Chanting “three shots in the back, how do you justify that?” hundreds have taken to the streets of the US city of Pittsburgh for a third night to condemn the police killing of an unarmed black teenager.
Protesters shut down several streets in the Pennsylvania city on Friday, three days after 17-year-old Antwon Rose Jr was killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer who was investigating a shooting nearby, according to local media.
That police officer, identified as Michael H Rosfeld, pulled over a vehicle that was suspected of being involved in the nearby shooting. According to police, Rose, who was unarmed, fled the vehicle and was shot three times by Rosfeld. Police declined to say whether Rose was shot in the back.
Videos circulating on social media of Friday’s protests show groups of demonstrators at different intersections throughout the city.
Protesters briefly marched to the PNC Park baseball field where the Pittsburgh Pirates were playing.
Some chanted “I’m confused and afraid”, referring to a poem that Rose reportedly wrote in 2016.
In the poem, which was circulated on social media, Rose wrote: “I am confused and afraid. I wonder what path I will take. I hear that there’s only two ways out. I see mothers bury their sons. I want my mom to never feel that pain. I am confused and afraid.”
Antwon Rose, the 17-year-old shot and killed by police earlier this week, wrote this poem for a high school English class. pic.twitter.com/vgjovaPrv8
— AJ+ (@ajplus) June 23, 2018
Rosfeld confirmed to local media that he had been sworn into the East Pittsburgh police department the night of the shooting. He said he had been working for the police department for three weeks, however, before the shooting occured.
Governor Tom Wolf called the video showing the shooting of Rose “deeply disturbing”.
“The video of this incident is deeply disturbing,” local media quoted Wolf as saying. “Like in all police-involved shootings, there must be a thorough, swift and transparent review and investigation of his death.”
#AntwonRose’s death is devastating. If you’re blaming his death on him running from police, I suggest you enlarge your understanding of and compassion for why a young, unarmed Black man would fear police, even when he’s done nothing wrong. There are facets and history to this. pic.twitter.com/j3LsPKB1iL
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) June 22, 2018
Police said they also have video of the nearby incident that prompted Rosfeld to pull over the vehicle Rose was in.
“It’s good evidence, and it explains exactly what happened in North Braddock and the 13 minutes – not all 13 minutes – but then there’s 13 minutes that transpires from that point until the time of the [fatal police] shooting,” District Attorney Stephen Zappala told reporters on Friday.
Zappala also confirmed that Rose had an empty 9mm clip in his pocket, but was not armed when Rosfeld shot him.
Protesters are chanting “three shots in the back how do you justify that” as they face off with police at the Homestead Grays Bridge in Homestead #antwonrose video by “jake_mysliwczyk pic.twitter.com/oy0QErbSm1
— Charlie Deitch (@CharlieDee71) June 23, 2018
Coleman McDonough, the Allegheny County police superintendent, said that previous reports of a video showing Rose shooting a gun were false.
“The Allegheny County Police Department (ACPD) continues to receive inquiries related to reports from police sources that 1) a video of the drive-by shooting in North Braddock shows Antwon Rose firing a gun; and, 2) that gunshot residue has been found on Antwon Rose’s hands,” McDonough said in a statement on Facebook on Friday.
“According to Lieutenant Andrew Schurman of the Allegheny County Police Department’s Homicide Unit, both reports are false,” he added. “While ACPD does have a video showing the North Braddock incident, that video does NOT show Antwon Rose firing a gun. The information about gunshot residue is also false. Crime Lab reports are still pending and have not yet been issued.”
On Wednesday, responding to questions about whether Rosfeld was white, McDonough said: I don’t understand what that has to do with the situation.”
The killing of Rose has reignited the call to end what activists and community members call institutionalised racism among US police forces.
According the Washington Post’s Fatal Force database, at least 495 people have been killed by police this year. The Post found that more than 980 people were killed by police in 2017. The Guardian identified more than 1,090 police killings the previous year.
Nearly a quarter of those killed in 2016 were African Americans although the group accounted for roughly 12 percent of the total US population.
According to a watchdog group The Sentencing Project, African American men are six times more likely to be arrested than white men.
These disparities, particularly the killing of African Americans by police, has prompted the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, a popular civil rights movement aimed at ending police violence and dismantling structural racism.