The suburban Pittsburgh police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Antwon Rose was charged Wednesday with criminal homicide.
East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld shot Rose, who was unarmed, three times, including once in the back, on June 19 as the teen fled a car that had been stopped by police, according to the criminal complaint filed against the officer. Rosfeld had been sworn into the police department just hours earlier.
The officer surrendered Wednesday after the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office filed the charge against him, NBC News reported. He was released on bond, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
DA Stephen Zappala said at a news conference Wednesday that Rosfeld’s use of deadly force was unjustified because Rose was neither armed nor a fleeing felon.
“You can’t take somebody’s life under these circumstances,” Zappala said, adding that the officer should have waited for backup before approaching the car. He added: “You do not shoot somebody in the back if they are not a threat to you.”
Zappala said his office may pursue a charge of first-degree murder, punishable by life in prison.
“The Rose Family views the filing of criminal homicide charges with guarded optimism,” Fred and Monte Rabner, Rose’s family attorneys, said in a statement. “There is a long road ahead to a conviction and proper sentencing which is the only thing we will accept as justice.”
Rosfeld, 30, has been on administrative leave since the shooting. He has worked for several police forces in the past, but was sworn into the East Pittsburgh Police Department just hours before the shooting.
Police had pulled over the vehicle in which Rose was a passenger on suspicion that it was connected with an earlier shooting in the borough of North Braddock, based on a witness’ description. As the driver was taken into custody, Rose and another passenger got out and attempted to run away. Rose was shot dead around 15 yards from Rosfeld.
Zaijuan Hester, 17, remained at large until his arrest on Monday. Zappala said Hester was “clearly” the shooter in the earlier incident, and has been charged as an adult. The DA declined to comment on Hester’s motive in that shooting.
“By all accounts, Mr. Rose never did anything in furtherance of the crimes in North Braddock,” Zappala said.
Rose was a rising senior and honors student at Woodlands Hills High School in Pittsburgh. His killing has triggered protests across the Pittsburgh area. Hundreds took to the streets Tuesday to demand justice for Rose, one of numerous unarmed black teenagers killed by police in recent years.
“Three shots in the back! How do you justify that?” protesters shouted in unison. “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now! If we don’t get it? Shut it down.”
This article has been updated to include the district attorney’s comments.