EAST PITTSBURGH, Pa. (AP) — A white police officer was charged Wednesday with homicide in the shooting of an unarmed black teenager who fled a traffic stop last week, and investigators said the officer gave inconsistent statements about whether he saw a gun in the teen’s hand.
East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld first told investigators that the teen turned his hand toward him when he ran from the car and he “saw something dark he perceived as a gun,” according to the criminal complaint.
During a second recap of the shooting, Rosfeld told investigators he did not see a gun and he was not sure if the teen’s arm was pointed at him when he fired at 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr.
The 30-year-old officer had been sworn in just hours before the June 19 shooting after working at the police department for a couple weeks. He turned himself in, was arraigned and released on $250,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court July 6.
The district attorney’s office did not immediately return a call for comment but released a statement saying the office argued against granting bail because the charge carries a sentence of life in prison.
The charge of criminal homicide can include any instance in which someone knowingly, intentionally, recklessly or negligently causes a death. It includes the charges of murder and voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, the complaint said.
A lawyer representing Rose’s family said on Twitter that relatives have “guarded optimism” about the charge filed against the officer. A funeral for the teen was held Monday.
“The family will settle for nothing less than a conviction and appropriate sentencing,” attorney Lee Merritt said.
Authorities have said Rose and another teen, who was arrested this week , fled after being pulled over on suspicion they were involved in a drive-by shooting. Rose was shot three times — in the right side of his face, his back and his elbow. The bullet fired through Rose’s back struck his lung and heart.
His death has fueled daily protests around Pittsburgh.
Rosfeld pulled over the car in which Rose was a passenger about 15 minutes after reports of a drive-by shooting in nearby North Braddock. In that attack, a 22-year-old man was shot in the abdomen and was treated and released from the hospital.
A witness described a car from that shooting as matching the one Rose was in. A bystander from a nearby home captured video of a portion of the stop and the shooting.
As Rosfeld took the driver of the car into custody, the passenger doors can be seen opening and Rose and the other teen running from the car. The officer then fires three shots.
Rosfeld has been on administrative leave since the shooting.
Two guns were found in the car and an empty gun magazine was found in Rose’s pocket, but investigators said Rose did not have a weapon when he was shot.
According to the complaint, the driver of the car, who was operating as an illegal cabbie, said he heard shots from the back of his car. He said Rose was sitting in the front and did not fire any shots during the earlier shooting.
The charge against him comes a day after authorities arrested the second teen seen running from the car the night of the shooting. Authorities say they expect to charge that teen, whose name had not been released as of Wednesday morning, in connection with the drive-by shooting.
Rosfeld, of suburban Penn Hills, had worked at several other police departments, including the force at the University of Pittsburgh, during the last seven years.