A white police officer accused of shooting to death an unarmed black 17-year-old in western Pennsylvania last summer arrived at a Harrisburg courtroom Tuesday as jury selection gets underway.
The jurors will be taken to Allegheny County for the trial next week of Michael Rosfeld, a former East Pittsburgh police officer charged with criminal homicide for the June 19 death of Antwon Rose II.
A judge ruled a jury from outside the Pittsburgh area is needed because of widespread publicity.
The defense lawyer for Rosfeld, 30, of Verona, has said that Rosfeld was in fear and that the shooting was justified.
Rosfeld was charged , investigators said, after his story changed about whether he saw or believed a gun was in Rose’s hands.
“When confronted with this inconsistency, Rosfeld stated he saw something in the passenger’s hand but was not sure what it was,” according to the police affidavit used to charge Rosfeld. “In addition, Officer Rosfeld stated that he was not certain if the individual who had his arm pointed at him was still pointing at him when he fired the shots.”
Video shot from a nearby house captured the shooting.
Rose had been a front-seat passenger in an unlicensed cab that was stopped as part of an investigation into a drive-by shooting. As he ran from the vehicle, Rose was shot in the right side of his face, in his elbow and in his back, through his heart and lung.
A prosecutor said Rose had nothing to do with the drive-by shooting, and had shown his hands when he got out of the unlicensed cab.
A gag order is in place, and Rosfeld’s lawyer did not return messages seeking comment in recent days.
“He’s very, very remorseful. He’s not remorseful because he’s been charged. He legitimately is sad that this happened,” defense attorney Patrick Thomassey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in June. “Mike kept saying, ‘I can’t believe this happened. I can’t believe that kid didn’t have a gun in his hand.'”
Rose was described as a promising student who did charity work. He would have been a high school senior this year.
Officials say two handguns were found inside the car Rose had been riding in. District Attorney Stephen Zappala said an empty gun clip was found in Rose’s pocket.
Rose’s killing prompted days of protest, including a late-night march that shut down a major highway.
Rosfeld had worked for the East Pittsburgh police for just a few weeks, and was officially sworn in just hours before the fatal shooting. He had worked for other departments over seven years.
Rose’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Rosfeld and East Pittsburgh, alleging the use of excessive deadly force and the lack of proper police training.
East Pittsburgh, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Pittsburgh, notified state police in November it was closing down its police department.
The trial is expected to last as long as 10 days.