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Trial of police officer accused of killing unarmed Antwon Rose Jr. begins

By March 19, 2019 No Comments

Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld secreted into courthouse for “security” reasons

Michelle Kenney, mother of Antown Rose and attorney Lee Merritt enter the courthouse. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor

Trial began this morning for former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld in the June 2018 shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. Rose was unarmed and running away when he was shot several times by Rosfeld.

The scene around the Allegheny County Courthouse this morning was what you’d expect for a high-profile criminal trial. Photographers showed up early and surrounded the courthouse to ensure they got photos or video of all of the main participants. And while they were able to get photos of Rose’s family, the accused was nowhere to be found.

Typically when a defendant out on bail goes to court, they enter the courthouse through the public entrances. But Rosfeld, although he was in court this morning, apparently didn’t go through a public entrance because no one staking out the courthouse saw him. Did he show up super, super early? Did he get special treatment to enter the building by courthouse security or other law enforcement? Rather than wonder, the Current reached out to Allegheny County spokesperson Amie Downs to find out.

The answer? We’re not getting one.

“Due to security reasons, that information is not being provided,” Downs wrote in an email.

Members of 1Hood Media, including Jasiri X (back left), display a memorial to Antwon Rose Jr. Tuesday morning. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

While Rosfeld found other arrangements to enter the building, supporters of Rose were out in force, including Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, who was escorted by her attorney Lee Merritt. Merritt took some time to talk with reporters.

“The Rose Family is very apprehensive today,” Merritt said. “They have been looking forward to this trial since June. There’s a lot of anxiety coming from the community and this household. We know how rare it is anywhere in this country for a police officer to not only be prosecuted, but convicted. Obviously, that’s the outcome we’re looking for.”

Several activists were also present outside the courthouse this morning, including members of Bend the Arc Pittsburgh, who placed purple roses around the courthouse in memory of Rose. Members of 1Hood Media stood outside with a memorial to Rose.

Members of Bend the Arc Pittsburgh hang purple Roses in support of Antwon Rose. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Opening arguments began this morning, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Dan Fitzsimmons, Allegheny County Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney, began by outlining the facts of the case, including that two witnesses took video of the shooting. One video, he said, shows Antwon “running away from [Rosfeld] and causing him no danger whatsoever.”

[Prosecutor Dan] Fitzsimmons told the jury that the case would boil down to exactly what Rosfeld knew when he shot and killed Antwon.

“In the end what really, really matters is what Michael Rosfeld knew, what he believed and what he thought when he pulled the trigger.”

He told the jury not to get caught up in other facts presented by the defense about Antwon’s actions that morning — apparently referring to the drive-by shooting that happened 13 minutes earlier, while Antwon was in the car with the shooter.

The paper reported defense attorney Patrick Thomassey saying in his opening statement:

“You have to make, as a police officer, a split second decision,” he said, adding later, “Are we searching for the truth, or are we just going to say, ‘It must be murder?'”

Thomassey emphasized that Antwon had just been in the car during the drive-by shooting. He said the prosecution wasn’t going to put a law enforcement use of force expert on the stand because “they can’t find an expert to say what [Rosfeld] did is wrong — because it’s not.”

Visuals Editor Jake Mysliwczyk contributed to this report.

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