By Steve Pope | March 21, 2019
At 11:45 a.m. the prosecution concluded their case against Michael Rosfeld, the former East Pittsburgh police officer who is accused of the shooting-death of Antwon Rose last June, as he ran from a car that was used in a drive-by shooting minutes before.
At approximately 1:40 p.m. Michael Rosfeld took the stand and for a little over an hour took jurors on a minute-by-minute timeline of his involvement in the deadly shooting.
Rosfeld, who was emotional and wiping his eyes at times said that he believed that one of the two men who ran from the car used in a drive-by shooting minutes before pointed a gun at him.
The seven-year police veteran who graduated from Penn State with a Criminal Justice degree in 2010 said he believed that all three men in the car were “armed and dangerous felons” who had just been involved in a drive-by shooting that injured two men.
Early into his questioning Thomassey asked him “Why did you fire?” “Because I thought one of the suspects was pointing a gun at me,” Rosfeld replied.
Rosfeld told jurors that he was unsure which man made the threatening gesture, but he was sure that one of the men pointed a gun at him.
He testified that he believed the two men were just involved in a violent shooting and that all three could have been armed. “They were ducking down, hiding themselves in the car,” he told jurors.
When asked by Thomassey why he fired three times, Rosfeld replied “Until they were no longer a threat.”
During cross-examination Rosfeld left the witness stand and demonstrated how he perceived one of the men pointed a gun at him. He raised his right arm straight up to his shoulder and pointed straight ahead.
During his testimony Rosfeld referred to Rose and the other two men in the car as “dangerous felony suspects” and said he believed they presented a danger to the community.
Thomassey asked him why didn’t just simply let the two men run away and Rosfeld answered, “They were dangerous felony suspects who just committed a violent crime.” He also reiterated that one of the men had just pointed a gun at him.
Just before lunch the prosecution wrapped up their case by calling several scientists from the medical examiner’s office.
The first to testify was Raymond Everett, a firearms expert who testified that the three shots that struck Rose was fired from Rosfeld’s 9mm handgun.
Everett also told jurors that the magazine found on Rose, after he was taken to the hospital, could fit in the 9mm handgun found hidden under the front passenger seat, where Rose was seated during the earlier drive-by shooting.
The magazine found with the handgun underneath the seat had an extended, or high capacity magazine that have been commonly used in illegal shootings. While the magazine found on Rose was empty, there were 16 found in the extended magazine, which held 20 if fully loaded.
Next to testify was Jason Clark, a fingerprint analyst with the Allegheny County crime lab, who testified that Rose’s fingerprints were found on the exterior of the front passenger door of the Chevy Cruze, which was used in the drive-by.
Under a brief cross-examination Clark said that it was possible for Rose to have been in the car, but did not leave any of his fingerprints. Zaijuan Hester pleaded guilty last week to being the gunman in the shooting. However, according to a police report, one of the two men who was injured in the shooting named Rose as the shooter.
The prosecution’s last witness was James Holman, a detective with the Allegheny County Police Department. He told jurors that it took Rosfeld one second to fire all three shots. He also said that the first shot was fired 1.9 seconds after the sound of screeching tires was heard. The sound was extracted from a Facebook video shot by a witness to the incident.
Rosfeld’s attorney attempted to call the driver to the car used in the drive-by shooting, Trevon Robinson, but was not permitted to do so, according to a ruling by Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket, because Robinson through his attorney indicated he would assert his fifth amendment right to remain silent.
Bicket said he will make a decision later in the trial whether or not to grant a defense request to grant Robinson immunity that would then permit him to testify.
A retired Pennsylvania state trooper who is an expert on the police use of force ended today’s proceedings.
Clifford Jobe, Jr. told jurors that Rosfeld’s shooting of Rose was proper. “I can’t fault Officer Rosfeld for anything he did wrong,” he said.
While Jobe admitted under cross examination that he never spoke to Rosfeld, he based his conclusion after examining over 1,000 pages of reports turned over by the prosecution, as well as several videos and court testimony.
Jobe added his opinions are based on that Rosfeld believed he saw a gun in the hand of one of the men and he felt threatened.
He also said he has never testified against a police officer in a use of force case. His cross-examination will conclude tomorrow.
Steve Pope can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org