The shooting death of unarmed teen Antwon Rose by an East Pittsburgh police officer, was an “intentional act and there is no justification for it,” the District Attorney said Wednesday.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said at a press conference Wednesday that the evidence against Officer Michael Rosfeld supports a third-degree murder charge, which carries a sentence of 20 to 40 years, but that prosecutors could argue for first-degree murder, which carries a life sentence.
Rosfeld, 30, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of criminal homicide in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Rose during a traffic stop on June 19. Rose was shot three times as he fled. The car had been stopped because it matched the description of a vehicle involved in a drive-by shooting in the area minutes earlier. Rose was unarmed at the time of the shooting. Two semi-automatic weapons were discovered on the car’s floor and an empty handgun magazine was found in his pocket.
Zappala confirmed that Rose was not the shooter in the drive-by and that he was not armed. Zappala said Rose presented no threat as he attempted to flee.
“There is no weapon that would have created a risk to Officer Rosfeld. Based on that evidence, I find Rosfeld’s actions were intentional and they certainly brought about the result he was looking to accomplish,” he said.
“Unless you see a genuine threat, it’s inappropriate, in fact it’s criminal, to take someone’s life.” Zappala added.
A video that showed Rose being shot as he ran was widely shared on social media. Zappala confirmed that Rose was shot in the face, elbow and back.
Zappala said that the two guns found in the vehicle Rose was in were stolen and that the .40-caliber pistol is connected to several other crimes, and the empty clip found in Rose’s pocket for a 9mm gun was not fired in the drive-by.
On Tuesday afternoon, Allegheny County police arrested 17-year-old Zaijuan Hester in connection to the drive-by shooting that took place right before Rose was pulled over. Police said they believe he was the other person who fled the car with Rose during the traffic stop. Zappala said Hester and Rose were acquaintances but that Rose being in the car does not mean he was involved in the drive-by shooting.
Zappala said Rosfeld told investigators he did not see a weapon on Rose and that he was “remorseful” for the shooting.
The prosecutor said Rosfeld should of waited for backup before acting: “You’ve got three guys in the car. You wait for backup.”
Rosfeld’s lawyer, Patrick Thomassey, told CBS Pittsburgh that he doesn’t believe the facts justify a murder charge. Thomassey said Rosfeld was in a dangerous situation and acted accordingly.
“If everybody stayed calm and stayed in the car, none of this would have happened. So… we’ll see. We’ll have a hearing. We’ll have a trial. We’ll have 12 people figure it out,” Thomassey said.
Rosfeld will be in court on July 6 for a preliminary hearing. He was released on $250,000 unsecured bail.