At 9:07 p.m., March 22, 2019, Michael Rosfeld was officially a free man. That was the exact time a jury found the former East Pittsburgh police officer not guilty on criminal homicide charges in the shooting death of a Black teen, Antwon Rose II.
In a case that had garnered nationwide attention, it seemed as though people from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, Los Angeles to New York City, were awaiting this verdict. Would this be another case of a White person being found innocent in shooting another unarmed Black person?
Seconds after the not guilty verdict was read, Rosfeld was permitted to leave the courtroom, Downtown. He has not been seen in the public eye since.
Moments later, Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, was permitted to leave the courtroom, understandably in disgust. But outside the Allegheny County Courthouse were about 150 Antwon Rose II supporters, who proclaimed at the courthouse steps outside, “No Justice, No Peace.”
In the days and weeks afterward, there were more protests and demonstrations, denouncing the verdict. Most of the protests were constructed of a diverse crowd—it wasn’t just African Americans who thought Rosfeld should have been found guilty of criminal homicide for shooting Rose three times as he ran away from Rosfeld during a felony traffic stop in East Pittsburgh, June 19, 2018.
“This ruling ensured that there will be another Antwon,” state Rep. Summer Lee told the Courier moments after the not guilty verdict on March 22, 2019. “Because if we really wanted to stop police brutality, if we really wanted to stop the incidences of Black children being shot in the back, then this cop would have been held accountable. But he wasn’t, so the cycle starts over again.”
Representative Lee, along with fellow state Rep. Ed Gainey, thereafter drafted a House bill proposal that would change the language in the state laws pertaining to police use of force.
The trial, the verdict, and the aftermath—which, by all accounts, were peaceful protests—is the New Pittsburgh Courier’s top story of 2019.
There were other important stories that the Courier covered in 2019, including the untimely, unfortunate shooting death of Pittsburgh police officer Calvin Hall. He was shot in Homewood on July 14 and died on July 17. He was just 36 years old.
An investigation revealed Officer Hall was attempting to break up a dispute between people on Monticello Street, but was shot in the back three times, police say, by Christian Bey, 30.
“On July 14, when Officer Calvin Hall was shot, and for three days after that, he fought for his life…his death meant something,” said Rev. Earlene Coleman at his public funeral at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, July 23. “It meant that peacemakers still survive. That we’re all not about violence, but the heart, the caring heart, still lives. His death meant that in our communities, we must come together, for that was his desire. His death meant that we can still stand, and stand for what’s right.”
Pittsburghers—and many across the nation—couldn’t believe their eyes when they watched a video posted to Facebook that showed two Black women from Pittsburgh being beaten by employees of a local Exxon gas station on Brighton Road on the North Side. The encounter occurred on Sept. 20, as sisters Ashia and Jamila Regan were trying to alert the employees about a faulty gas pump, which spilled gas onto the ground that had already been paid for by the sisters. A confrontation ensued, which occurred both inside and outside the store. Three men, Scott Hill, Sukhjinder Sadhra, and Bakar Singh, were charged with simple assault.
To this day, the gas station remains closed.
African Americans continued to make inroads on the political scene in 2019. Chardae Jones became the youngest Black female ever to become Braddock mayor, while Olivia Bennett, a Black woman, won a seat on Allegheny County Council. Devon Taliaferro, another Black woman, won an election to the Pittsburgh School Board.
Quintin Bullock, DDS, got some company in African Americans who are leading educational institutions. Bullock, the current president of Community College of Allegheny County, was delighted to see Roger Davis named president of Community College of Beaver County. And Alicia B. Harvey-Smith, Ph.D., was named president of Pittsburgh Technical College.
In the Hill District, 2019 saw more changes. The Shop ‘n’ Save grocery store located on Centre Avenue closed its doors in March, with nothing in its place as of yet. The Hill House Association officially dissolved operations, with the historic Hill House building sold to Emeka Onwugbenu of E Properties, in association with the Hill Community Development Corporation. Marimba Milliones, with the Hill CDC, announced in late 2019 the creation of the New Granada Square Apartments, named after the famed former theatre on Centre. Construction of the new apartments is scheduled for later this year.
BRANDI FISHER, with the Alliance for Police Accountability, consoles Christian Carter, after word spread that Michael Rosfeld was found not guilty in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II. The verdict was handed down on Friday evening, March 22, 2019. (AP Photo)
by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer