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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A not-guilty verdict at the trial of former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld on Friday night has Pittsburgh on edge Saturday.
Hundreds of protesters filled the streets after the verdict was announced Friday night, saying there was no justice for Antwon Rose II. Rose was shot and killed after running away from police after the vehicle he was in was pulled over for being suspected of being involved in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier.
On Saturday morning, news broke that shots were fired into Rosfeld’s attorney Patrick Thomassey’s office.
After four days of testimony and about three and a half hours of deliberations by an out-of-town jury, Rosfeld was found not guilty on all four possible charges — first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter — around 9:15 p.m. Friday. The jury of six men and six women was selected across the state in Harrisburg and was sequestered in a Pittsburgh hotel for the duration of the trial.
Rosfeld had pulled over an unlicensed taxicab suspected to have been used in a drive-by shooting minutes before shooting Rose in the back, arm and side of the face as he ran from a traffic stop. Rose had been riding in the front seat of the taxi when Zaijuan Hester, in the back seat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street.
Hester, 18, of Swissvale, pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault and firearms violations for the earlier shooting, which wounded a man in the abdomen. Hester told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting.
There were strong emotions on the steps of the courthouse following the verdict on Friday. Family members and close family supporters of Rose were seen crying and shaking their heads in disbelief.
Dozens of police officers filled the courthouse in the moments before the jury read the verdict to make sure no outbursts occurred.
The judge ruled that Rosfeld be taken off electronic monitoring, which he had been on since July 2018.
Rosfeld, his wife, his parents and the rest of his family were taken out of the courtroom under guard after the verdict was read.
The Rose family was then also taken out of the courtroom under guard.
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Pittsburgh Police say that they are prepared to keep everyone safe – including demonstrators, residents, business owners and visitors – following the verdict.
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. Their main goal is to keep the city safe.
The police have set up a mobile tent city on 35th Street in the Strip District to hasten response time for any issue this weekend.
Public safety is spraying off sidewalks and roads around the courthouse, but barricades are still in place as of Saturday morning.
— MEGHAN SCHILLER (@MeghanKDKA) March 23, 2019
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala issued the following statement Friday regarding the verdict:
“I have always believed that the criminal justice system belongs to the people and the best example of that is when 12 men and women sit in a room and deliberate how best to pass judgement onto one of their peers, indeed that is the foundation on which the entire criminal justice system is built.
“While I respectfully disagree with their verdict, it is the people of this commonwealth who decide guilty or not guilty and they have spoken to this matter.
“In the interest of justice, we must continue to do our job of bringing charges in situations where charges are appropriate, regardless of the role an individual holds in the community.”
Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted the following statement:
“Tonight I grieve with Antwon’s family, friends, and the entire community. Words cannot heal the pain so many are feeling. Only action can begin the process, a process that will take work & understanding.
“An understanding that inequality exists & we have a moral obligation to address it. I offer the full support of the city of Pittsburgh, to help us find light in darkness.”
Lee Merritt, the attorney for Rose’s family, said the verdict was “disappointing” for the family.
A short time after the prosecution rested its case on Friday, Merritt made a prediction that the evidence was strong enough for the jury to return a guilty verdict.
Watch Lee Merritt speak —
Merritt later issued the following statement:
“While the family of Antwon Rose is devastated that former officer Michael Rosfeld was acquitted today, they are grateful for the support of the community and from many around the country.
Although the facts of the case seemed clear cut, namely that Antwon Rose was shot in the back as he ran from officer Rosfeld; the jury’s verdict was heavily influenced by flaws in current Pennsylvania law that contradict protections afforded citizens by the U.S. Constitution.
Antwon’s family and I will be working to change those laws in an effort to prevent other families from suffering a similar disappointment.
We will also focus our efforts on holding those accountable for Antwon’s death through our civli suit.
The fight for justice is never easy, but we will make every effort to protect the memory and legacy of Antwon Rose.”
Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said he didn’t “have any question in my mind that this was the proper verdict” and he believed the jury rendered the proper verdict.
Watch Patrick Thomassey speak —
Hundreds of protesters blocked the intersection of Forbes and Murray overnight, holding signs saying there was no justice for Antwon Rose II. They also spray-painted a portion of the street with the logo J4A – meaning justice for Antwon.
As a safety precaution, police set up some salt trucks to block the entrance of the Zone 5 Police headquarters Friday night.