PITTSBURGH (AP) — After prosecutors wrapped up their case, the lawyer for a white former police officer charged in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager asked a judge Thursday to issue an acquittal on murder charges.
Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld shot and killed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II after pulling over a car suspected to have been involved in a drive-by shooting. Rose was a passenger in the unlicensed cab and was shot as he fled.
Prosecutors charged Rosfeld with an open count of homicide, meaning the jury has the option of convicting him of first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
Defense lawyer Patrick Thomassey asked the judge to clear Rosfeld of murder, saying prosecutors failed to show he acted with malice as required under the law. Thomassey made his motion after prosecutors rested their case.
“What we have is a police officer doing his duty. There’s not a hardness of heart required for first- or third-degree murder,” Thomassey said. “We have a burst of three shots in one second on a fleeing felon and we’re going to charge him with murder? It’s not fair.”
Prosecutor Daniel Fitzsimmons said the fact that Rosfeld shot a fleeing Rose in the back was evidence of malice.
Even if the judge ruled in the defense’s favor, Rosfeld could still be convicted of manslaughter.
The judge said he would rule later Thursday.
Prosecutors ended their case by calling three expert witnesses to the stand, including a firearms analyst who matched one of the bullets recovered from Rose’s body to Rosfeld’s gun — a formality since it’s not in dispute that Rosfeld fire the fatal shots.
Raymond Everett of the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office also told jurors that two guns with extended magazines were recovered from the car.
Rose had been riding in the front seat of the unlicensed taxi when Zaijuan Hester, in the backseat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street. Rosfeld pulled the car over minutes later.
Hester pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated assault and firearms violations for the shooting, which wounded a man in the abdomen. The 18-year-old told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting.
A neighbor shot video of Rosfeld’s fatal encounter with Rose that was played for the jury. The video was posted online, triggering protests in the Pittsburgh area last year.