The officer who killed Antwon Rose will face a judge for his crime. Here’s why it matters.
Antwon Rose Jr. knew that as a black male teenager, he was marked in a way others were not.
In fact, when he was 15, he wrote a heartfelt poem about how he feared society perceived him.
“I see mothers bury their sons / I want my mom to never feel that pain,” Rose wrote.
Unfortunately, his fears came true.
On June 17, 2018, the unarmed 17-year-old was shot and killed by East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld.
After running from Rosfeld — who was inspecting a car Rose had been in — Rose was shot three times, with reports indicating that the bullets hit his face, right arm, and the middle of his back.
According to The Washington Post, Rose was the first person killed by the East Pittsburgh Police Department since at least 2015. In that same period, 23% of those killed by police officers and 36% of all unarmed people who had been killed were black.
Unsurprisingly, the world was outraged — and tired of having to be outraged.
On what should be Tamir’s 16th birthday we are burying Antwon Rose.
Both young brothers were murdered in cold blood, in broad daylight, by officers who never should’ve been hired. Both cops were fired from their previous jobs for gross misconduct.
And here we are. pic.twitter.com/7rApdglx6i
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 25, 2018
You know how I know the formerly egregious is now considered normal?
Because 4 years ago we had to convince y’all police violence was real, 2 years ago there’s be anger, but now, unarmed 17 year old #AntwonRose was killed by police and few cared.
Our children have to matter.
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) June 22, 2018
“He murdered my son in cold blood,” Michelle Kenney told ABC News. “If he has a son, I pray his heart never has to hurt the way mine does. But I think he should pay for taking my son’s life. I really do.”
Well, now it looks like he might.
On June 27, Rosfeld was charged with criminal homicide, a charge rarely brought when officers kill civilians.
Pennsylvania state code defines criminal homicide as when a person “intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or negligently causes the death of another human being.” According to court reports, Rosfeld was arraigned on June 27 for the charge, and his bail was set at $250,000. A preliminary hearing is set for July 6.
“This is a small stride toward justice but we have a very long road ahead,” Rose family attorney Lee Merritt tweeted after the announcement.
According to The Washington Post, 491 people have been shot and killed by police so far in 2018.
In 2017, the total was 987. In 1 out of 5 police shootings, officers’ names aren’t disclosed, and actually being charged with a criminal charge is even rarer.
According to a report from Dr. Philip Stinson at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, between 2005 and 2017, 80 officers were arrested on manslaughter or murder charges for on-duty shootings. During that same 12-year span, just 35% were convicted, while the rest either were not convicted or still had pending cases.
Rosfeld being convicted is statistically unlikely, but it’s definitely possible.
And it sends an important signal: Black children will no longer be shot and killed without retribution or public outcry.
After numerous high-profile police shootings such as Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, and Tamir Rice, activists, scholars, and politicians alike have been calling out our nation’s pervasive history of police brutality and calling for massive structural change.
Black teens — who continue to face an insurmountable amount of gun violence in comparison to their white peers — should not have to fear for their lives when going through the everyday experiences of being a kid.
All kids should be able to experience their childhood and teenage years without fearing for their lives.
Let’s hope this charge is an important step in the right direction.