South Whitehall Township police officer loses job after charges in shooting death

Photos of Joseph Santos and his family members were displayed at a memorial service last month for the 44-year-old who was fatally shot on July 28, 2018 by South Whitehall Township police officer Jonathan Roselle. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

Photos of Joseph Santos and his family members were displayed at a memorial service last month for the 44-year-old who was fatally shot on July 28, 2018 by South Whitehall Township police officer Jonathan Roselle. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

A police officer has lost his job after being charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of a man reported to have been hanging on or jumping on moving cars near an eastern Pennsylvania amusement park.

South Whitehall Township’s manager, Renee Bickel, said officials decided not to keep probationary officer Jonathan Roselle on the force following expiration of his probation period.

Defense attorney Gavin Holihan told The (Allentown) Morning Call that his client was informed of the decision a few days ago and was disappointed. “We think the decision by the district attorney’s office obviously carried a lot of weight,” he said.

The Lehigh County district attorney’s office said Roselle, 33, had an “unreasonable” belief that his safety was endangered when he shot Joseph Santos on July 28.

District Attorney Jim Martin, in announcing the charges last month, said Roselle was directing traffic near Dorney Park when a “frantic” woman stopped and said someone had tried to enter her vehicle. When the officer arrived Santos climbed on the hood of his vehicle and pounded on his windshield and side windows, then walked away but wheeled around and approached, ignoring the officer’s commands to stop and get down on the ground, and the officer fired five times, he said.

Santos, 44, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, had been engaging in “somewhat bizarre” behavior and was walking toward the officer, but wasn’t running or rushing toward him, had no visible weapon and didn’t present any threatening posture, Martin said. The officer had a flexible baton, stun gun and pepper spray, he added.

“In my opinion, this was the act of a relatively inexperienced officer who held a subjective fear for his own safety but made a decision which objectively was unreasonable in light of the facts as they existed and appeared at the time he discharged his weapon and killed Mr. Santos,” Martin said,

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