Day 1 of Rosfeld trial concludes with testimony from witnesses to Rose shooting
It was Michael Rosfeld’s tone that caught Lashaun Livingston’s attention.
She said it was difficult to hear what then-Officer Rosfeld said to the driver and two passengers of the 2014 gold Chevy Cruise he’d stopped on East Pittsburgh’s Grandview Avenue, but the tone rang through.
It was harsh and angry, she said.
“That type of tone frightened me,” she said.
Livingston was the last witness to testify Tuesday in the first day of the homicide trial against Rosfeld. The former East Pittsburgh police officer is charged with homicide in the shooting that killed Antwon Rose II on June 19.
Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket dismissed jurors about 5:40 p.m. Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Livingston — who Rosfeld’s attorney Patrick Thomassey pointed out lives 180 feet from the shooting scene — used her iPhone to record the viral video of the shooting.
She said she began recording as soon as she saw Rosfeld’s gun trained on the Chevy Cruze.
“I got a bad feeling,” she said Tuesday.
Within seconds of the start of the recording, three shots ring out and a figure dressed in white falls to the ground.
Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Daniel E. Fitzsimmons played the video in court. Rose’s mother, seated in the courtroom, looked away.
“All they did was run, and they start shooting,” Livingston can be heard saying in the recording.
The shooting sparked weeks of protests in Pittsburgh and across Allegheny County. Security was high at the courthouse Tuesday as the trial started. Supporters of Rose tied purple flowers to trees around the courthouse and held up a memorial painting of Rose at the entrance.
Rosfeld, in a gray suit and dark-colored tie, leaned forward onto the defense table for much of the day. Seated between Thomassey and the defense investigator, Jim Smith, Rosfeld anxiously bounced his right leg throughout much of the testimony. Thomassey, who is often animated while questioning witnesses, walked to put his hands on his client’s shoulders at several points.
On cross-examination, Thomassey used some of Livingston’s testimony to contradict that of the witness who testified just prior, Debra Jones.
Jones testified that she saw no lights and heard no siren as Rosfeld pulled over the Chevy Cruze, and she’d said there were other officers around during the shooting. Livingston testified that she saw the lights and heard Rosfeld “chirp” his siren when he stopped the car. The video shows another police cruiser pull up in the moments after the shooting, but Rosfeld had been the only officer on the scene until that moment.
Jones said she saw Rosfeld later, and he was red-faced and crying, she testified.
Eight days after that, he would be charged with homicide.
Rose was 17 and unarmed when he was shot three times. Autopsy photos displayed in court showed a gunshot that went through his right bicep, one that entered below his right ear and went out through the left side of the bridge of his nose, and the shot to the back that killed him.
Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, left the room while Dr. Abdul Shakir, of the medical examiner’s office, detailed the deadly shot. Shakir said that shot was virtually non-survivable, and the teen probably lived only a few moments.
Jurors heard from a North Braddock police sergeant who was the first on the scene of the drive-by shooting in his borough that preceded the shooting of Rose and an Allegheny County Police detective who investigated the drive-by. That shooting and Rosfeld spotting a car matching the description of the one suspected in it prompted the officer’s traffic stop on East Pittsburgh’s Grandview Avenue.
Speaking after testimony concluded Tuesday, S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Rose family, said it’s been difficult to stand by while Rose’s “real story” isn’t being told.
“There’s been no perspective on Antwon’s life, who he truly was,” Merritt said. “His humanity has been absent so far from this trial.”
Kenney stood by in tears, having sat through around seven hours of testimony about her child’s death by then.
Fitzsimmons said in his opening statements that the shooting is not what is in question.
“The only other thing that could be disputed … is what was on the mind of Michael Rosfeld when he shot and killed another person,” he said.
Thomassey said police have different rules, and his expert witness — an expert in police use of force who has yet to testify — would prove that, he said.
“You have to make split-second decisions,” Thomassey said, making the shape of a gun with his thumb and forefinger. “You hesitate, you die.”