First Day Of Testimony Concludes In Trial Of Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld

The jury heard six-and-a-half to seven hours of testimony on Tuesday

Joe DeStio
March 19, 2019 - 7:18 pm

Photo Credit: Andrew Limberg

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PITTSBURGH (AP/Newsradio 1020 KDKA) —Tuesday marked the first day of testimony in the trial of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld.

Rosfeld is charged in the on-duty shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose last year.

Joe DeStio was at the courthouse Tuesday, reporting that the jury heard six-and-a-half to seven hours of testimony, ending with the young woman who took the cell phone video from her second-floor porch of Officer Rosfeld firing shots at Rose as he ran, unarmed, from a traffic stop.

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The jury, brought in from the Harrisburg area and made up of six men and six women, saw that video once.

Attorney Lee Merritt, representing Antwon Rose’s family, said they are satisfied with the case so far but are disappointed that the prosecution has yet to let the jury know who Antwon really was.

“We most want to see as a family, as a community, is...Antwon Rose introduced to this jury as if his life mattered.”  

In opening statements, the prosecution said the case focuses on what Rosfeld knew at the time he pulled the trigger three times.

Defensive attorney, Patrick Thomassey, told the jury that police are trained to make split second decisions and asked what Rosfeld did wrong as a police officer. Thomassey says he is still waiting for that answer.  

Debra Jones testified that she was sitting on her porch when she saw Rosfeld shoot Rose just feet away.

Rosfeld had thrown the car's driver to the ground and ordered Rose and the vehicle's other occupant, Zaijuan Hester, to get out, Jones said. Both fled, and Jones said she heard three gunshots. Jones said she then went to a neighbor's house, emerging 20 minutes later to see Rose lying face down and in handcuffs, and Rosfeld off to the side with other officers.

"He was red. He was very upset. He was crying," Jones said.

On cross-examination, Thomassey, the defense attorney, said Jones gave a videotaped statement to police about a month after the shooting in which she said Rose and Hester had made movements with their hands. Jones denied it, insisting she said that Rosfeld had told them to get out with their hands up.

Rose had been riding in the front seat of an unlicensed taxicab when Hester, in the backseat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the streets of North Braddock.

Hester, 18, of Swissvale, pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated assault and firearms violations for the shooting, which wounded a man in the abdomen. Hester told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting. A judge ruled Monday that jurors could hear evidence of that shooting but likely will not hear about a robbery that occurred several hours earlier.

Police Sgt. Brian Hodges of North Braddock testified that he and Rosfeld responded to the drive-by, and that Rosfeld went in search of the car spotted leaving the scene. A short time later, Rosfeld pulled it over.

While Rose ran from the vehicle, Rosfeld shot him three times — in the right side of his face, in his elbow and in his back — one of the bullets tearing through his heart and lung.

That incident led to the traffic stop where Rosfeld shot Rose while he fled.

The jury will be sequestered in a Pittsburgh hotel for the duration of the trial, expected to take a week or more.

Testimony will resume on Wednesday.  

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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