Editorial: Rosfeld decision isn’t surprising, still disappointing


Bader Abdulmajeed | Staff Photographer

Following Michael Rosfeld’s acquittal on Friday night, protests continued in Oakland Saturday afternoon.

After less than four hours of deliberation Friday evening, jurors for the trial of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld came to a decision.

They acquitted Rosfeld of all counts connected to the shooting of the unarmed black 17-year-old Antwon Rose II in June 2018. The verdict was preceded by four days of trial that included testimony from 23 witnesses and analysis of the video that showed the 0.944th of a second it took for Rosfeld to shoot three shots into the fleeing Rose’s back. The time it took for the jury to reach a decision compared to the gravity of the crime shows how little we value the lives of young black men in America.

Following the verdict, Rosfeld’s lawyer, Patrick Thomassey, claimed race played no factor in the case.

“This case had nothing to do with race, absolutely nothing to do with race,” he said Friday. “And some people in this city have made it that way and it’s sad. Mike Rosfeld was doing his job. And it had nothing to do with the color of anyone he was arresting.”

Thomassey is wrong — it is about race. This situation in which a white police officer shoots and kills an unarmed black teenager has been repeated over and over again in the United States. In the cases of Rose, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown Jr. and many others, it has everything to do with race.

Rose was unarmed when Rosfeld shot him, and according to a 2015 analysis by The Guardian, unarmed people shot by police are disproportionately minorities. Of all Americans who were shot between January and May 2015, 15 percent were white and unarmed and 31.9 percent were black and unarmed. Unarmed black people were two times as likely to be shot by police. This is in spite of the fact that census data from that year states that only 13 percent of the population was black.

These statistics suggest that many police officers show racial bias in situations like the one Rosfeld found himself in last June. Studies on the matter confirm this idea. A 2014 study found that officers were more likely to shoot black suspects in video game simulations. Some police officers in Miami in 2015 even trained using mug shots of black men as targets.

In spite of the serious racial implications of the Rosfeld case and the fact that justice for the death of a young man and his family rested on their shoulders, jurors didn’t seem to take their time deliberating. The speed of the deliberations and the short duration of the entire trial, as well as the outcome, show a lack of respect for not only Rose, but for young black men across America who are disproportionately targeted by police.

Protests sprang up outside the Allegheny County Courthouse immediately following the verdict and continued Saturday Downtown and in Oakland. Protesters decried the trial and the jury’s decision.

A citywide student walkout is planned for Monday at noon. All university and high school students are encouraged to meet outside the Courthouse Downtown at that time to protest the verdict of the Rosfeld trial.

Just because the trial is over and Rosfeld was acquitted doesn’t mean Pittsburgh will forget Rose or the circumstances that led to his death — and the United States should take note.