EAST PITTSBURGH, Pa. Pennsylvania District Attorney said a black teenager, fatally shot by an officer as he fled a traffic stop had an empty pistol clip in his pocket, but the family’s lawyer said that it has no influence on the question of whether the shooting was justified.
A part of the Tuesday night shooting was captured on cell phone video and posted on Facebook, sparking a number of social media outrage and days of protests that had shut down a Pittsburgh-area highway early Friday morning. The Allegheny County police are conducting an independent investigation into the shooting by an officer in the suburb of East Pittsburgh, about 10 miles (16.09 km) of Pittsburgh, that left the 17-year-old Antwon Rose, Jr. death.
The shooting happened about 8:40 a.m. Tuesday after East Pittsburgh Officer Michael Rosfeld pulled over a car that had bullet damage to a back window match the description of a car wanted in connection with a shooting in a nearby town, about 15 minutes earlier. If Rosfeld was taking the driver into custody, the video showed Rose and another passenger exiting the door and start running.
Three gunshots can be heard, and the passengers can be seen either falling or crouching as they passed the houses. It is not clear from the video if Rosfeld screamed to stop.
The researchers said Rosfeld, who was officially sworn in as an East Pittsburgh officer earlier Tuesday night, was on administrative leave during the investigation. A small group of protesters went to the District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office early Friday, partly to complain that the officer had not yet been interviewed by the researchers.
A call to a number listed for Rosfeld unanswered. A WTAE-TEV reporter who went to his home on Thursday, briefly spoke Rosfeld, who said that he could not talk about the shooting, he was not aware of the video and he got a lot of support from the local police.
East Pittsburgh officials confirmed that Rosfeld had worked in the department for two to three weeks, and that he had been working on a handful of other police departments, including the University of Pittsburgh since 2011.
The medical examiner not say where or how many times the Rose shot, but confirmed that he died of a gunshot wound to the torso after being transferred to a hospital Tuesday night.
Zappala confirmed to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that an empty gun clip was found in Rose’s bag after the shooting. He also said that Rose was unarmed when he ran from the officer.
Police found two guns in the car, but later released the driver after questioning him, because they felt that they have no cause to charge him. Allegheny County Police chief Coleman McDonough said the driver had told officials he worked as a jitney, an illegal private cabin.
It was not clear whether the other passengers were in the car between the time that the first shooting happened and then the car was pulled. McDonough said officers were convinced that the car was described by the witnesses in the first shooting where a 22-year-old man was shot in the abdomen, treated in a hospital and released.
The lawyers for the family have said reports that Rose was involved in the earlier shooting are not substantiated. Attorney Fred Rabner said the empty clip and the guns found in the car have no impact on the determination of whether the shooting was justified.
“He is to walk away with empty hands, and he is shot in the back. Period,” Rabner told the Post-Gazette.
Phone messages left by The Associated Press for the Rose of the family lawyers were not immediately returned. A message with the district attorney’s office is also not immediately returned.
Rose’s friends and family have described as a teen who volunteered at a local charity, which took honor classes, who always joked and entertained the younger children, and that would show up at job interviews wearing a three-piece suit. The school administrators said that the teachers saw great potential in the teen and said he had a “million dollar smile.”