Teen’s mom on ex-cop’s acquittal: “I hope that man never sleeps at night”

The family of an unarmed black teenager fatally shot by a white police officer is expressing anger and sadness over a jury’s decision to acquit.

“I hope that man never sleeps at night,” Michelle Kenney, Antwon Rose II’s mother, said of Michael Rosfeld, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I hope he gets as much sleep as I do, which is none.”

Rosfeld, a former East Pittsburgh police officer, was charged with homicide for shooting Rose in the back as the 17-year-old ran away from a high-stakes traffic stop last June. But 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,” in the words of an assistant district attorney.

Kenney said she was upset but unsurprised, given other cases in which police officers have either avoided charges or won acquittals in similar shootings. “It isn’t what I hoped for, but it’s what I expected,” she said, adding she feels her son ended up dead because he was black.

Michelle Kenney leaves the Allegheny County Courthouse with supporters after hearing the verdict of not guilty on all charges for Michael Rosfeld, Friday, March 22, 2019.  Gene J. Puskar/AP

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.

After the verdict Friday, a small group of chanting protesters briefly blocking intersections and entering hotels. Pittsburgh police tweeted the “peaceful demonstration” had resulted in rolling, temporary road closures.

On Saturday, Pittsburgh was bracing for more protests. Police are working 12-hour shifts this weekend in an effort to put as many officers on the streets as possible – not only downtown but in various zones, CBS Pittsburgh reported. Their main goal is to keep the city safe.

At trial, the prosecution and the defense sparred over whether Rosfeld was justified in using lethal force. 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 17-year-old 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 his weapon to protect himself and the community. Neither teen was holding one when Rosfeld opened fire, though two guns were later found in the car.

rosfeld-rose-2.jpg East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld (L) is charged with the shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr. (R). Allegheny County Jail (L); STK, Embrace Life/Woodland Hills School District via CBS Pittsburgh (R)

Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi declared in his closing argument that Rosfeld had acted as “judge, jury and executioner,” and that video evidence showed “there was no threat” to the officer. “We don’t shoot first and ask questions later,” the prosecutor added.

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. The defense said the shooting was justified because Rosfeld believed he was in danger and couldn’t wait for other officers to get there.

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