Penn Hills church hosts prayer service in response to Rosfeld verdict
Members of the First Baptist Church in Penn Hills hope the power of prayer will heal the community and bring peace to families affected by the outcome of an emotionally-charged trial.
Former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted March 22 in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II.
He was on trial for shooting Rose three times as Rose ran from a June 19 traffic stop in East Pittsburgh. Rose and Zaijuan Hester were passengers in a vehicle suspected in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier. Hester pleaded guilty last week to the shooting.
The house of worship at 7450 Chadwick St. hosted a special prayer service March 28 in response to the verdict.
“There are many things that we must do, actions we must take as individuals, as neighbors, as family members, as a congregation,” the Rev. Sheila Johnson-Hunt said. “Some things only God can do. That doesn’t mean that we wait and let God do everything.”
Johnson-Hunt led the group in prayer for the community, families of the victims and police, legislators and many others who may have been impacted.
She said she was disappointed in the verdict but not in her faith.
“As we do what we’re supposed to do — address injustice and all that type of thing — God is working even then and doing things we can’t do,” she said. “One thing we cannot afford to do is absolutely nothing.”
She encouraged people to register to vote and contact their local legislators to request a change in the law regarding use of force by law enforcement.
Day three of the officer’s trial featured testimony from a use-of-force expert called by the defense.
Cliff Jobe, a former Pennsylvania state trooper and an instructor for 22 years, said Rosfeld used reasonable force based on his training.
“I think prayer is the most important thing that we do besides evangelism,” said the Rev. Annabelle Strawder, associate pastor. “There’s so much going on in our community that we cannot fail to pray. We need to come together like we did tonight from all over the community and lift these things up.
“Sometimes, it’s just the believing part of the community, but the end result is when God does answer prayer, everybody gets to see it. They might not know what the specific prayer was, but when things start to change, everybody gets blessed. Prayer works.”
Strawder said she knew there was a chance Rosfeld would be found not guilty.
“To me, what happened isn’t the problem,” she said. “The problem’s deeper than that. There’s laws that need to be changed. (The jury) went by what the law said. There’s something wrong with that. If the only way a policeman knows how to defend himself against someone that is running away from you is to shoot them, then we have a problem. There should be a better way to stop someone than to shot them in the back and kill them, or kill them period.”
The prayer service was followed by worship with musician Samuel Darkins Sr. and a service with special guest the Rev. Nathaniel Cox from Trinity AME Zion Church of Pittsburgh.
Cox read a Bible passage about having “a fixed face” and likened going through life’s challenges to a staring contest.
“Life plays a staring match with you and it wants to see if it can get you to blink,” he said. “A fixed face means you’re sensitive to the times, that you don’t sweat the small stuff and press through trying conditions and have extreme prioritization.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .