For Once, Police Officer Promptly Charged in Shooting Death of Unarmed Black Teen

Since 2005, just 32 officers involved in fatal shootings have been convicted on criminal charges.



An East Pittsburgh police officer was charged with criminal homicide Wednesday in the shooting death of a 17-year-old unarmed black teenager.

Michael Rosfeld, 30, represents an aberration, as most police officers involved in fatal shootings do not face criminal charges.

Rosfeld turned himself in on Wednesday morning. His bail was set at $250,000 and he will appear in court for a preliminary hearing on July 6, according to court documents.

Rosfeld, who is white, allegedly shot Antwon Rose Jr. three times on June 19 after police pulled over the car Rose and two others were in at the time.

Police believed the car matched the description of a vehicle that was involved in a drive-by shooting.

But after the car was pulled over, Rose and another male attempted to flee the scene on foot. At that point, Rosfeld allegedly opened fire.

No gun was found on Rose's person, but police said there were two firearms in the vehicle he fled from. The driver of the vehicle was questioned and then released, while the other passenger was arrested for his alleged involvement in the drive-by shooting.

Rosfeld had years of experience as a police officer, but he was officially sworn in to the East Pittsburgh Police Department just hours before the shooting.

After the incident, he was placed on administrative leave.

Though nearly 1,000 people are shot and killed by police every year—504 so far in 2018, according to The Washington Post—it's quite rare for officers involved in these shootings to be charged with a crime.

In fact, just 85 state and local police officers involved in on-duty fatal shootings have faced criminal charges since 2005, the Post reported in March, citing Bowling Green State University professor Phil Stinson.

Of those 85, just 32 have actually been convicted. Roughly half of those convictions resulted from guilty pleas.

Responding to the news that Rosfeld had been charged, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania indicated that it was a good first step, while noting that "the severity of the charge" has not yet been made clear.

"Too often, law enforcement use excessive or lethal force on people of color without any accountability or condemnation from the department or state prosecutors," Reggie Shuford said. "That said, the severity of the charge is still unclear. No one is above the law and we hope the charge is commensurate with the severity of the crime."

The shooting has led to protests in the Pittsburgh, due in part to the fact that a witness captured a video of Rose falling to the ground after being shot.

"This is a small stride toward justice but we have a very long road ahead," Rose family attorney Lee Merritt tweeted Wednesday, referring the criminal homicide charge against Rosfeld.

He added that Rose's "family regards the charging of Michael Rosfeld with guarded optimism. The family will settle for nothing less than a conviction and appropriate sentencing."

NEXT: Libertarianish Rep. Jared Polis Leans Left to Snag Colorado Dem Governor Nomination

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So, we’re assuming the cop is guilty?

    I mean, he might be, of course, but he also may be the target of an overzealous prosecutor. Isn’t the point of trials to sort out which is which?

    1. Don’t worry, the throngs assembled at the Trump rallies will not be chanting, “LOCK HIM UP!”

      1. What Trump rallies do doesn’t make the cop guilty or not guilty.

        It’s a charge against a specific person in a specific circumstance, not a chance to convict him for the behavior of other cops.

        1. How many people get shot by cops for the behavior of other people?

          How many cops tell you its a warzone out there and use that as justification for shooting a man sitting in his car when that man goes out of his way to inform the officer that, yes, he is a licensed carrier and has a firearm in the car, FYI officer?

          1. Again, this is what I mean by a focus on the specific case.

            It’s not generic “cops” on trial but this one cop.

      2. Dumb

    2. This was my feeling as well. This is not the victory you’re looking for. This kid was fleeing a stolen car with two associates, one of whom was involved in the earlier shooting. Certainly not ‘the punishment is death; not exactly a Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, etc. where innocent bystanders were killed by officers and then charged with a crime. Not that the punishment for fleeing is summary execution, but for the purposes of convincing other people that police accountability is out the window, it’s unfortunately not entirely clear that the deceased is/was innocent either.

      1. As per my comment below, my own suspicion is that this is a prosecutor trying to look good for the BLM types by charging a cop in a case he knows full well he ain’t got a prayer in hell of winning – mainly because he’ll make damn sure he won’t win. That way when he weasels his way out of charging in a more clear-cut case of a bad cop, he can point to this case as proof that he’s no badge licker.

        1. Undoubtedly this is the case.

          I’m not sure that makes it wrong though. Police need to be held accountable and that wasn’t happening until groups like BLM managed to pitch a fit publicly and loudly enough that their municipalities had to sit up and take notice.

          Voting the bastards out doesn’t work when they’re cops and then next step is basically to start shooting back so maybe things like this will stop the pendulum swing before it gets that far.

      2. Uh, wat?

        No, no one had a stolen car there. The car they were driving in was pulled over because the cops thought it matched the description of a vehicle used in an earlier shooting.

        Which is why the driver was released – no stolen car. Its right in the article.

        . . . one of whom was involved in the earlier shooting

        So now we’re assuming this guy was guilty? But we’re supposed to assume the cop is innocent until the court has a look? I’m confused.

      3. Where did you see that the car was stolen? I’ve been following this story for a week on @Trib.live. They said the car was pulled over because it matched the description of a car in an earlier drive by, and the back window was shot out, not because it was stolen.
        And as to the involvement of the other passengers in a drive by shooting, that has never been proven, although one of the two has been arrested and charged.
        From what I’ve read in the Trib Review, this is a simple case of a cop acting as judge, jury , and executioner.

      4. This kid was fleeing a stolen car with two associates, one of whom was involved in the earlier shooting.

        Why do you call the driver-for-hire an “associate?”

        What evidence or sound reasoning supports a claim that Mr. Rose was not innocent?

        You appear to misunderstand what has occurred.

    3. There’s not much question the cop’s guilty – he did do the shooting. Whether or not it was a justifiable shoot is another matter, as is the idea that it’s an “overzealous” prosecutor.

      Frequently, it’s an over-charging prosecutor who wants to look good by charging the cop but makes sure he can’t prove the case to the jury. You’ll know based on the touting of the “transparency” of the grand jury – prosecutors like to pretend they’re having a free and fair and totally impartial grand jury process by allowing the grand jury to hear all the facts, including the defense’s side of the argument. That ain’t how grand juries work – grand juries are a tool of the prosecutor and the only question they’re asked is “does the prosecutor have enough evidence to take this case to trial” and the only information they’re given to answer the question is whatever information the prosecutor gives them. The defense doesn’t even have any right to appear before the grand jury and never do – except when the prosecutor is throwing the fight.

      1. “That ain’t how grand juries work”

        More’s the pity.

        Just because they operate informally doesn’t mean they have to operate on a one-sided basis. There’s nothing to stop them from demanding the full case file and any exculpatory evidence about a suspect.

      2. Exactly.

        Of course this is something some people don’t consider when they think Trump is guilty.

    4. Says he shot an unarmed person in the back. Doesn’t get much more cut amp dry than that.

    5. Yeah, basically.

      Cops – public ‘servants’ in general – no longer get a presumption of innocence from me. If they do something shitty, whether its shooting someone in the back or shutting down a lemonade stand, I’m going to start with the assumption that they acted malevolently and let them scramble to show they didn’t.

      I’m not advertising that as a stand the *criminal/civil courts* should take with them – just one the court of public opinion should.

    6. I’m making $80 a hour telecommuting. I was stunned when my neighbor revealed to me she was averaging $120 however I perceive how it functions now. I feel so much opportunity now that I’m my own particular supervisor.
      This is my main thing… https://howtoearn.club

    7. So, we’re assuming the cop is guilty?

      He shot an unarmed, nonthreatening citizen thrice, in the back, killing that citizen, then watched another fleeing suspect run away. He was charged (general homicide charge). Seems unobjectionable. What is your point?

    8. He shot him in the back there is no justification for that

      1. Perp was being black in a no black zone and the copper was afraid for his life.
        ( sarcasm)

    9. Prosecutors are never overzealous when a Copper is before them. Neither are Judges .This Copper will walk as they usually do on criminal charges . They will get the Copper later for a civil rights violation though .
      I respect the coppers but never ,ever trust them nor care when one of them is shot in the face.

  2. For Once, Police Officer Promptly Charged in Shooting Death of Unarmed Black Teen

    Since 2005, just 32 officers involved in fatal shootings have been convicted on criminal charges.

    The 32 officers convicted, were they all involved in fatal shootings of unarmed black teens? How many cops have been charged and/or convicted on charges of fatally shooting unarmed white teens or black adults? Seems odd that the headline would specifically focus on “unarmed black teen” while the sub-hed might be interpreted as “everybody”.

  3. he was officially sworn in to the East Pittsburgh Police Department just hours before the shooting.

    At least he got to complete his “how fast can you kill a negro?” initiation hazing.

    1. Tony, do you think he should be charged with murder 1? Murder 2? Manslaughter 1?

      I am not familiar with PA’s criminal homicide statute, but, based on general homicide principles, the video and attendant circumstances, I think murder 2 is right.

      1. Buffoon

      2. Fed to a pig without trial. Then Helen Mirren shows up and says over the pig, with contempt, “Cannibal.”

    2. But he has worked at other cop departments. Bet he has been fired from other cop departments too.

  4. Saying ‘just’ in the headlines implies the number is too low. How do you know that?

    Like when the progs say ‘Women make just X of men’. How do you know it should be 100%? We live in a free society where people make different choices.

    1. How do you know it should be 100%? We live in a free society where people make different choices.

      Being a woman doing a legal job at an private employer isn’t exactly the same “free society.” as an officer of the law shooting fleeing, unarmed suspects in the back on behalf of the public “free society.”

  5. ” The driver of the vehicle was questioned and then released, while the other passenger was arrested for his alleged involvement in the drive-by shooting. “


    1. I interpret that as “The driver of the vehicle dropped a dime on the passenger and claimed he had no idea beforehand that his passenger was going to stick a gun out the window and shoot someone, and the cops had no evidence that he had actually broken any laws himself (didn’t attempt to flee when they pulled him over, cooperated with them at the scene, etc.) so they let him go.”

  6. There has been many that were charged. They ask for a judge trial, and the judge usually finds them not guilty.

    Wake me up when there’s a conviction.

    1. Exactly. Charged doesn’t mean convicted, and convicted doesn’t mean sentenced.

      Even when they shoot an unarmed person in the back.

  7. while the other passenger was arrested for his alleged involvement in the drive-by shooting

    Just once I’d like to see a reporter do some digging in a case like this. If the car was stopped and an arrest made on the “fitting the description” premise, and the description is probably something like “some young black guys in a car”, how many other cars were stopped and how many other arrests were made on the exact same case? 20, 30, 40? My guess is that there’s frequently multiple arrests made, but the cops never mention nor do reporters ever ask about all the ones the cops decided not to pursue charges on even though the evidence they cook up on the one could just as easily have been cooked up on any of the others. “We have eyewitnesses that identified the suspect!” You mean you have some people who recognize a young black guy when they see one. It’s dark, the car was speeding, the whole thing was over in two seconds, I’m skeptical you’ve got an eyewitness who can make a positive ID.

  8. Any wagers on whether he’ll be convicted or not? My money’s on no.

    1. His only chance is if his partner lies and they don’t allow the video made at the scene as evidence.
      Even the lowliest assistant DA could win this case.

    2. Ben Franklin is whispering in my ear “take him up on it.” .

  9. Though nearly 1,000 people are shot and killed by police every year?504 so far in 2018, according to The Washington Post?it’s quite rare for officers involved in these shootings to be charged with a crime.

    Is there a good estimate of how many of these officers should be charged with a crime?

    1. Not making everything about race is racist.

    2. Questions like that don’t make for good clickbait.

      (I mean, I think police generally shoot too readily and are over-paramilitarized, nationally.

      I just don’t think it as strongly as Reason seems to, and I want better data and arguments than Reason typically provides on the subject.

      Since one of the things cops are supposed to do in even the best conceptions of their duty, is respond to violent crime and defend the innocent, one would expect justified shootings to happen … and that’s not even including “suicide by cop”, which is sure hard to prevent if you do it with a weapon.)

      1. Agreed all around.

        In an imaginary near-perfect world where police are angels, respectful, de-escalating, and willing to put themselves in extreme danger to protect the public (perp’s attacking me with a knife, I will use my baton to defend myself*) we would still have some people shot and killed by the police every year.

        Reason should, of course, emphasize the other cases, but I still wonder how many shoots are ‘good’ versus bad. No doubt hard to know, particularly when a bad shoot is going to be reported by the officer/shooter as a good shoot, of course.

        *I would defend myself with a gun, and wouldn’t expect anything different from the police, here. Not trying to start a fight over this, just trying to paint an extremely one-sided picture where all police shootings are undoubtedly justified

  10. I’ve been following this story since it happened.
    It’s a simple case of a cop acting as judge, jury, and executioner.
    The deceased never showed a weapon, and never made a threatening move.
    He simply got out of the car and ran away.
    Rather than exert himself and chase him, the cop just shot him in the back.
    @Trib.live has first hand video of the incident.
    I’ll see if I can find the link on this device.

    1. It’s worse than that. He kills one of the runners (three shots), then lets the other escape in a context (narrow breezeway) in which anyone could have easily shot the other one. That deflates any ‘I was trying to protect the community against an armed, fleeing felon’ defense.

      This officer had been discharged from a far better police job recently for misconduct. It’s about time society — or perhaps criminal defense attorneys — created a database to record every police officer’s record with respect to veracity, judgment, misconduct, etc. in every case. If an officer falsifies a report, or his testimony is discredited, or he violates professional standards, or he is shown to exhibit unlawful bias or poor temperament, or the like it should be recorded and made available to those he arrests or accuses..

  11. Most likely a hung jury or outright acquittal.

    The guys in the car had just done a drive by shooting, The victims of the drive by returned fire. There were bullet holes in the car. Shooting a fleeing suspect is certainly not a good thing, or legal, but any juror is going to take that situation into account.

    1. The guys in the car had just done a drive by shooting,

      The available evidence controverts your assertion.

  12. I like how “unarmed” is supposed to be something that is Obviously Known Beforehand, making it Obviously Unjustified To Ever Shoot.

    (Ref. the general list and litany, that is.

    In the specific case referenced, send the cop to prison for ages – because he shot someone who was actively fleeing, not because the target was unarmed (which he could not have possibly known either way, and in context had reasonable cause to assume, it looks like?).

    Even an armed person who’s actively fleeing isn’t someone I can shoot in self-defense – nor should they be! – and in most states, if not all, cops don’t actually have separate laws around that.

    I could shoot someone “to stop a violent felony” here in Oregon, and I’ll assume a similar law there … but even having just committed a violent felony [arguendo, and alleged] isn’t the same as “committing one right now”, and running from the cops ain’t a *violent* felony even if you’re armed.)

  13. A lot will depend on the nature of the drive by shooting and what the cop knew or had been told about that incident. The cop will have to make a case that he had reason to believe the guy he shot was involved in the drive by, and that if allowed to escape, might continue on a shooting spree. If he can sell that idea, he is likely to get off. It’s certainly not something we arm-chair prosecutors can determine.

  14. This won’t lead to a conviction.

  15. Another Leftist article on Reason.com. WTF? Why do you communists suppose the officer is guilty before an inquiry?

    1. He was shot in the back, is that really that hard for you to figure out the problem with that? If so maybe go find your mom or dad and ask them

    2. I am not saying that .I am only surprised he is being charged at all.The copper only has to say he was afraid and he will walk .

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.