Deadly police shooting in South Whitehall Township brings protests for victim, support for the officer

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Weeks after the deadly police-involved shooting of 44-yea-old Joseph Santos near Dorney Park in South Whitehall Township, his supporters gathered Sunday at Resurrected Life Church in Allentown to condemn what they saw as murder and racial injustice. Santos, who is Latino, was shot by 33-year-old Officer Jonathan Roselle, who is white.

“Standing on the side of the oppressed means standing with people of color who are dying by police brutality,” said Cecilia Baxter, a pastor at Christ Church in Bethlehem, speaking at today’s vigil. “And whose families have been destroyed by a racist criminal justice system.”

Arlene Figueroa is the mother of Santos’ daughter, and says she wants Roselle convicted in the July 28 incident. The shooting happened near Dorney Park near Allentown. Roselle called for backup responding to a call of a man jumping on cars on Hamilton Boulevard in South Whitehall Township. Santos ignored calls to get on the ground. He was shot five times. A video of the incident has since gone viral. Santos was not armed.

“If it was the other way around, and Joey did this to the officer, what would happen to Joey?” she said.  “Just because you have that badge doesn’t give you the right to do what you did. What you did was wrong.”

At the same time, just a few miles away, supporters of police gathered near the site of the shooting to speak out for the officer. Roselle was charged last Tuesday with voluntary manslaughter. Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin called it an act of an inexperienced officer.

Melissa Schneck stood near the back taking video of the demonstration, and said she’s not sure whether she agrees with the charges against Roselle.

“I’m going to let a judge and jury decide that,” she said. “I’m here to support our police. I think too many people are coming down on our police, and I don’t think it’s right. I think they need to put themselves in that position and there are too many cowards who wouldn’t do it. I won’t do it, but I’m not going to criticize them for doing what they have to do.”

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