A jury of seven men and five women found former East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld not guilty of homicide for the June killing of Antwon Rose II.
Jurors deliberated for less than four hours Friday as they weighed whether to acquit Rosfeld or convicted him of charges of first- and third-degree murder or voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
“I don’t have any question in my mind that it was the proper verdict,” said Patrick Thomassey, Rosfeld’s defense attorney.
Rosfeld’s wife, Michelle, collapsed from her chair, sobbing, as the verdict was read.
Michelle Kenney, Rose’s mother, sat still.
“Don’t give them that,” she told her daughter. “No tears. They took everything.”
Rosfeld and his wife were rushed out of the courtroom followed by the rest of his family. Rose’s family left after the Rosfelds had cleared the courtroom.
Rosfeld was on trial for shooting Rose three times as he ran from a June 19 felony traffic stop in East Pittsburgh.
Rose and Zaijuan Hester were passengers in a car suspected in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier.
The foreman of the jury, a 71-year-old black man, read the verdict about 9:05 p.m. after the Rosfeld and Rose families rushed back to the courthouse. Jurors kept their eyes cast toward Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket as the verdict was read.
“You, the jurors, are the sole judges of the facts,” Bicket told the jury before they started deliberating.
Thomassey was quick to point out that “this was not an all-white jury.”
“There were African Americans on this jury,” he said, speaking on the third-floor of the courthouse about 9:20 p.m. “They listened to the facts, they listened to the law and, in my opinion, they rendered the correct verdict.”
He said the case had nothing to do with race.
“Some people in the city have made it that way, and it’s sad,” Thomassey said. “Mike Rosfeld was doing his job. He did his job, and it had nothing to do with the color of anybody that he was arresting. And I’m glad the case is over, and I hope everybody moves on with their lives, including Mr. Rosfeld and including me.”
Protesters congregated briefly on Grant Street in Downtown Pittsburgh, though they quickly and quietly dispersed.
“Say his name. Antwon Rose II,” they chanted. “Three shots to the back, how you justify that?”
State Rep. Ed Gainey was among the demonstrators.
“I don’t care what happened before – all I know is we have an unarmed African-American male dead, and that hurts,” Gainey said.
“We want the cops to come home safe,” he said, “but we want our child to come home safe.”
Protesters moved to Penn Avenue in East Liberty, blocking Penn and demanding justice.
Prosecutors had argued that Rosfeld had no reason to believe the teens were a threat and, in fact, he didn’t believe that.
Thomassey said Rosfeld was doing his job to stop two fleeing felons. Thomassey called the teenagers murderers in his closing arguments Friday afternoon.
Kenney, who spoke to the media before the jury started deliberating, said she misses her son.
She believes Rosfeld was guilty of murder.
“Antwon wasn’t afforded the opportunity of a trial, even to defend himself,” she said. “All of those rights were taken away from him by one person.
“(Rosfeld) decided he wanted to be the judge and jury in a situation that he didn’t even know if a crime had been committed, and now my son is gone.”
S. Lee Merritt, an attorney for the Rose family, said they will seek to hold those accountable for Rose’s death through a civil suit.
“The fight for justice is never easy, but we will make every effort to protect the memory and legacy of Antwon Rose,” Merritt said in statement.
Merritt said Rose’s family is devastated at the jury’s decision but were grateful for the support they have felt.
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said in a statement that while he disagrees with the verdict, the justice system belongs to the people.
“The best example of that is when 12 men and women sit in a room and deliberate how best to pass judgment onto one of their peers,” he said. “Indeed, that is the foundation on which the entire criminal justice system is built.”
He said his office will continue to file charges when they are appropriate, “regardless of the role an individual holds in the community.”
Pittsburgh Public Safety spokesman Chris Togneri said in a statement that the goal has – and will continue to be – to keep the city safe.
“If demonstrations occur, Pittsburgh police will be present to assure safety for everyone,” he said. “We know from experience that when Pittsburgh experiences hardships, we come together as a community.”