A white former police officer has been acquitted Friday in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager last year in East Pittsburgh.
Michael Rosfeld, 30, a former officer in East Pittsburgh, was tried for homicide in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II after a traffic stop in June 2018.
Rose, a 17-year-old high school student, was in the front seat of an unlicensed taxicab when the back-seat passenger rolled down a window and shot at two men on the streets of North Braddock.
Rose's mother, Michelle Kenney, told reporters after the jury left for deliberations Friday evening that she missed her son, according to NBC-affiliate station WPXI in Pittsburgh.
"Antwon was not afforded the opportunity of a trial to defend himself," Kenney said. "All of those rights were taken away from him by one person and it wasn’t the jury in this court. It was an individual."
The police affidavit used to charge Rosfeld said he gave conflicting statements to investigators, including that he saw something in Rose’s hand that Rosfeld thought was a gun.
Investigators have said Rosfeld subsequently told the detectives he did not see a gun when the passenger ran.
“When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger’s hand but was not sure what it was,” police wrote. “In addition, 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 the shots.”
Rosfeld had been on the East Pittsburgh Police for just a few weeks after working for other departments over seven years.
Video of the incident captured by a bystander and posted online triggered a series of protests in the Pittsburgh area last year that included a late-night march that shut down a major highway.
There were tears and gasps in the overflow courtroom, and several people broke out in song: “Antwon Rose was a freedom fighter, and he taught us how to fight."
Outside, dozens of protesters chanted, "Say his name: Antwon Rose the Second."
Rose family attorney S. Lee Merritt, who had urged a murder conviction, said before closing arguments that it’s "pretty obvious" Rose was not a threat to Rosfeld. He said the family would make a statement about the verdict on Monday.
Activists read a poem written by Rose at one of the protests last June and called for a moment of silence in his honor.
"I am not what you think. I’m confused and afraid. I wonder what path I will take. I hear that there's only two ways out,” one activist read.
Rosfeld's attorney, Pat Thomassey, said after the verdict that the jury "listened to the facts, they listened to the law, and in my opinion, they rendered the correct verdict."
"This case had nothing to do with race, absolutely nothing to do with race," Thomassey said. "And certain people in this city have made it that way, and it’s sad." He said that Rosfeld was doing his job.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said in a statement that although he disagreed with the verdict, the jury had spoken.
“In the interest of justice, we must continue to do our job of bringing charges in situations where charges are appropriate, regardless of the role an individual holds in the community,” Zappala said.