PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The acquittal of former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld in the shooting death of Antwon Rose has sparked calls for changes to Pennsylvania state laws.
Street protesters and the Rose family can’t fathom why Rosfeld could be acquitted for shooting someone who appeared to be running away.
“Antwon Rose was shot in his back, which killed him. He was unarmed and he did not pose a threat to the officer or to the community, and the verdict today says that that is OK,” Lee Merritt, Rose family attorney, said Friday night after Rosfeld was found not guilty.
But there was testimony about what happened before — a drive-by shooting in which Rose was a passenger.
State law says a police officer may use deadly force if he or she believes the person is a threat, even when the person is fleeing.
The law reads: “… when he believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or such other person, or when he believes that: such force is necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by resistance or escape.”
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“If you’re fleeing, it’s justification for them to commit murder. The problem is the law,” Michelle Kinney, Antwon Rose’s mother, said Sunday.
The Rose family wants that law changed through the courts.
“Quite frankly I don’t believe the commonwealth’s statute as it relates to use of force is consistent with the Constitution. It will have to be challenged in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania,” Merritt said Friday.
State Representative Summer Lee says she will try to change it legislatively.
“We have to continue to fight to make sure that police officers know that they can’t commit crimes, that they have to be held to the same standard as any other citizen in this country,” she said Friday.
But proponents of the law say officers require protection under the law to protect themselves and the community, even using deadly force on a fleeing suspect.
“Think about it. What if this is happening in your neighborhood? Supposed to let them go? Really? That’s not what we want. We want to be safe in our homes. We want the police officers to make us safe,” Patrick Thomassey, Rosfeld’s attorney, said Friday.
Changing the law would be an uphill fight in the Pennsylvania legislature. In the meantime, the Rose family is going ahead with a civil suit against Rosfeld and the Borough of East Pittsburgh.