Pittsburgh, PA – The East Pittsburgh Borough Council has paved the way to dissolving the borough’s police department in the wake of the officer-involved shooting death of Antwon Rose.
“We met with the other communities, we gave them our… budget numbers and how much we can afford and how many police we need, things like that,” East Pittsburgh Borough Council President Dennis Simon told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “They’re going over those numbers as we speak.”
Simon said the borough had been considering disbanding the East Pittsburgh police department for years, and that they hope to hold a vote on the issue as early as September.
“We don’t want any more children being killed by police officers,” resident Erica Yesko told the council on Tuesday. “We want you to listen to us.”
“I agree,” Simon responded. “I think we listen more than you think, but we’re going to listen even more now.”
Simon said the borough is considering which neighboring department would take over the jurisdiction if the council votes to disband the police force. A merger or a consolidation are also being considered.
The announcement 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, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
The residents also pushed for updated police policies, and several referred to the council as the KKK.
"You don't have to deal with this. You don't have to live in brown skin," resident Dawn Macon told the board.
"I cannot sit here crying because this boy was dead and my little kids were hurt and now they're terrified," longtime resident Ashley Cannon said. "They're terrified because a cop shot a black boy… our kids are scared of the cops… what are we supposed to do?”
Wilkinsburg Council Vice President Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson said that the East Pittsburgh Police Department needed to have a black police chief, and should implement racial bias training for the department.
"This would never happen in Wilkinsburg," McCarthy-Johnson boasted.
Many members of the community also demanded that East Pittsburgh Officer Michael Rosfeld be fired from his position in the wake of Rose’s death.
Rose, 17, had participated in a drive-by shooting just minutes before the vehicle he was riding in was pulled over by Officer Rosfeld on June 19.
Officer Rosfeld told investigators that he shot Rose after the teen jumped out of the suspect vehicle and turned his hand toward the officer, according to court documents.
Officer Rosfeld said he “saw something dark” in Rose’s hand, but that he “was not sure what it was,” the court documents read.
The officer fired his weapon at Rose, hitting him three times.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala denounced Officer Rosfeld during a June 27 press conference and said that he planned to argue that the officer be charged with first-degree murder.
Much of the information Zappala referenced as justification for the criminal homicide charge against Officer Rosfeld was related to evidence uncovered long after the officer’s split-second decision to fire his weapon – facts Officer Rosfeld had no way of knowing prior to the fatal shooting.
Zappala said that there was “no justification” for the officer’s decision to fire his weapon at the teen, due in part to investigators’ later finding that Rose had not been the actual shooter in a drive-by that preceded Officer Rosfeld’s decision to stop the vehicle, although he was with the shooter at the time of the shooting.
Federal case law allowa for officers to shoot fleeing drive-by shooting suspects as long as there's probable cause that they were involved in the crime and the officer gave a warning, if feasible.
At the hospital, homicide detectives found an empty 9mm Glock magazine in Rose’s front right pocket, according to the complaint.
A stolen .40-caliber handgun was recovered from beneath Rose’s seat, Zappala said. He confirmed it was the weapon used in the North Braddock attack, and said it has also been tied to “three or four” other crimes.
A stolen 9mm handgun, which police located under the driver’s seat, had not been fired during either of the June 19 shootings, according to Zappala.
Zappala said that Rose posed no risk of harm to the officer or others because he was later found to be unarmed. He noted that Rose also raised his hands prior to fleeing.
Another passenger in the vehicle, 17-year-old Zaijuan Hester, was responsible for the North Braddock drive-by shooting, Zappala said.
The prosecutor refused to comment about why Rose was in the vehicle with Hester.
Officer Rosfeld, 30, was placed on paid administrative leave following the incident, and was later charged with criminal homicide.
His arraignment was held on Aug. 22 and a pre-trial hearing date was set for Sept. 7.
Officer Rosfeld was not present at the courthouse on Wednesday, and remains on house arrest with an ankle monitor pending his trial, WTAE reported.