The defense rested its case Friday in the homicide trial of a white police officer charged with shooting and killing an unarmed black teenager near Pittsburgh, signaling the jury will soon get the case.
Former East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld is charged with gunning down 17-year-old Antwon Rose II last summer. Video showed Rosfeld shooting Rose in the back, arm and side of the face as he fled. The former officer told a jury he thought Rose or another suspect had pointed a gun at him.
The jury will hear closing arguments Friday afternoon and then begin deliberating.
A defense expert, retired Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Clifford W. Jobe Jr., testified Rosfeld followed proper procedure when he shot and killed Rose.
“I can’t fault Officer Rosfeld,” Jobe told jurors on Thursday, calling the officer’s actions “textbook.”
As Jobe returned to the stand Friday for cross-examination, the judge lifted a gag order he imposed on parties in the case at the request of the defense. Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said while he and prosecutors have abided by the judge’s order, the attorney for Rose’s family has not. On Wednesday, S. Lee Merritt released a letter to the media that Rose’s mother wrote to prosecutors urging them to show what a “kind, loving and funny” person her son was.
Rosfeld, 30, fired three bullets into Rose after pulling over an unlicensed taxi that had been used in a drive-by shooting. Prosecutors charged Rosfeld with an open count of homicide, meaning the jury can convict him of murder or manslaughter.
Rosfeld testified Thursday he thought Rose or another passenger in the car had pointed a weapon at him, and he fired in self-defense. But it turned out that neither teen had a gun at the time.
“It happened very quickly,” Rosfeld said. “My intent was to end the threat that was made against me.”
Prosecutors say Rosfeld gave inconsistent statements about the shooting, including whether he thought Rose had a gun.
A prosecution witness has said that after the shooting, he heard Rosfeld say repeatedly, “I don’t know why I shot him. I don’t know why I fired.” Another prosecution witness said he heard the officer ask, “Why did he do that? Why did he take that out of his pocket?”
Rose had been riding in the front seat of the cab when another occupant, Zaijuan Hester, in the backseat, rolled down a window and shot at two men on the street, hitting one in the abdomen. A few minutes later, Rosfeld spotted their car, which had its rear windshield shot out, and pulled it over.
Hester, 18, pleaded guilty last week to aggravated assault and firearms violations. Hester told a judge that he, not Rose, did the shooting.