PITTSBURGH — The parents of an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by an East Pittsburgh police officer as he fled a traffic stop are suing the officer's former employer — the University of Pittsburgh — for failing to properly discipline him or record performance issues in his personnel file.
In the lawsuit filed Monday in Allegheny County, the parents of Antwon Rose Jr. said the university allowed Officer Michael Rosfeld to resign quietly without putting any notice in his personnel file that there had been issues with at least one arrest. Rosfeld was hired as a university police officer in 2012, was suspended in December 2017, and resigned a few weeks later in January.
Joseph Miksch, director of media relations for the university, said late Tuesday that the university did not have a comment on the lawsuit.
Rosfeld was charged with homicide in the June shooting death of 17-year-old Rose, who was shot in the back as he fled the traffic stop. His attorney has called the shooting justified because Rosfeld was stopping the car Rose was riding in for its alleged involvement in an early drive-by shooting. He said Rosfeld legitimately was in fear.
Rose was shot in the back, elbow and jaw as he fled. Witnesses recorded portions of the shooting and posted it to social media.
Investigators moved to charge the officer after his story of the events changed during his interview in regards to whether he saw a gun in the teen's hands. Witnesses have said Rose showed his hands before running. Prosecutors said Rose was not involved in the drive-by, was unarmed and was fatally shot three times in the back.
Rose's parents, Michelle Kenney and Antwon Rose, Sr., said East Pittsburgh would not have hired Rosfeld if the incidents during his university employment had been properly documented and disclosed. The lawsuit alleges that Rosfeld performed false arrests, assaulted people and falsified arrests, but only cites one incident that resulted in his December suspension.
In that incident, Rosfeld arrested three men after a scuffle at a bar, but charges were dropped against them when they made their first appearance. The District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. has said his detectives told him the charges filed against the men did not match videos of the incident. Zappala is also the prosecutor who filed charges against Rosfeld in Rose's death.