By Steve Pope | March 20, 2019
Day two of the trial of Michael Rosfeld, the former East Pittsburgh police officer accused in the June 19 shooting-death of Antwon Rose is finished.
Before the first witness was called this morning Rosfeld’s attorney Patrick Thomassey requested that the gag order in the case be lifted because of a statement made by the attorney representing Rose’s family in a civil suit against Rosfeld and the East Pittsburgh Police Department.
Thomassey was referring to a short news conference that the attorney held after the conclusion of Tuesday’s court proceedings. Thomassey told Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket that he objected to several statements that the attorney made regarding the character of some of the persons involved in the case.
“It was wrong, it was intentional and it shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Bicket declined to lift the order, but cautioned people involved in the case to “use discretion in talking with the media.”
Peyton Deri, a college student told jurors that he was driving home from class and had to take a detour through East Pittsburgh. As he was watching the traffic stop he started to record the incident on his cell phone. Warning the video contains expletives.
He testified that he observed Rosfeld “standing behind the driver’s side door of his police car with his emergency lights activated.
Deri was unable to recall if he observed both passengers run from the car, but clearly saw Rose running away. Deri can be heard on the video uttering several expletives right after three gunshots were fired.
During cross-examination Thomassey focused on how far away Deri was when he observed the incident. Thomassey was able to establish that Deri was 600 feet away from the traffic stop. Deri also said that he did not see any of the occupants’ hands.
Fitzsimmons then called John Leach, who claimed he witnessed the traffic stop while sitting on his porch near the scene of the shooting. He too told jurors that Rosfeld was pointing his gun at the car and then heard three shots.
Despite Leach saying that he could not see both of Rose’s hands, he later testified that he saw Rose make a motion with one of his hands. “I saw his hand up close to his face.”
He claimed that Rosfeld said, “I don’t know why I shot him” while he was leaning against a building. He added that Rosfeld who looked like he “was about to pass out” was assisted into the back seat of a nearby police car. This testimony directly conflicts with a police officer that testified later in the day that he walked Rosfeld over to and placed him in the front of his patrol car.
Under cross-examination Leach admitted that he didn’t actually see the driver of the car on the ground, but learned it from an officer. Thomassey snapped back saying “I want to hear what you saw, not what you were told.”
Thomassey also established that Leach was not near the scene of the incident, but was 108 feet away.
Jurors also heard an 11:42 police audio of both the drive-by as well as Rosfeld’s traffic stop. Rosfeld can be heard telling a 911 dispatcher at 7:32 “County 2635 felony stop Grandview and Howard.” Within a few seconds, multiple officers notify the dispatcher they are enroute to assist Rosfeld.
At 8:06 East Pittsburgh police officer Brian Neff, who was sworn in on the same day as Rosfeld, informs the dispatcher that he “is getting out” with Rosfeld. Sixteen seconds later Rosfeld is heard on the radio saying “Shots fired by police.”
East Pittsburgh Mayor Louis Payne began his testimony by telling the jury that Rosfeld was sworn in less than two hours before the shooting. Payne added that Rosfeld had been working for the department about a week before being sworn in.
He told jurors that he had just left a city council meeting and was standing outside the Community Building when he witnessed the first part of Rosfeld’s traffic stop. Payne recounted that he noticed that the rear window was shattered and there were three bullet holes in the passenger side of the car.
He watched Rosfeld order the driver to turn the ignition off. Rosfeld had to repeat the instructions three times, Payne said.
Rosfeld then instructed the driver to throw the keys out of the window. He said Rosfeld was moving around and had his handgun pointed in the direction of the car, but not directly at the car.
As the driver exited the car Rosfeld ordered him to the ground. Rosfeld then handcuffed the man. At that point Payne went back inside the building thinking that the traffic stop was under control. Seconds later he heard three gunshots in rapid succession.
Several minutes later Payne said he saw “a gentleman lying on the ground in a grassy area to the left of the building with several officers near the injured man, who turned out to be Rose. Payne added that he saw some blood, and it looked like several of the officers were touching Rose, but he could not tell what they were doing.
According to a Feb. 5, 2019 police report, he heard Rosfeld say “Why did he do that? Why did he do that?” However, Payne testified that he didn’t recall Rosfeld saying “Why didn’t he listen?”
Under cross-examination Payne said he didn’t recall hearing Rosfeld say, “Why did he take that out of his pocket?” Payne did recall saying “Michael Rosfeld got paid $13 an hour to get shot at.” The area that Rosfeld patrolled is considered to be crime-ridden. Two police officers were shot the week before near the location where Rosfeld shot Rose.
Three police officers told the jury about how they responded to Rosfeld’s call for help.
The first witness was Officer Neff, who testified that at the time he heard the call he was still at the East Pittsburgh police station. He was the first officer to arrive on the scene and said, “In the distance, I did witness Officer Rosfeld’s vehicle stopped behind another vehicle.”
He did not see the two men flee from the car, but said he heard gunshots saying that initially, he thought he heard five or six, while he was still inside his car. As soon as he got out of his car he drew his handgun and asked Rosfeld “Where did they go?” Rosfeld responded, “Over there.”
Neff said he searched the area, including a nearby tunnel but could not locate either man. As he returned to where Rosfeld was standing he saw Rose lying on his back. Neff said Rose “Was trying to catch his breath,” but he never spoke.
Scott Lowden, a 23-year veteran of the East McKeesport Police Department, who is also an EMT testified that when he arrived on the scene he immediately went to Rose and saw that he was lying on his stomach with his hands behind his back.
Lowden said that he immediately removed the handcuffs and determined that Rose had no pulse and was barely breathing. He said he immediately gave Rose CPR.
Charles Rozzo an Allegheny County Housing Authority police officer told jurors that when he arrived on the scene Rosfeld was upset and crying. He took Rosfeld to his police car and placed him in the front seat, which conflicts with Leach’s earlier testimony saying that Rosfeld was placed in the back of a police car.
Under cross-examination he said that Rosfeld asked about Rose’s condition several times saying, “How’s he doing?” Rosfeld also said “Did you see the gun?”
The final witness called today by the prosecution was Daniel Wolfe a forensic scientist with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Officer, who testified that just because gunshot residue was found on Rose’s hands it doesn’t conclusively prove that Rose actually fired the weapon. Wolfe said that Rose could have been in close proximity to the weapon when it was fired, touched the weapon after it was fired, or actually fired the weapon.
When asked if Rose fired a gun, Wolfe responded, “Not necessarily, no.”
A Glock 9mm pistol was found under the front passenger seat where Rose was seated during a drive-by shooting that occurred approximately 10 minutes before Rose was shot as he fled from the car during a traffic stop.
Testimony resumes Thursday morning at 9 a.m.