Man pleads guilty in drive-by shooting that preceded Antwon Rose killing
The man charged in connection with the June 19 drive-by shooting that preceded the officer-involved shooting death of Antwon Rose pleaded guilty to several charges Friday, just days before the officer who shot Rose is set to go to trial.
Zaijuan Hester, 18, pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault and four firearms charges – five felonies and two misdemeanors. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a charge of attempted homicide.
The plea did not contain an agreement as to sentencing, which is set for June 4.
The hearing on Friday was initially to decide whether Hester’s case would be moved to juvenile court, as he was 17 at the time of the shooting. He instead chose to plead guilty.
“Today was tough – it was a tough decision,” said Anne Marie Mancuso, Hester’s defense attorney. “But we have a tremendous amount of evidence to present at sentencing.”
She said that evidence will include details of Hester’s background, which she said has been “very difficult,” and family and community members intend to speak on his behalf.
The shooting happened about 8:30 p.m. June 19 on at the intersection of Baldridge and Jones avenues in North Braddock, and the gunfire injured two men: Thomas Cole Jr. and William Ross.
Minutes after the shooting, East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld stopped the gold Chevy Cruze matching the description from North Braddock. Rose and Hester were passengers, and the two fled as Rosfeld ordered the driver to the ground. Rosfeld opened fire, killing Rose.
Rosfeld is scheduled to go on trial Tuesday in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. He is charged with criminal homicide.
Assistant District Attorney William Petulla said the driver of the Cruze – a hired jitney driver – would have testified as a witness had the case gone to trial.
The driver, who Petulla did not name, would have testified that he picked up two individuals later identified as Hester and Rose at Hawkins Village in Rankin, and they paid him for a ride. Petulla said the driver would have testified that as he slowed at a stop sign, the person in the backseat fired multiple shots at at least two men standing on the street.
Petulla said that testimony would have corroborated surveillance footage from the shooting scene showing the person in the backseat of the car firing out the window.
Hester’s plea contradicts evidence brought to light in the case against Rosfeld – namely that Ross, one of the men injured in the drive-by, told a state trooper months later that Rose was the person who shot him.
Regarding that, Mancuso said, “the evidence in this case clearly showed something else.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .