From: The Eagle <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, Mar 23, 2019 at 5:50 AM
Posted: 22 Mar 2019 11:31 PM PDT
The man who killed Antwon Rose II last June has been cleared of homicide charges.
Michael Rosfeld, a white former East Pittsburgh police officer, pulled over a car that Rose, an African-American 17-year-old, was a passenger in because it matched descriptions of a vehicle present at an earlier drive-by shooting. Shortly thereafter, Rose was dead. Rosfeld claimed that he thought Rose was carrying a weapon. He was not. In fact, Rose was running away from the scene, his back turned, when Rosfeld shot him three times. Rose never even faced his killer, let alone pointed a gun at him.
To many, a conviction seemed like a matter of common sense. Rose posed no real threat to Rosfield, so self-defense was not applicable; how, then, could this be anything other than manslaughter? But the members of the jury thought differently. After four days of trial, it took just four hours to reach a verdict: not guilty.
As pathetic as that is, it's not really that surprising. According to the Washington Post's fatal force database, 221 people have been shot and killed by police in America so far this year. Last year's total was 998. A shocking number of the ensuing trials tell a similar tale to that of Antwon Rose — if there even is a trial.
In 2017, police bullets ended 987 lives. Only six of the officers responsible were brought to trial that year. As of late 2018, only 93 officers who used their firearms lethally since 2005 had been tried, and only about a third of them had been convicted of any crime whatsoever. From that frame of reference, it was actually a small miracle that Rosfeld ever appeared in front of a jury — the vast majority of his contemporaries are spared the inconvenience.
Said Allegheny Attorney General Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. in a statement following the announcement of Rosfeld's acquittal, "In the interest of justice, we must continue to do our job of bringing charges in situations where charges are appropriate."
Here's the thing: charges are always appropriate. In no other setting than in that of the police officer versus the civilian is there a question of whether a potential homicide should be subject to legal examination. Some say that police officers cannot effectively perform their jobs unless they are comfortable in the knowledge that acting on spur-of-the-moment inclinations will not result in punishment. But if a police officer's job is to maintain peace, the power to arbitrarily, whimsically strip someone of their life fundamentally undermines that duty.
And here's the other thing: charges are meaningless if they never result in convictions.
For every Michael Rosfeld we let walk free, we reinforce the tacit understanding that a police officer can commit murder and get away with it, especially if the victim is a person of color. Until the legal system proves capable of disrupting the pattern that it began, the protests won't stop.
Posted: 22 Mar 2019 09:30 PM PDT
When an unarmed black teenager was killed in East Pittsburgh last summer by a white police officer, to most of the nation, it was just another death in a long string of police shootings of unarmed black men. For Pittsburghers it brought an issue that had until then seemed remote into startling clarity, and it reminded the inhabitants of the city and its suburbs that they were not removed from the issues that plagued the rest of the country. As of this evening, that saga has -at least temporarily- come to a legal close. Michael Rosfeld, the East Pittsburgh policeman responsible for the death of Antwon Rose II, was found not guilty on the charges of first degree murder, third degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and involuntary manslaughter. For supporters of Mr. Rosfeld, it was a vindication of Mr. Rosfeld's motivations and decisions- and of those of other cops in similar situations. For supporters of Mr. Rose, it was a stinging defeat that drove home for them a sense that the justice system does not actually deliver justice for victims.
With no clear indication of what comes next, Mr. Rose's supporters have taken to the streets. From Downtown to East Liberty, hundreds of marchers have gathered in the biting chill of a March midnight to protest the decision of the jury. Together with the many more people who have cried out agains the decision on social media, they have rallied around a shout of, "No Justice, No Peace," to declare their refusal to accept the verdict on moral grounds. But it remains unclear where these protests will lead, beyond more protests. Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted out his grief and desire for progress, but there is little he can do to repair relationships between communities and police that have frayed across the region, not in the city itself. Popular anger with District Attorney Stephen Zappala may help bolster the campaign of challenger Turahn Jenkins, but Mr. Jenkins made early stumbles in his campaign that he does not seem to have fully recovered from. It seems likely that no matter how important Mr. Rose's case remains to the public consciousness, nothing will be done in the present to truly reform police-community relations in the region's most vulnerable -and stratified- boroughs and neighborhoods.
As the region moves forward, much of the impetus from the case and protests will end up in the hands of its youth, many of whom felt viscerally connected to Mr. Rose. Plans for a protest on Friday, March 29th at Capri's in East Liberty are already circulating across social networks. The outpouring of anger, sorrow, and support that occurred during the direct aftermath of Mr. Rose's shooting, and which has manifested again today, may be a sign that there will be a more enduring effort towards reform by students across the region for justice to be delivered in courts of law. Or a brief spike in calls to action and plans for protests may be all that results. With Mr. Rosfeld's acquittal a fact, observers will just have to wait and see.