Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Wednesday that investigators have enough evidence to try an East Pittsburgh police officer for third-degree murder in the shooting death of Antwon Rose, but the county’s top prosecutor isn’t ruling out filing a first-degree murder charge in the case.
“I find that (Officer Michael) Rosfeld’s actions were intentional,” District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said during a news conference. “It certainly brought about the result he was looking to accomplish. He was not acting to prevent death or severe bodily injury.”
Zappala said that Rose did not fire a weapon in a North Braddock drive-by shooting that preceded the felony traffic stop in East Pittsburgh where Rosfeld shot the 17-year-old from Rankin. Surveillance footage shows the shooter in North Braddock fired out of a car’s rear window while wearing a dark-colored shirt, while Rose had been wearing a light-colored shirt, sitting in the front passenger seat and the car’s front passenger window never came down.
Witnesses in East Pittsburgh told detectives that Rose was unarmed when he ran from a gold Chevrolet Cruze after Rosfeld pulled over the car.
“According to witnesses, Rose shows his hands, turns and runs,” Zappala said. “He is not in possession of a weapon.”
Zappala said he did not feel pressured to file charges by the multiple days and nights of protesting in and around Pittsburgh since the June 19 shooting.
“The people own the criminal justice system,” he said. “If they have issues with it, I think they have the right to express that.”
Zappala said Pennsylvania laws related to the use of deadly force do not protect what Rosfeld did.
“You have to show the person who you are arresting committed a forcible felony — as I said already, Antwon Rose didn’t do anything in North Braddock other than be in that vehicle — and you have to possess a weapon,” Zappala said.
Zappala said that Antwon Rose being in the car does not make him party to the crime.
— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) June 27, 2018
Zappala noted that neither Rose nor Zaijuan Hester, 17, of Swissvale, a rear-seat passenger in the car, had a weapon on them when Rosfeld fired.
“You have to otherwise indicate somebody is in a position to take human life, and that is not the case here,” he said. “Unless you see a genuine threat, then it’s inappropriate — in fact, criminal — to take somebody’s life.”
Rosfeld faces one count of criminal homicide, which covers manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and the three degrees of murder.
“Evidence supports third-degree murder,” Zappala said. “We think we should have the right to argue murder in the first degree.”
Zappala said he has referred the East Pittsburgh police department to the U.S. Attorney’s Office because he is concerned about the borough department’s lack of policies.
“In response to questions by major crimes investigators when they first came on scene in East Pittsburgh, they said, ‘Well how do you handle these situations, what’s your policy?’ And he said, ‘We don’t have policy.'”
East Pittsburgh police and borough officials have said very little regarding the shooting, releasing just one public statement in which the officials expressed sympathy for Rose’s family but did not identify Rosfeld.
Allegheny County officials then released a statement saying they had been led to believe that East Pittsburgh officials would identify the officer. County police released Rosfeld’s name.
The doors of both the East Pittsburgh police station and borough offices were locked Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. A person who came to get a police report for the second time on Wednesday while reporters were there said the station is typically empty because there are so few officers employed.
No one answered the door at Mayor Louis Payne’s house.
Zappala said the department’s lack of policies creates a dangerous situation. Asked to elaborate on the dangers created by the lack of basic policies, he said, “Someone’s dead. Can there be an anymore dangerous situation?”
Zappala: “You don’t shoot somebody in the back when they are not a threat to you.”
— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) June 27, 2018
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, email@example.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib. Staff writer Renatta Signorini contributed.
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