Officer Who Shot Antwon Rose Is Charged With Criminal Homicide

A protest in Pittsburgh this month against the killing of Antwon Rose II, who was fatally shot by a police officer.

A police officer in East Pittsburgh, Pa., was charged with criminal homicide on Wednesday in the fatal shooting last week of Antwon Rose II, an unarmed 17-year-old who was struck three times while attempting to flee.

Officer Michael Rosfeld, 30, turned himself in to the authorities around 7 a.m. and was booked into a jail in Allegheny County. He was arraigned about an hour later and released after posting $250,000 bail, despite an argument by prosecutors that he should be denied bail, given the severity of the charge.

The Allegheny County district attorney, Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said that Officer Rosfeld had failed basic police procedures in the moments before Antwon was shot, gave statements to investigators that were contradicted by witnesses and had a troubling employment history with other police departments.

“I find that Rosfeld’s actions were intentional and they certainly brought about the result he was hoping to accomplish,” Mr. Zappala said at a news conference on Wednesday. “Unless you see a genuine threat, it’s inappropriate and in fact criminal to take someone’s life.”

Officer Rosfeld came upon Antwon and another teenager, Zaijuan Hester, when he stopped a car they were riding in that had been seen leaving a drive-by shooting in the nearby town of North Braddock, the police said. Zaijuan, 17, was charged on Wednesday in connection with that shooting, but Mr. Zappala said that Antwon did not fire a weapon and was not an active participant.

“Antwon Rose didn’t do anything in North Braddock other than be in that vehicle,” he said.

In Pennsylvania, a criminal homicide charge enables prosecutors to argue for a range of more specific charges, from involuntary manslaughter to first-degree murder. Mr. Zappala said prosecutors would try to make a case for first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.

Credit...Allegheny County Police Department

The district attorney’s office also plans to refer the case to the office of the United States attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania because of problems that investigators uncovered with the East Pittsburgh Police Department.

When law enforcement officers from other agencies responded to Antwon’s shooting, Mr. Zappala said, East Pittsburgh officers told them that they did not know how to handle the situation because the department did not have clear guidelines.

Mr. Zappala said that the department does not have policies “for anything, as far as we know.” He added: “Someone’s dead. Can there be anything more dangerous?”

Lori Fruncek, the East Pittsburgh police chief, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Patrick J. Thomassey, a lawyer representing Officer Rosfeld, could not be reached.

Prosecutors argued in court on Wednesday that Officer Rosfeld should be denied bail, but they were overruled. S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing Antwon’s family, said it was “wholly inappropriate” that the officer was released.

“It shows a system that is bent in favor of law enforcement,” Mr. Merritt said. “It’s a tragedy to this family and an affront to justice. I don’t know how it happens.”

Officer Rosfeld previously worked for the Oakmont Borough and Harmar Township police departments in Allegheny County, and as a campus police officer at the University of Pittsburgh. He was sworn in to the East Pittsburgh Police Department on June 19, hours before Antwon was killed.


Mr. Merritt said he was hoping to review Officer Rosfeld’s employment records.

“They’ll reveal significant history of abuse of authority and a pattern that should have signaled to East Pittsburgh not to have hired him,” he said. “He should never have been sworn in the day he killed Antwon Rose.”

Mr. Zappala said investigators had reviewed the records and had concerns, but he declined to elaborate. He also said his office was considering whether to contest the judge’s decision to grant bail. A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for July 6.

The charge against Officer Rosfeld capped days of protests in the Pittsburgh area, and came two days after family and friends held a funeral on Monday afternoon for Antwon at Woodland Hills Intermediate School, in Swissvale, Pa., where he was a rising senior.

During the service, his friends read a poem he had written. “I see mothers bury their sons,” it said. “I want my mom to never feel that pain.”

Officer Rosfeld pulled over a Chevrolet Cruze the evening of June 19 that matched the description of a vehicle seen near an earlier drive-by shooting in North Braddock, in which a 22-year-old man was struck in the abdomen.

Without waiting for backup, Officer Rosfeld approached the driver’s side of the car and had the driver step out. As he was placing the driver in handcuffs, Antwon, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, and Zaijuan, who was in the back seat, jumped out.

Witnesses said Antwon flashed his hands in the air, showing that they were empty, and then turned to run away, according to the district attorney’s office. A video of the encounter posted on Facebook shows the teenagers running from police vehicles as three shots are fired, and Antwon falling to the ground.

Officer Rosfeld, who spoke with investigators on Friday, initially told them that Antwon had turned his hand toward him and was holding “something dark,” and that he thought it was a gun. But when he was asked again about what had transpired, Officer Rosfeld said he did not see a gun.

“When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger’s hand but was not sure what it was,” according to the criminal complaint. “Officer Rosfeld stated that he was not certain if the individual who had his arm pointed at him was still pointing at him when he fired.”

Witnesses told the police that they heard Officer Rosfeld fire three shots — all of which hit Antwon. One struck the right side of his face, another hit his right elbow and a third, which was the fatal wound, hit his back and then struck a lung and his heart, an autopsy found.

Antwon was pronounced dead at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center at McKeesport at 9:19 p.m.

An empty 9 millimeter magazine, which fit into a 9 millimeter pistol recovered under the car’s front passenger seat, was found in Antwon’s front right pocket. The pistol had been reported missing in Monroeville, Pa., that same day.

Witnesses of the drive-by shooting said that the passenger in the back seat had opened fire, an account that was corroborated by security camera footage from the scene, Mr. Zappala said. That passenger, Zaijuan, was charged on Wednesday with aggravated assault and attempted criminal homicide, according to court records. The driver of the car was detained the day of the shooting but later released.

Officers recovered a .40-caliber handgun near where Zaijuan had been sitting in the car, and it was later linked to bullet casings found at that shooting and at least three other crimes, according to court records and the district attorney’s office.

Mr. Zappala said that Zaijuan was not cooperating in the investigation into Antwon’s shooting.

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