Opening statements slated in ex-officer’s shooting trial near Allentown
Jonathan Roselle is expected to testify in his own defense in the shooting death of 44-year-old Joseph Santos of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
The Associated Press
(Allentown) — Opening statements are scheduled Thursday in the trial of a former police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a man reported to have been hanging on or jumping on moving cars near an Allentown amusement park.
Jury selection for the trial of 34-year-old Jonathan Roselle took longer than usual since concern over coronavirus prompted the Lehigh County judge to have potential jurors brought into the courtroom in small groups so they would not be crowded together.
Roselle is expected to testify in his own defense in the shooting death of 44-year-old Joseph Santos of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Prosecutors contend that the former South Whitehall Township officer had an “unreasonable” belief that his safety was endangered.
Authorities say Roselle was directing traffic near Dorney Park in July 2018 when a “frantic” woman said someone had tried to enter her vehicle, and Santos later climbed on the hood of the officer’s vehicle and pounded on his windshield and windows. Officials said he started to walk away but then turned quickly and started back toward Roselle, ignoring commands from the officer, who fired five times.
District Attorney Jim Martin earlier called the behavior of Santos “somewhat bizarre” but said he wasn’t running or rushing toward the officer, had no visible weapon and didn’t present a threatening posture. Martin also pointed out that Roselle had a flexible baton, a stun gun and pepper spray.
Attorneys for Roselle, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, have said their client believed there was a “genuine threat of harm” from Santos and made a judgment call. Defense attorney Gavin Holihan has also said he will explore what effect Roselle’s military training may have had on his actions.
The shooting, which was caught on police and bystander videos, divided the community in 2018, prompting demonstrations near the scene for and against law enforcement.