s Black Political Empowerment Project, said it was fortunate how things unfolded after Rose’s killing.
“If you look at the cases across the country where there’s high-level, high-visible cases, Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region and all the folks involved have handled this very well. Obviously, there’s been a few incidents but there have hardly been any arrests. There have been protests, but the protests have been shown with respect and I applaud all of that,” Stevens said. “My hope is this is the first step toward justice, and we need to make sure the justice continues to the next step.”
That would be seeing the case go to trial and getting a conviction, said state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington.
“A young guy, fleeing from the cops, unarmed, shot in the back three times. There’s no rhyme or reason for that,” Gainey said. “If he had a gun it would be different, but he had nothing. It’s a situation where when do we say enough is enough. We see situations everyday that are worse than that and people don’t end up dead, but in the African American community it happens quite a bit.”
Gainey, along with Democratic state Reps. Jake Wheatley of the Hill District, Austin Davis of McKeesport and Jordan Harris of Philadelphia, proposed ways of improving performance and professionalism in police departments across the state.
Suggestions included establishing a licensing board or commission that would oversee municipal police departments; create a bipartisan legislative caucus to investigate best practices for police departments and enact legislation that would permit a municipality to share an officer’s disciplinary record with other departments that might employ that officer.
Gainey said he’s also considering ways to mandate diversity education and training for police officers.
“In order for us to understand one another, we have to know one another,” he said. “It has to be a curriculum education that the officers have to take in dealing with a diverse community. If the only thing I know about them is what I’ve seen on TV, am I prepared to work in that community?”
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.
Reporters Bob Bauder and Theresa Clift contributed.
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