PITTSBURGH – Shots were fired overnight through the office window of the attorney for a white police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, and several hundred people gathered in protest Saturday over the verdict that left Pittsburgh a city on edge.
Police put officers on 12-hour shifts until further notice.
The jury’s decision late Friday in the killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II upset his family and touched off a nighttime demonstration by about 100 people. It was followed by another protest on Saturday afternoon at an intersection called Freedom Corner in the city’s Hill District neighborhood, the historic center of black cultural life in Pittsburgh.
One man held a sign with the names of black men killed by police around the U.S.
“It’s very painful to see what happened, to sit there and deal with it,” Rose’s father, Antwon Rose Sr., told the crowd. “I just don’t want it to happen to our city no more. It’s happening like every other day. We’ve got to do more in our community so they have more stuff to do.”
Addressing the “young brothers,” the teenager’s father said: “Stay out of the way. Do what you got to do for your parents. Streets ain’t it. Streets ain’t it. Read books, man. Do everything you got to do, but leave those streets alone. It ain’t worth it.”
The crowd then began marching toward downtown Pittsburgh.
Overnight, five to eight shots were fired into the building where defense attorney Patrick Thomassey works, police in nearby Monroeville said. Police said they had been staking out the place as a precaution when they left to answer another call around midnight, and that was when bullets hit a window and the front wall. No one was hurt.
“Our office disagreed with the verdict and we understand the frustration of everyone who was hoping for and expecting a different outcome,” said Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office. “However, the community needs to realize that when such frustration becomes hateful and violent, there will be ramifications for those involved in that behavior.”
Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with homicide for shooting Rose in the back as the teenager ran away from a traffic stop last June. Rosfeld walked out of the courtroom a free man Friday after jurors rejected the prosecution’s argument that he acted as Rose’s “judge, jury and executioner.”
“I hope that man never sleeps at night,” Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, said of Rosfeld, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I hope he gets as much sleep as I do, which is none.”
The verdict leaves Rose’s family to pursue the federal civil rights lawsuit they filed last August against Rosfeld and East Pittsburgh, a small municipality about 10 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.
Rose’s death – one of many high-profile killings of black men and teens by white officers in recent years – spurred angry protests in the Pittsburgh area last year, including a late-night march that shut down a major highway.
After the verdict, a group of about 100 protesters headed to the trendy East Liberty neighborhood, a few miles from the downtown Pittsburgh courthouse, where they blocked intersections and briefly entered two hotels, chanting “17” for Rose’s age and reading a poem written by Rose.
Police said the demonstrations were peaceful and only a few garbage cans and newspaper boxes were kicked over, both of which were quickly picked back up. No arrests were made.
Rose was riding in an unlicensed taxi that had been involved in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier when Rosfeld pulled the car over and shot the teenager in the back, arm and side of the face as he ran away.
The former officer told jurors he thought Rose or another suspect had a gun pointed at him, insisting he fired to protect himself and the community. Neither teen was holding a weapon when Rosfeld opened fire, though two guns were later found in the car.
The 12-person jury – including three black members – saw video of the fatal confrontation. The acquittal came after less than four hours of deliberations on the fourth day of the trial.
Thomassey, the defense lawyer, told reporters that Rosfeld is “a good man. He said to me many times, ‘Patrick, this has nothing to do with the kid’s color. I was doing what I was trained to do.“’
Thomassey said he hopes the city remains calm and “everybody takes a deep breath and gets on with their lives.”
Rosfeld had worked for the East Pittsburgh Police Department for only a few weeks and was sworn in just hours before the shooting.
Prosecutor Jonathan Fodi argued that the video evidence showed there was no threat to the officer. But a defense expert testified Rosfeld was within his rights to use deadly force to stop suspects he thought had been involved in a shooting. Prosecutors did not call their own use-of-force expert.
“The prosecution’s handling of this case, particularly the decision not to call a police expert, raises many questions,” said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.
Manko, the district attorney’s spokesman, responded by saying prosecutors were confident that the video, “along with common sense and the questions we knew we were able to raise about the defense expert report,” would be enough.
Shortly before the traffic stop, Rose had been riding in the front seat of the cab when another occupant, Zaijuan Hester, in the back, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street, hitting one in the abdomen.
Hester, 18, pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault and firearms violations. He told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting.
Prosecutors had charged Rosfeld with an open count of homicide, meaning the jury had the option of convicting him of murder or manslaughter.
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