News

First jurors chosen to hear shooting death of black teenager

Written by Mark Scolforo/The Associated Press | Mar 12, 2019 5:35 PM
Michael Rosfeld at court.jpg

Former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, charged with homicide in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II, arrives at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This story has been updated with details of the first jurors selected.

(Harrisburg) -- Lawyers and prosecutors began picking jurors Tuesday to hear the case of a white western Pennsylvania police officer accused of shooting to death a black teenager as he ran from a vehicle last year.

The first two jurors in the criminal homicide case of former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld are a retired railroad worker and an electronics company worker. They will be taken with 10 others and four alternates to Pittsburgh for trial next week.

Rosfeld, who is no longer a working officer, is charged with killing 17-year-old Antwon Rose II on June 19.

A judge ruled a jury from outside the Pittsburgh area is needed because of widespread publicity.

The defense lawyer for Rosfeld, 30, of Verona, has said that Rosfeld was in fear and that the shooting was justified.

Rosfeld was charged, investigators said, after his story changed about whether he saw or believed a gun was in Rose's hands.

"When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger's hand but was not sure what it was," according to the police affidavit used to charge Rosfeld. "In addition, Officer Rosfeld stated that he was not certain if the individual who had his arm pointed at him was still pointing at him when he fired the shots."

Video shot from a nearby house captured the shooting.

Rose had been a front-seat passenger in an unlicensed cab that was stopped as part of an investigation into a drive-by shooting. As he ran from the vehicle, Rose was shot in the right side of his face, in his elbow and in his back, through his heart and lung.

A prosecutor said Rose had nothing to do with the drive-by shooting, and had shown his hands when he got out of the unlicensed cab.

A gag order is in place, and Rosfeld's lawyer did not return messages seeking comment in recent days.

"He's very, very remorseful. He's not remorseful because he's been charged. He legitimately is sad that this happened," defense attorney Patrick Thomassey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in June. "Mike kept saying, 'I can't believe this happened. I can't believe that kid didn't have a gun in his hand.'"

Rose was described as a promising student who did charity work. He would have been a high school senior this year.

Officials say two handguns were found inside the car Rose had been riding in. District Attorney Stephen Zappala said an empty gun clip was found in Rose's pocket.

Rose's killing prompted days of protest, including a late-night march that shut down a major highway.

Rosfeld had worked for the East Pittsburgh police for just a few weeks, and was officially sworn in just hours before the fatal shooting. He had worked for other departments over seven years.

Rose's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rosfeld and East Pittsburgh, alleging the use of excessive deadly force and the lack of proper police training.

East Pittsburgh, about 10 miles east of Pittsburgh, notified state police in November it was closing down its police department.

The trial is expected to last as long as 10 days.

east_pittsburgh_protest.jpg

Protestors rally in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Pittsburgh. They are protesting the killing of Antwon Rose Jr. who was fatally shot by a police officer seconds after he fled a traffic stop late Tuesday, in the suburb of East Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

An earlier version of this story appears below.

(Harrisburg) -- A white police officer accused of shooting to death an unarmed black 17-year-old in western Pennsylvania last summer arrived at a Harrisburg courtroom Tuesday as jury selection gets underway.

The jurors will be taken to Allegheny County for the trial next week of Michael Rosfeld, a former East Pittsburgh police officer charged with criminal homicide for the June 19 death of Antwon Rose II.

A judge ruled a jury from outside the Pittsburgh area is needed because of widespread publicity.

The defense lawyer for Rosfeld, 30, of Verona, has said that Rosfeld was in fear and that the shooting was justified.

Rosfeld was charged , investigators said, after his story changed about whether he saw or believed a gun was in Rose's hands.

"When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger's hand but was not sure what it was," according to the police affidavit used to charge Rosfeld. "In addition, Officer Rosfeld stated that he was not certain if the individual who had his arm pointed at him was still pointing at him when he fired the shots."

Video shot from a nearby house captured the shooting.

Rose had been a front-seat passenger in an unlicensed cab that was stopped as part of an investigation into a drive-by shooting. As he ran from the vehicle, Rose was shot in the right side of his face, in his elbow and in his back, through his heart and lung.

A prosecutor said Rose had nothing to do with the drive-by shooting, and had shown his hands when he got out of the unlicensed cab.

A gag order is in place, and Rosfeld's lawyer did not return messages seeking comment in recent days.

"He's very, very remorseful. He's not remorseful because he's been charged. He legitimately is sad that this happened," defense attorney Patrick Thomassey toldthe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in June. "Mike kept saying, 'I can't believe this happened. I can't believe that kid didn't have a gun in his hand.'"

Rose was described as a promising student who did charity work. He would have been a high school senior this year.

Officials say two handguns were found inside the car Rose had been riding in. District Attorney Stephen Zappala said an empty gun clip was found in Rose's pocket.

Rose's killing prompted days of protest, including a late-night march that shut down a major highway.

Rosfeld had worked for the East Pittsburgh police for just a few weeks, and was officially sworn in just hours before the fatal shooting. He had worked for other departments over seven years.

Rose's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rosfeld and East Pittsburgh, alleging the use of excessive deadly force and the lack of proper police training.

East Pittsburgh, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Pittsburgh, notified state police in November it was closing down its police department.

The trial is expected to last as long as 10 days.

An earlier version of this story appears below.

(Harrisburg) -- A white police officer accused of shooting to death an unarmed black teen in western Pennsylvania has arrived at court.

Jury selection is getting underway in a Harrisburg courtroom Tuesday for the trial of Michael Rosfeld.

He's the former East Pittsburgh officer accused of criminal homicide in the June 2018 death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II.

A judge ruled a jury from outside the Pittsburgh area is needed because of widespread publicity about the case.

The defense lawyer for the 30-year-old Rosfeld has said the officer was in fear and argues the shooting was justified.

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