Woodland Hills community grieves over Rosfeld verdict, looks to unite
Woodland Hills High School students will discuss this week how they want to honor and remember their 17-year-old classmate, Antwon Rose II, who was shot and killed by a police officer in June.
For now, the community is coping with the fallout from a four-day trial after ex-East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted of homicide.
“Of course, everybody’s been watching the verdict and tensions have been high,” said Phillip Woods, the high school’s principal.
Students Micah Dean and Micala Goodman said they felt anxious all week knowing the trial was happening. The result didn’t surprise them.
“It’s just like the same pattern every time,” said Goodman, a sophomore, referring to other killings involving police and a black person nationwide.
Dean, a junior, wants to do something important to remember Rose, who was an honors student at Woodland Hills.
“I want to have a purpose behind it,” Dean said.
Woods’ first thought was to wait until Monday at school to offer support to students. Community members, however, knew they needed support sooner.
“It’s very important in this time of grief that we can come together,” Woodland Hills athletic director Ron Coursey said. “We are all one community. We are all one family. And so right now, we should be leaning on each other more than ever.”
Members of the Focus Pittsburgh’s trauma response team visited Braddock and East Pittsburgh under a bright spring sun Saturday, talking to residents about their thoughts on the verdict and offering support. Meanwhile, Greater Valley Community Center in Braddock opened its doors to anyone who wanted to gather and talk.
“We just want the community to know that there is support right here,” said Cathy Welsh, whose son, Jerame Turner, was killed by gun violence in 2017. “We understand our young people may not know how to express their feelings right now. The world really needs to know this is really bigger than just a courtroom or a race.”
Rose was fatally shot June 19 in East Pittsburgh as he ran from a felony traffic stop. Jurors spent less than four hours deliberating Friday before clearing Rosfeld of any wrongdoing. The verdict sent shock waves through Pittsburgh as rallies shut down streets late Friday and Saturday afternoon.
Woods wants to channel the energy of Rose’s classmates into something productive on Monday. He plans to have an assembly to listen to students’ ideas and eventually transform them into something meaningful that won’t be disruptive to the learning environment.
At the Greater Valley Community Services center in North Braddock, members of a violence prevention coalition had been discussing how to respond to the verdict once it came down. They opened the center’s doors Saturday afternoon with counselors, boxes of tissues and an invitation to come and talk.
“Our overall goal is to serve the community in any way we can,” said Jackie Smith, director of the center.
Back on the streets, members of the trauma response team handed out candy to children and prayed at the site of Rose’s shooting in East Pittsburgh. Woodland Hills graduate and businessman Lee Davis hopes to translate the energy after the verdict into something bigger.
“You can go Downtown and you can go on the Hill,” he said. “But you can use that energy to go vote.”
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .