A former police officer, who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager while he was fleeing a traffic stop, was acquitted by a jury on Friday. The incident was reportedly captured on video and sparked widespread protests lasting weeks.
Former East Pittsburg police officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with homicide for shooting 17-year-old Antown Rose II in June 2018, which meant that the jury could have convicted the officer or either manslaughter or murder.
The jury — a panel of seven men and five women — were shown the clip of the confrontation, which showed the officer shooting the teen and him falling to the ground after being hit. The jury reached a verdict after fewer than four hours of deliberation on the case, the Daily Mail.
Rose's mother, Michelle Kenney, said: "I hope that man never sleeps at night. I hope he gets as much sleep as I do, which is none," she said referring to Rosfeld, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Rose's family, after the verdict, is now left to pursue the federal civil rights lawsuit they filed last August against Rosfeld and East Pittsburgh. Reports state that Rose was in an unlicensed taxi that had been involved in a drive-by shooting when Rosfeld pulled the car over and shot the 17-year-old in the back, arm and side of the face as he tried to run away.
A prosecution witness, during the trial, reportedly said that he heard the officer repeatedly, say: "I don't know why I shot him. I don't know why I fired."
The teenager's mother said that she was upset by the verdict but not surprised considering other similar cases had seen police officers avoiding charges and winning acquittals. "It isn't what I hoped for, but it's what I expected," Kenney said, adding that her son died because he was black.
Shortly after the verdict on Friday, a small group of protesters gathered outside the Allegheny County Courthouse briefly blocking intersections. Pittsburgh police later tweeted that the "peaceful demonstration" had resulted in rolling, temporary road closures as demonstrators chanted: "Antwon Rose was a freedom fighter, and he taught us how to fight."
One of the protesters read a poem written by Rose two years earlier, part of it read: "I hear that there's only two ways out. I see mothers bury their sons. I want my mom to never feel that pain. I am confused and afraid."
The poem was released by the Woodlands Hills School District after Rose's death at the request of his mother.
Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi, on Friday, in his closing argument declared that Rosfeld had acted as "judge, jury and executioner."
Rosfeld, during his testimony on Thursday, said that he thought Rose and another passenger in the car had pointed a weapon at him and he fired at them in self-defense. However, it was later revealed that neither of the teenagers had a gun on their person at the time.
"It happened very quickly," said Rosfeld, who took the stand in his own defense. "My intent was to end the threat that was made against me. I just wanted to end the threat to me. I followed the threat and fired. I was upset, shocked," he said. "He was moaning, trying to breathe."
Rose had reportedly been riding in the front seat of the car when another occupant, 18-year-old Zaijuan Hester, sitting in the backseat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street. Rosfeld spotted the car a few minutes later and pulled it over. Hester later pleaded guilty to firearms violations and aggravated assault and told the judge that it was he who did the shooting, not Rose.