Pittsburgh, PA – The mayor of Pittsburgh shared his feelings about the jury’s verdict in the Antwon Rose shooting case on Tuesday when he proposed a change to the law.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was on his first vacation away from the city since 2011 when the verdict came in on Friday evening, WTAE reported.
A jury determined on March 22 that former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld was not guilty of all charges stemming from the fatal officer-involved shooting of Antwon Rose II.
The announcement was made at 9:03 p.m. after just four hours of deliberations, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"I was on the other side of the world on Friday and sick to my stomach when the verdict came in," Peduto said.
Then the mayor called for changes to Pennsylvania law regarding police officers’ use of deadly force, WTAE reported.
Currently, police officers can legally shoot fleeing suspects when there is probable cause that they have committed a serious violent crime and the officer reasonably believes that they pose a serious threat if they escape.
The mayor isn't happy about that.
"When an actor is fleeing the scene and unarmed, the use of force needs to be reevaluated in determining what is reasonable and what is not," Peduto said. "Law is law, justice is justice. They're two separate characteristics, and laws should be based on justice."
The shooting happened June 19 as then-officer Michael Rosfeld located a vehicle matching the description of a car that was involved in a drive-by shooting.
The gold Chevrolet Cruze had a shattered rear window and was riddled with bullet holes, according to CNN.
Suspects in the vehicle were reported to have fired 10-12 shots during the drive-by shooting just 20 minutes earlier.
After Officer Rosfeld stopped the vehicle, 17-year-old Rose and 17-year-old Zaijuan Hester, both passengers, jumped out of the car and started to run.
The officer said that one of the suspects had a dark object which he perceived as a gun, but he wasn't sure. He responded by firing three shots in their direction in less than 1 second.
Rose was fatally hit by Officer Rosfeld's bullets.
The investigation determined that Rose did not have a gun on him when he was shot, but he had gunshot residue on his hands, an empty magazine in his pocket, and a stolen gun was located under his seat in the car. The stolen gun was linked to numerous other crimes in the area.
Witnesses said that Officer Rosfeld was extremely distraught after the shooting.
The incident kicked off mass protests with accusations of racism because Officer Rosfeld is white, and Rose was black.
Sixty to 80 protesters, some masked, surrounded Officer Rosfeld's home after his identity was released.
After more protests, the officer was charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and he was placed on unpaid leave.
The East Pittsburgh Police Department was then completely dissolved under community pressure, which resulted in Officer Rosfeld losing his job along with other officers.
“We don’t want any more children being killed by police officers,” a resident told the council in August.
The announcement about the fate of the department came just a month after approximately 50 residents showed up at another council meeting and demanded that that the mayor and five borough council members resign and referred to them as the KKK, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Following Rosfeld's acquittal, the Rose family attorney responded that it's not acceptable for a police officer to shoot somebody in the back if they are a felony suspect and intend to harm others, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“The charges the jury received today and deliberated on made it seem OK to shoot an unarmed fleeing suspect in the back.”
The law literally says that police officers can shoot fleeing felony suspects who pose a serious risk to others.
The mayor of Pittsburgh thanked all the police officers who have been working long shifts to keep the city safe, and complimented the protesters on their demonstrations, WTAE reported.
"The organizers and the leaders have been meeting on a consistent basis with Pittsburgh police and Pittsburgh Public Safety in order to help us understand what their activities would be," Peduto said.
He brushed off concerns about the protesters entering and demonstrating in businesses in some neighborhoods.
"I think we first have to remember that in the civil rights movement, it was the protesters that went into restaurants and did sit-downs that then led to voters' rights and civil rights, and that there's a history in this country of protesters going into businesses," Peduto said. "Secondly, there were zero 911 calls from the businesses themselves. Not one business called and said there was a disturbance in which people needed to be removed. And third, many of the businesses, particularly in East Liberty and Shadyside, welcomed the protesters and the staff. The employees themselves joined in on the protest."
But not all of the activists were peaceful in the wake of the verdict.
Hours after the acquittal, a gunman opened fire at the office of Rosfeld's attorney, according to WKBN. Several bullet holes were found in the building. Nobody was injured in the shooting.