PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When District Attorney Stephen Zappala charged East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld with criminal homicide for shooting Antwon Rose as he was running away, many observers were not surprised.
He had charged other officers for similar acts in the past.
“This is the third time we’ve had this particular fact scenario during my tenure,” Zappala said Wednesday. “Charged the first two times, we’re charging this time.”
Zappala has twice before charged white police officers for shooting and killing fleeing black suspects, but the results have been less than he would have liked.
The first happened in 1995 in the Armstrong Tunnel when Housing Authority Police Officer John Charmo unloaded his service revolver into the rear of a car, killing the driver, Jerry Jackson.
Charmo lied, saying Jackson did a 180 in the tight tunnel and had tried to run him over. It was later determined that Charmo fired into the car after it had crashed into the tunnel wall. The case ended in mistrial, but in a plea agreement, Charmo pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, serving a year in jail and prison.
Zappala also charged Pittsburgh Officer Jeffrey Cooperstein with criminal homicide for shooting into a fleeing car and killing the driver, 32-year-old Deron Grimmitt.
At trial, a jury acquitted the officer. When the city then fired Cooperstein, he won a civil judgement for $211,000.
But as in these two cases, Zappala now argues that Rosfeld shot a killed a person who posed no threat.
“All three times someone was shot in the back and they were not a threat to the police officer,” Zappala said.
As his history shows, convicting a police officer of criminal homicide can be a very difficult task, but the district attorney has long believed that these matters should be put before a jury to let them decide.