PITTSBURGH (AP) — Prosecutors will call more witnesses to the stand Thursday in the trial of a white former police officer charged with homicide for fatally shooting an unarmed black teenager.
Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld’s trial continues into a third day in a Pittsburgh courtroom.
The first two days of testimony included compelling statements from witnesses and neighbors, one of whom said he heard Rosfeld panicking, repeatedly saying “I don’t know why I shot him. I don’t know why I fired.”
John Leach, who lives close to the site of the shooting, said Wednesday he was on his front porch when Rosfeld fired three bullets into 17-year-old Antwon Rose II after pulling over an unlicensed taxicab suspected to have been used in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier. Rose was a front-seat passenger in the cab and was shot as he fled.
Leach said he saw other officers consoling Rosfeld as he was bent over hyperventilating.
Rosfeld’s attorney said the officer was justified in the shooting and did nothing wrong.
“You think Michael Rosfeld got up on the 19th of June and thought he was going to shoot someone? Of course not,” he said.
Police have said Rosfeld changed his story about whether he saw or believed a gun was in Rose’s hands. Authorities said two guns were found in the car, one with Rose’s DNA on it, but it doesn’t appear to have been fired. An empty magazine was found in Rose’s pocket.
Witness Patrick Shattuck said Wednesday he was standing outside a senior center when Rosfeld pulled over the unlicensed cab in front of the building. About five minutes after the shooting, Shattuck said Rosfeld entered the building and said, “Why did he do that? Why did he do that? Why did he take that out of his pocket?”
East Pittsburgh Mayor Louis J. Payne, who was also there, said he, too, heard Rosfeld say, “Why did he do that?” but said he didn’t hear the comment about the pocket.
Allegheny County Housing Authority officer Charles Rozzo, who responded to the shooting, testified that a distraught Rosfeld asked him if he “saw the gun.” It’s unclear what Rosfeld was referring to.
The video of the shooting, recorded by a neighbor, was posted online, triggering protests in the Pittsburgh area last year.
A jury of six men and six women was selected and will be sequestered in a hotel for the duration of the trial, expected to take a week or more.
Additional video, where you can see another police car approaching and the sound of gunshots, was shown in court, taken by a college student who was in his car at a stop sign nearby.
Rose’s mother sent a letter to prosecutors urging them to counter the defense’s portrayal of her son as “just another thug.” She describes how he taught other children in the neighborhood how to Rollerblade and skateboard.
Rose had been riding in the front seat of the unlicensed taxi when Hester, in the backseat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street.
Hester, 18, of Swissvale, pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated assault and firearms violations for the shooting, which wounded a man in the abdomen. Hester told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting.