Hundreds of protesters brought traffic on the streets of Pittsburgh to a standstill Thursday in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Antwon Rose, Jr, an unarmed black teenager. The demonstrators demanded accountability for Michael Rosfeld, the East Pittsburgh police officer who was sworn in to the department mere hours before the fatal shooting.
The death of Rose, who was 17 years old, was somewhat muffled by the media's focus on the Trump administration's barbaric immigration policies and the nation's concern over immigrant children being separated from their parents and detained in holding facilities, sometimes in cages.
Make no mistake, these instances are connected. The killing of Rose, who was unarmed and running away when he was shot three times by a police officer, is another iteration of state violence against black and brown bodies. Like the undocumented children of color who are being ripped apart from their families by the government, this black child was yanked from his family, too, his life cut short by the police — an institutional force empowered and protected by the government.
Rose's death, like Mike Brown and Tamir Rice before him, demonstrates the ongoing calamity of police violence and the dangers that black Americans face in interactions with law enforcement officials — regardless of if they are unarmed, and whether or not they are young in age. Their deaths stand in stark contrast to the Dylann Roofs of our country, who fired 70 rounds into a church and killed nine unarmed black people, yet still managed to be apprehended alive by police.
Rose was a rising senior and honor student at the Woodlands High School. He was shot three times Tuesday night as he attempted to flee a vehicle he was riding in that had been pulled over by police, authorities said. The officials added that the vehicle had matched the description of a car that was seen fleeing a shooting earlier that night.
"The officer stopped the vehicle near Grandview and Howard Street in East Pittsburgh," Allegheny County Police Department said in a statement on Facebook. "The officer took the driver into custody. While he was putting the driver into handcuffs, two other occupants ran from the car. One individual – a 17-year-old male – was shot by police. He was transported to McKeesport Hospital where he was declared deceased."
A bystander recorded a video of the fatal shooting and posted it to Facebook. It shows Rose and another male running from police vehicles, and after multiple shots, Rose appears to fall to the ground.
"Why are they shooting?" the woman recording the video says. "All they did was run and they’re shooting at them!"
Authorities said Thursday that Rose was hit three times, although they did not say where, according to the New York Times.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough confirmed that Rose was unarmed, but two handguns were found in the vehicle. The driver, who was arrested by authorities, was not charged. An investigation remains ongoing.
After being hired in mid-May, Rosfeld was only formally sworn in to the East Pittsburgh Police Department hours before the shooting, according to NBC. Rosfeld was not in possession of a body camera, and McDonough told NBC that the police department does not have that technology.
S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing Antwon’s family, said in a statement on Wednesday night:
We know very little about the circumstances surrounding his death at this early stage. We must emphasize that rumors of him being involved in a separate shooting are unsubstantiated. We know that he was not armed at the time he was shot down, that he posed no immediate threat to anyone, and that, significantly, the driver of the vehicle he occupied was released from police custody.
Beginning Wednesday evening, people gathered outside the East Pittsburgh Police Department carrying signs that read "#BlackLivesMatter" and "Justice4Antwon," while chanting, "No justice, no peace!" By Thursday, the dozens of protesters multiplied to hundreds and people rallied outside the Allegheny County Courthouse. That evening, hundreds of protestors occupied Interstate 376, blocking traffic in both directions.
By 1 a.m. Friday morning, police ordered protesters to disperse or be arrested, and at least one woman was taken in to custody, according to CBS Pittsburgh.
"I’m thinking that the cops should be held accountable," Antwon's aunt, who attended the protest, told the CBS affiliate. "I’m thinking that Antwon should be here. I’m thinking we should not be having this rally, because he should be here. He should not have been killed."
A childhood friend of Rose, who is 18 years old and also African-American, told the Times that he would have acted just as Rose did in a police encounter.
"If I was in Antwon’s shoes," he said, "I would have ran . . . It’s out of fear."