What is a father to do now?
Not only did Antwon Rose Sr. lose his son in a police shooting, but the officer who directly caused his son’s death, Michael Rosfeld, was found not guilty of all criminal charges in the June 19, 2018 incident in East Pittsburgh.
Rose Sr., who hasn’t spoken publicly often since his son, Antwon Rose II, was killed by Rosfeld, was invited to speak at a rally held at Freedom Corner, March 23, the day after the verdict was read.
“It’s very painful to see what happened, to sit there and deal with it,” Rose Sr. said in front of a crowd of 250 and thousands more via the multiple television cameras positioned.
When asked his first thoughts after the not guilty verdict was announced, Rose Sr.’s response was, “Tears…hurt. I’m angry, but I’m not. It hurts more than anything.”
Asked to elaborate, Rose Sr. said, “It’s the system.”
The “system” Rose Sr. is referring to is a Pennsylvania law that gives police officers the ability to use deadly force on someone if the officer feels it’s necessary to prevent death or serious injury—to the officer, or to others. The law also states that deadly force can be used if “such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape.”
The suspect must have committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony and be considered dangerous to human life.
Rosfeld, who took the stand on the third day of his trial, March 21, testified that “one of the suspects turned, pointed toward me with what I thought was a handgun. After thinking I thought I saw a handgun pointed at me, I turn and fire. Three rounds.”
Neither Rose II nor Zaijuan Hester, the suspects in question, ever pointed a gun at Rosfeld as they opened the car doors and began to flee from the traffic stop.
“You’re trained to fire until the threat is eliminated,” Rosfeld said during his testimony. “I fired until they weren’t in my view anymore, until I no longer felt a threat. I didn’t think I hit anything.”
Rose II was shot three times by Rosfeld, a medical examiner determining that the third shot—in the back—was the fatal shot.
Rose II, of Rankin and a Woodland Hills High School student, was 17 years old.
Roughly 15 minutes before he was shot by Rosfeld, Rose II was the front seat passenger of a car that initiated a drive-by shooting in nearby North Braddock, in which Hester, who was sitting in the right rear passenger seat, fired a gun outside the window multiple times, striking Thomas Cole Jr. and almost striking another, William Ross.
A man in a red shirt returned fire at the Chevrolet Cruze, causing the back window of the car to be shattered. That made it easier for an officer, such as Rosfeld, to identify the vehicle and make a felony traffic stop.
Hester, now 18 years old, was eventually apprehended and pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault and four firearms charges.
Hester did not testify during the Rosfeld trial.
“We gotta do more in our communities so they (Black youth) have more stuff to do,” Rose Sr. said to the crowd. “Now, our kids ain’t all innocent, I know that. I wasn’t innocent. But in a bigger light I see there is a lot that can be done.”
Rose Sr. then pointed to two young Black men in the crowd and gave them a message that was also meant for all young Black men in the Pittsburgh area: “Stay out the way, do what you gotta do for your parents,” but the “streets ain’t it, streets ain’t it. Read books, do whatever you gotta do, but leave them streets alone, it ain’t worth it.”
After addressing the crowd, Rose Sr. was asked by the New Pittsburgh Courier what he would say to Rosfeld if given the chance. His response: “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
Another news organization asked Rose Sr. what his plans were moving forward.
To “carry my son’s name, (and) help the youth so they don’t be a victim like him (Rose II),” he answered. “I’m going to keep walking in his shoes,” adding that his son, Rose II, was a “beautiful kid, man. His smile should tell you.”