Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old black Woodland Hills student, was shot by a white East Pittsburgh police officer, Michael Rosfeld, on the evening of June 26. Since then, coverage of ensuing protests has been extensive — as has speculation surrounding the two parties involved.
What is known to be true is that the unarmed Rose was killed while fleeing the silver Chevrolet Cruze he was in, which police had pulled over as part of a traffic stop. The officers stopped the car because it matched the description of a car involved in an earlier shooting in North Braddock earlier that night.
Despite the ongoing investigation of Rose’s death, misinformation has run wild and much of the focus is on the individuals in the situation instead of their actions. Instead of letting the investigation of Rose’s death run its course, the media has been quick to put out unverified reports about the incident.
Local media is at fault for publishing unverified information surrounding the case and not realizing that readers may then take information out of context. KDKA, WXPI and other outlets reported Friday afternoon that police were reportedly reviewing video of Rose firing a weapon in the drive-by shooting minutes before his death — relying on the words of unidentified sources instead of the police themselves.
Officials with the Allegheny County Police Department refuted this information hours after it was published, but the public wouldn’t let the story go. The false report of the video caused speculation to run wild on social media — as did potential misinformation surrounding the officer.
Before official sources confirmed any information regarding Rosfeld’s employment at Pitt, people were speculating he had a troubled record in law enforcement, leading local journalists to incorrectly report who may have been affected by Rosfeld’s actions in the past. The urgency with which news outlets rushed to break stories surrounding Rosfeld is a product of two problems — news outlets competing with each other and the public demanding information faster than it actually exists.
The problem even struck protesters during demonstrations, when march leaders mistook reports Rosfeld left his Pitt position as news that he was fired from his East Pittsburgh position. Rosfeld is on leave from the East Pittsburgh police force.
Pittsburgh touts itself as a progressive city, but this tragic event leaves its residents asking what exactly progressive means — and how far will the City go to prove it?
Mayor Bill Peduto announced Monday that he supports bringing charges against Rosfeld and conducting the investigation in front of a jury and in the public eye — meaning it could come down to jurors to decide just how progressive Pittsburgh is and how far it will go to gain justice for Rose.
But above all else it is imperative that everyone — media, public and officials — be patient out of respect for Rose’s memory and his family. If we rush to conclusions just to get the hottest scoop or make the loudest point in a protest, we risk spreading information that could threaten any chance of justice.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial said march leaders heard reports Rosfeld was fired from his position at Pitt. Rosfeld left his position under unclear circumstances, and Pitt authorities have not confirmed whether Rosfeld was fired or resigned. This post has also been updated to clarify Rosfeld’s employment status.