The New Pittsburgh Courier hit the streets of Pittsburgh, asking residents their thoughts on the June 27 breaking news that Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has filed criminal homicide charges against East Pittsburgh Officer Michael Rosfeld, who shot and killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II during a traffic stop, June 19, 2018.
D.A. says Rose never fired any weapons in North Braddock shooting; Hester was the shooter
The week began with a funeral, and protestors and elected officials calling for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. to either charge East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld with homicide for shooting 17-year-old Antwon Rose II as he fled a traffic stop, or step away from the case.
The next day he did one of those things and said he won’t do the other. At a June 27 press conference Zappala said his office had charged Officer Rosfeld with one count of criminal homicide—and his office will try the case.
“I found (Rosfeld’s) actions intentional,” Zappala said at a news conference. “He was not acting to prevent death or serious bodily injury…There was no weapon. We took a deposition and we have him on tape saying at no time was there a weapon at play.”
Zappala said the homicide charge covers first-, second- and third-degree murder, as well as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges. First-degree murder requires premeditation. The second degree—homicide while committing another crime—doesn’t apply.
“We have two witnesses and video that say Rose shows his (empty) hands and turns to run—neither (Rose nor the other passenger, 17-year-old Zaijuan Hester) had a weapon. So it supports a third-degree charge, and we think we should be able to argue first-degree,” he said.
In going through the Criminal Complaint and Affidavit of Probable Cause, Zappala noted that video of the drive-by shooting in North Braddock—involving the car of which Rose was a front seat passenger, and which led to Officer Rosfeld stopping the car minutes later in East Pittsburgh—clearly showed the back seat passenger wearing a dark shirt as the shooter (Hester). Rose was in the front passenger seat and wore a white shirt.
“Hester was the shooter,” he said. “By all accounts, Mr. Rose did nothing in furtherance of any crime in North Braddock.”
Zappala said he has also spoken to the FBI with regard to the U.S. Attorney’s office filing a civil rights charge against Officer Rosfeld.
Black Political Empowerment Project CEO Tim Stevens, who was among those calling for Zappala’s recusal, said he was gratified to see the charges filed.
“To me, what was said and done today is the first step toward justice for Antwon,” he said.
- Officer Rosfeld is currently on house arrest, wearing an electronic ankle monitor. Senior District Judge Regis Welsh set a $250,000 unsecured bond for Officer Rosfeld, and the officer did not have to put up any money for his release. The judge is convinced that Officer Rosfeld is not a flight risk, even though unsecured bonds are extremely rare for individuals charged with homicide.
- The family of Antwon Rose II spoke at a news conference later Wednesday (June 27) afternoon, flanked by attorneys Fred Rabner and Lee Merritt. While the family is pleased with the criminal homicide charges levied against Officer Rosfeld, Merritt said this is just the first step in attaining the ultimate outcome—a conviction.
- Zaijuan Hester, 17, who police believe is the teen who was seen on video firing a gun out of the back seat window of the Chevrolet Cruze in North Braddock, striking a 22-year-old man, is in custody. Authorities originally could not locate the second person who was seen on video fleeing from police during the East Pittsburgh police felony traffic stop.
- Zappala told reporters he could not speculate or provide information on a possible motive for the original shooting that took place in North Braddock on June 19.