‘A profound wound to the community’: Pittsburgh’s black leaders react to the Rosfeld verdict
Pittsburgh’s African-American community Saturday expressed a mixture of grief, disbelief and anger over the acquittal of Michael Rosfeld, the former East Pittsburgh police officer charged for shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager.
Leaders from the community spoke about race, the toxic perceptions of black men and a justice system that enjoys deference but all too frequently fails the African-American community on its core promise of the presumption of innocence.
Mostly, they spoke about political apathy and taking their hurt to the ballot box.
“This is a profound wound to the community,” Tim Stevens, chairman of Black Political Empowerment Project, or B-PEP, told the Tribune-Review.
Stevens said he was deeply concerned with how the community will internalize the verdict and perceive its self-worth. He felt they were left empty handed.
“I think if Rosfeld had been convicted of anything — at least something — it would have been viewed, to some degree, as a victory,” he said. “But to get nothing?”
Kevin Mosley, a retired state trooper, attended two days of the trial and joined the solidarity rally-turned-march Saturday. Having trained officers in use-of-force, Mosley said he was troubled by Rosfeld’s failure to follow police training, and the jury’s deference to the badge and disregard for the eyewitness.
Many in the black community, he said, believe the out-of-town jurors just wanted to go home.
“How do you take a week’s worth of testimony and it takes you less than four hours to go through each count and find him not guilty?” Mosley asked. “That’s just wrong.”
Kimberly Ellis, a scholar of American and Africana Studies who has taught at Carnegie Mellon University, agreed.
While it is impossible to know what the jury debated before arriving at their decision, Ellis and others in the community questioned how an unarmed teen running away from police is a threat. Rosfeld, who testified in his own defense during the trial, said he felt threatened by Rose as he fled.
“I understand the hurt and pain. I just don’t want us to move into an apathetic mode and think there’s nothing we can do about it,” Ellis said. “We should not just mourn and cry and march and hope it gets better.”
The path forward for the African-American community, Ellis and Mosley said, is to vote.
“I believe that we should turn our pain into political power and start firing people,” Ellis said. “At the end of the day, somebody has to pay.”
Nicole C. Brambila is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Nicole at 724-226-7704, [email protected] or via Twitter .