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Jury clears Pennsylvania police officer of murder in Antwon Rose shooting

Reuters logo Reuters 3/23/2019

Former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, charged with homicide in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II, arrives at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, charged with homicide in the shooting death of Antwon Rose II, arrives at the Dauphin County Courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) A Pittsburgh jury on Friday unanimously found that a white police officer did not commit murder when he fatally shot black teenager Antwon Rose, an incident that sparked protests and fueled the debate about racial bias in the U.S. criminal justice system.

East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld, 30, shot Rose, 17, as he fled from a car along with an 18-year-old associate who has since pleaded guilty to carrying out a drive-by shooting from the vehicle.

"I don't have any doubt in my mind that this was the proper verdict, I give this jury a lot of credit," Patrick Thomassey, Rosfeld's lawyer, told reporters outside the courtroom.

The shooting was one of a series of high-profile U.S. police killings of unarmed black teens and men.

A group of around 100 Rose family supporters chanted for "justice" outside the courtroom following the verdict, their fists raised in the air.

"Antwon Rose was shot in the back, he was unarmed. He did not pose a threat to the officers or the community, the verdict today says that that is ok," said the Rose family's attorney Lee Merritt. "On behalf of the Rose family, on behalf of the African-American community and lovers of justice, we say that it is not ok."

Lawyers for Rosfeld, of Verona, Pennsylvania, had argued that he acted in self-defense because he believed Rose was carrying a weapon.

Thomassey portrayed Rosfeld as a shield between good citizens and rampant crime in that part of Allegheny County.

"All he did is what a trained officer is supposed to do," Thomassey told the jury. "He was protecting you and everyone in this room. That is what he's supposed to do."

The jury of nine white people and three black people deliberated for less than four hours before they came to their decision. They had been picked in Dauphin County, 200 miles (322 km) to the east, and were sequestered during the trial.

Police in Pittsburgh were braced for street protests over the verdict. Officers were assigned to work 12-hour shifts on Saturday in case of trouble, although Rose's family publicly pleaded for a peaceful response.

The shooting occurred on the night of June 19 in suburban East Pittsburgh, about 11 miles (18 km) from the downtown courthouse where the trial took place before Judge Alexander Bicket.

(Reporting by David DeKok, additional reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Scott Malone and Rosalba O'Brien) 

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