McKeesport woman facing homicide charges after she allegedly ran down an elderly man with her car

By Terri Hill | March 27, 2019

Police have added an additional charge of homicide to the charges already filed against a McKeesport woman for allegedly running down an elderly man with her car in July.

Police alleged in court documents that on July 26 Jakiia Williams, 33, was attempting to strike someone with her Chevy Impala that she just had an argument with outside the Harrison Village housing complex.

At the time he was struck the man was walking on a sidewalk.

Instead of striking that person, Williams admitted to police that she struck a 72-year-old man, according to a criminal complaint.

County police announced Wednesday that the man, identified as Leslie Robertson, died on March 15.

An autopsy attributed his death to injuries he sustained as a result of being struck by the car.

Williams faces an April 5 preliminary hearing on the homicide charge. Her trial on the original charges that was scheduled for June 10 has been postponed.

Terri Hill can be contacted at terri.hill@grantstreetnews.com

Mother faces child endangerment charges after her 3-year-old daughter is found standing in freezing rain

By Amanda Klein | March 26, 2019

A Pittsburgh woman has been arrested after police say her three-year-old daughter was found standing outside in the freezing rain last week.

Terrelle Cha Mickel, 23, is facing two counts of endangering the welfare of children, according to online court records

A criminal complaint said police found her three children ages 1, 3 and 6 living in filthy conditions in Mickel’s Homewood home.

A woman who was driving by Mickel’s home on Hamilton Avenue spotted the toddler standing outside the home on the sidewalk and called police, the complaint alleged.

Mickel told police that she was in the bathroom when the three-year-old opened the door and went outside.

The temperature at the time was 35 degrees.

The woman walked the girl inside the home and found a one-year-old infant alone on a couch. The baby was wearing a soiled diaper that had not been changed in hours, according to police.

Police said when they arrived, they found “feces, dirt and filth on almost everything,” the complaint said. Very little food was found in the house.

All three children were placed in protective custody,

Mickel faces a preliminary hearing sometime in April.

Amanda Klein can be contacted at amanda.klein@grantstreetnews.com

Jurors have begun deciding the fate of Michael Rosfeld

By Steve Pope and Amanda Klein | March 22, 2019

Update, 9:10 p.m., Michael Rosfeld was found not guilty in the death of Antwon Rose.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m. jurors began deliberating the fate of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, who is on trial for the June 19 shooting death of Antwon Rose as he fled from a car that police say was involved in a drive-by shooting minutes before that injured two men.

Earlier today Common Pleas Judge Alexander Bicket dismissed a white female juror who was a former librarian and whose father worked in law enforcement for 25 years.  An alternate was selected to replace her. No reason has been provided for the switch.

Judge Bicket also lifted the gag order that has been in place since September.

While addressing reporters today Thomassey said, “Why didn’t they just stay in the car.” He added that “reasonable people stay in the car when they are stopped by police.

“Ask yourself this,” he said. “If Hester had been a better shot and these two guys are dead, that they did the drive-by with, and Mike Rosfeld does what happened on June 19, would they have charged him? He just shot a person who was involved in killing two people right up the road. I don’t think we’d be here. That’s just me.”

Thomassey justified Rosfeld’s actions in firing his pistol at the two men by saying, “If a person commits a violent felony and you have reason to believe the person is armed and running away, the law says you can shoot him,” he said. “He doesn’t have to point the gun at you or threaten you, because your duty as a police officer is to stop him from getting into the community and committing another felony.”

Testimony concluded with police use of force expert Clifford Jobe, who is also a retired Pennsylvania state trooper telling the jury, “I don’t know that he did anything wrong at all sir, he was following his training.”

Closing arguments started at about 1:30 p.m.  Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Fodi, a graduate of Wake Forrest University Law School, labeled Rose and Hester’s decision to run from the Chevy Cruze seconds after they were stopped by Rosfeld as “foolish.” Fodi added “Sometimes a teenager runs.  Is it foolish? Yes. Does it deserve death? No.”

Fodi told jurors that Rosfeld made inconsistent statements as to why he fired the three shots that killed Rose.

Rosfeld was overheard by Patrick Shattuck, who testified he heard Rosfeld say shortly after the shooting, “Why did he do that, why did he take that out of his pocket?” Fodi then reminded jurors that Rosfeld told police and testified that he saw one of the men raise his arm and point what he thought was a handgun at him.  “You can’t have it both ways,” he said.

Fodi argued that Rosfeld had other options other than firing his pistol, “Use your legs, use your backup that is right there.  Do something besides take a life.”

Thomassey argued during his 35-minute closing argument that only Rosfeld was close enough to see what one of the two men did that caused him to fear for his life. He was able to establish that several witnesses who claimed they never saw either of the two men raise their hands were hundreds of yards away, or in the case of John Leach, was actually looking through a bush and didn’t have an unobstructed view.

He also emphasized to the jury that Rosfeld was only eight yards away from Rose when he fired.  He then abruptly lifted one the guns that were admitted into evidence, pointed it at a wall and said, “About that far. About eight yards.  Who had a better view.

Under the law, he doesn’t have to see a gun,” Thomassey said. “He thought he did, maybe he did, I don’t know.”

He also faulted Rose and Hester for running from the car. “If Rose and Hester did nothing wrong, why did they run?” You and I wouldn’t do that.” He then said, “They knew what they did, and they wanted to get away.”

Judge Bicket instructed the jury that they had several options to consider in deciding Rosfeld’s fate: first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney called Fodi’s argument “awesome” when she addressed reporters after the jury began deliberating.

“I miss my son, and he’s not here.  Antwon wasn’t afforded the opportunity of a trial, even to defend himself. All of those rights were taken away from him by one person, and it wasn’t the jury in this court – it was an individual, she said referring to Rosfeld.

Steve Pope can be contacted at steve.pope@grantstreetnews.com and Amanda Klein can be contacted at amanda.klein@grantstreetnews.com

 

 

 

Mike Rosfeld testified that he thought that he saw a handgun as the two men fled from the car used in a drive-by shooting

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.20190321_123820

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 steve.pope@grantstreetnews.com

 

 

Prosecution Witness: Michael Rosfeld was concerned with Antwon Rose’s condition minutes after the shooting, asking ‘How’s he doing?’

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.

Jury hears from six witnesses in the first day of the Michael Rosfeld trial

By Steve Pope | March 19, 2019

The homicide trial of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld accused of shooting 17-year-old Antwon Rose in the back is underway in Common Pleas Court.

Attorneys in the case took close to an hour Tuesday morning in making their opening statements to the six male and six female jurors, who were selected last week from Dauphin County.

Allegheny County Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Dan Fitzsimmons provided the jury with a timeline of the events that took place on June 19. 

Fitzsimmons urged the jurors to focus on what “Michael Rosfeld knew when he pulled the trigger.”

Before the trial, prosecutors attempted to limit the testimony and evidence in the case to the actual shooting. Their attempts to keep the jury from hearing about a drive-by shooting that occurred minutes before Rose was shot during a felony traffic stop were not successful. Common Pleas Judge Alexander P. Bicket ruled Friday that the defense could introduce evidence of Rose’s alleged involvement in the earlier shooting which injured two people.

“In the end what really, really matters is what Michael Rosfeld knew, what he believed and what he thought when he pulled the trigger,” Fitzsimmons said.

Rosfeld’s attorney Patrick Thomassey asked jurors how they would want police officers or sheriff’s deputies patrolling the courthouse to react if someone opened fire in the courtroom.

He told jurors that police officers protect us. “That’s what police officers do every single day.”  He said that 144 police officers were killed last year. Five days before before the shooting two police officers were shot in North Braddock.

“The one thing that I was hoping Mr. Fitzsimmons would tell us this morning is what Mike Rosfeld did wrong.” This was met by several gasps from the spectators who were cautioned by a sheriff’s deputy to remain quiet in the courtroom.

Thomassey argued that Rosfeld acted appropriately and in accordance with how police officers are trained to use deadly force if they perceive a threat.

He explained to the jurors that East Pittsburgh and North Braddock are crime-ridden and dangerous areas. “This is the area that Mike Rosfeld had to patrol every day,” Thomassey said.

The first witness to be called was Forensic pathologist Abdulrezak Al-Shakir, who is employed by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office. He testified that Rose was shot three times. The lethal bullet entered his back between the 11th and 12th ribs. It penetrated his left lung, his aorta and lodged in his heart.

Dr. Al-Shaki testified that Rose suffered significant blood loss and his injuries were not survivable. He died a short time after being shot despite first responders performing CPR on him.

He told jurors that hydrocodone was found in Rose’s urine, but there was none found in his blood. He added that his urine could not be tested for cocaine because the sample was not large enough.

The next witness was North Braddock police Sgt. Brian Hodges, who testified that at 8:27 p.m. he received a call for shots fired near the intersection of Baldridge and Jones Avenues.

He arrived on the scene within 90 seconds. He saw Thomas Cole holding his stomach and observed blood on his shirt. Cole refused to provide his name or give any details about what happened. A nearby resident gave Hodges a description of the car that was involved in the shooting and said that it fled the scene on Jones Avenue.

Exhibit 200
Police photo of the crime scene of the earlier drive-by shooting in which at least one witness has named Antwon Rose as the gunman.

About 10 minutes later Hodges heard over the radio that the car suspected in the shooting was stopped by an East Pittsburgh police officer. He explained that the location of the stop was less than a mile from the shooting scene. Thirty seconds later he heard “shots fired” and proceeded to the location of the traffic stop. When he arrived, he observed that someone was giving Rose CPR.

A week prior to the shooting, in an area close to the location of the drive-by shooting,  Hodges was shot in the chest, but the bullet was stopped by his protective vest. Rosfeld responded to that shooting and assisted him.

Detective Thomas Foley of the Allegheny County Police was the first witness to testify after the lunch break. He explained to jurors how he processed the scene of the drive-by shooting.

Nine .40 caliber shell casings and four .45 shell casings were found at the scene. According to court documents, two handguns were recovered from the car used in the drive-by shooting. One was recovered under the front passenger seat where Rose was sitting and the other was found under the rear seat where Zaijun Hester was seated. One of the guns was a .40 caliber which was stolen from Rose’s employer about five hours before the drive-by shooting.

Video from two surveillance cameras captured the shooting. The video shows the car, a gold Cruze, pull to the intersection of Baldridge and Jones Avenues. The back window comes down and Hester is seen firing a handgun. Foley testified that a pedestrian who was at the scene of the shooting fired at the car, shattering the rear window.

After an afternoon break, the prosecution called Debra Jones who testified that she witnessed the shooting. Under questioning by Fitzsimmons, Jones told the jury that she saw Rosfeld initiate the traffic stop while she was sitting on her porch. “As soon as they got out of the car they ran and Rosfeld fired his pistol.

Jones claimed that she was watching Rosfeld at the time.  She testified that Rosfeld did not have his emergency lights on at the time and added that she did not hear the sound of a siren.

She said that Rosfeld got out of his patrol vehicle and immediately pulled his weapon, pointing it at the Cruze. She testified that Rosfeld ordered the driver out and then ordered the passengers out of the car.

“I seen a pair of long legs get out and I said, ‘Please, God, don’t run,’” she said. “Then they ran.”

“All of a sudden, he drew his gun. I fell down to the ground.” She then heard three shots which she described as “boom, boom, boom.”

However, under questioning by Thomassey Jones was argumentative.  Thomassey asked Jones if the two men raised or made any type of movement with their hands. She responded “No.” Thomassey then confronted her with a statement she gave to police in which she said both men had their hand in the air as they ran from the car.

The report also alleged that Jones was under the influence at the time she spoke with the police, which was several hours after the shooting. Jones admitted to having “a few drinks” of whiskey at her neighbors a short time after the shooting.

The last witness of the day was Lashaun Livingston, the East Pittsburgh resident who used her iPhone to record the video of Rose’s shooting  that she later posted on Facebook.

She said that Rosfeld had his gun pointed at the vehicle and was standing behind his door. She testified that Rosfeld spoke “in an angry tone.”

“I saw his weapon pointed at the car and the next thing I knew the gun went off.”

Livingston said that she suffered a panic attack right after the shooting so she was unable to record more than about 24 seconds of video. She said her mom can be heard in the background screaming. She added that a second officer arrived as “the last shot was fired.

On cross examination she replied “I am not sure” to the first seven questions asked by Thomassey. She also admitted that her apartment was 180 feet away from the scene of the shooting.

Testimony will continue Wednesday morning starting at 9 a.m.

Steve Pope can be contacted at steve.pope@grantstreetnews.com

 

 

Man arrested after throwing a stolen gun out of a car window during police chase

By Terri Hill  | March 18, 2019

Police say a North Versailles man threw a stolen gun out a truck while he was being chased by police Saturday night.

Duquesne police attempted to stop the truck that the unidentified man was a passenger in. The driver failed to stop and led police on a short chase.

Police said they suspected the driver of the truck was impaired.

During the chase, the male passenger threw a 9mm MasterPiece Arms pistol onto the sidewalk along Richford Street.

According to police, the gun was stolen out of Wilkinsburg.

The chase ended on Catherine Street when the driver fled from the vehicle and the male passenger was arrested at the scene.

Police continue to search for the driver.

Terri Hill can be contacted at terri.hill@grantstreetnews.com