PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld has been identified as the officer who fatally shot Antwon Rose, but Rose’s family attorney is questioning the reliability of the Allegheny County police investigators reliability.
“I find it very, very difficult in smaller communities and in larger communities for police to police the police,” attorney Lee Merritt told KDKA political editor Jon Delano in a sit-down interview.
Merritt, a Philadelphia attorney hired by the Rose family, says he hopes the county police do a good job but would prefer independent outside investigators.
“I think law enforcement officers bring in implicit bias, particularly in favor of law enforcement officers,” said Merritt.
His concern comes as county police officials on Thursday briefed District Attorney Stephen Zappala who will ultimately decide if charges should be brought against East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld.
Rosfeld shot Rose as he ran from a felony arrest made in East Pittsburgh.
That felony arrest — it was not a traffic stop — was made by Rosfeld following reports that gun shots were fired, county police say, from that same vehicle in a shooting exchange in North Braddock.
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County investigators are not talking publicly, so social media is filling up with speculations and untruths.
Delano: “What went wrong here. Why did he [Antwon Rose] run?”
Merritt: “It seems there’s a big cloud of mystery about what happened prior to this police stop. There’s just so much that we don’t know. And so whatever happened prior to it — and I don’t know what it is — it likely could have played a factor in his decision to run.”
Merritt says there’s a lot we don’t know, including what happened in North Braddock where a shoot-out occurred between the occupants of the car, possibly Rose and another still at-large individual, and a store owner, say county police.
It was that shooting that caused officer Rosfeld to make the felony of the suspect’s vehicle.
Sources tell KDKA-TV that car was driven by a jitney driver, who cooperated fully when Rosfeld arrested him.
But during the arrest the two others fled and the officer fired, killing Rose.
Regardless of what Rose may have done earlier, shooting Rose is a crime, says Merritt, who hopes public demonstrations will force DA Zappala to prosecute Rosfeld.
Merritt: “We’re seeing people going to the streets now and calling for justice for Antwon, and so I believe he can be coerced, even if he is not so inclined, to properly prosecute this case.”
Delano: “You say he can be coerced?”
Merritt: “That’s right.”
Delano: “But is that what is supposed to happen, that you coerce a DA to make, to do action?”
Merritt: “Yeah. The fact is that our elected officials should reflect the will of the people.”
Community activist Tim Stevens from the Black Political Empowerment Project says the decision to prosecute should be made by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, not DA Zappala.
Stevens adds that he wants to put “all police involved and deadly shootings in the hands of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office which we feel would bring about a more objective pursuit of justice.”
Shapiro rejected that saying he had no authority to do that — unless Zappala referred the matter to him.
Shapiro said that he expected local officials to conduct a “thorough investigation.”