A Pennsylvania police officer’s fatal shooting of a 17-year-old who police said had fled a car that the officer had pulled over Tuesday night in East Pittsburgh is drawing wide outcry, as video circulated showing the teenager gunned down as he appeared to run with his back to the officer.
The teenager, who was identified as Antwon Rose Jr. by the medical examiner in Allegheny County, did not have a weapon on his body when he was shot, the police said. Two guns were found in the car he had been a passenger in.
The incident happened while the police were investigating a drive-by shooting in the borough of North Braddock at about 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. About 15 minutes later, they pulled over a silver Chevrolet Cruze that matched a description given by a witness in another borough nearby, East Pittsburgh, according to Coleman McDonough, the police superintendent of Allegheny County, whose department is investigating the shooting.
The driver was ordered out of the vehicle and directed to the ground, McDonough said, but the two other people in the car fled from the vehicle by foot.
The officer from the East Pittsburgh Police Department fired at the two people, striking Rose three times, McDonough said. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died at 9:19 p.m. The 20-year-old driver of the car — who police said was working as a jitney driver, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — was later released. Police are still searching for the other man who fled, McDonough said.
Graphic video taken from a neighbor’s window captures the tense moments of the shooting and its aftermath. A silver car is visible in the frame, and both of its front doors open as the footage rolls. Two police cruisers, with their lights flashing, are located behind it. An officer appears to stand behind the police car’s open doors with his arms out in front of him.
A man in a gray shirt flees from the car, running in the opposite direction from the police vehicles. He makes it about 10 feet before three gunshots ring out, dropping him to the ground.
The woman taking the video gasps. “Why are they shooting him?” she says. “All they did was run, and they’re shooting at him.”
The other man fleeing does not appear to have been hit. McDonough said it is not believed that he was shot.
McDonough said Rose was shot three times on his body but would not say if Rose was shot in his back. None of the officers or cruisers on the scene had cameras on them, he said. He did not identify the officer but said that investigators were planning to interview him and that he had been placed on administrative leave.
Rose’s family released a statement through its lawyer, S. Lee Merritt, noting Rose was not armed when he was shot, “that he posed no immediate threat to anyone” and that the driver had not been arrested after being questioned.
I am en route to Pittsburgh, PA to investigate the murder of #AntwonRose. The family asked that I release this statement on their behalf as they continue to look for answers. pic.twitter.com/uAWaHMet7v— Lee Merritt (@MerrittForTexas) June 20, 2018
“It is difficult to find justification in the shooting,” the statement said. “These facts, without more, simply leave very little room to justify the use of deadly force by this officer.”
The shooting is the latest to draw wide condemnation after being captured by video in what has become a grim part of the modern news cycle. At least 491 people have been fatally shot by police in 2018, according to a database kept by The Washington Post. The video of the shooting has been viewed some 90,000 times as of Wednesday evening.
Crowds of people protested in East Pittsburgh on Wednesday, including a group outside the police station, according to local reports.
Protest in East PGH after teen shot by police. Dozens of officers. Hundreds of demonstators pic.twitter.com/OKAZp7V7N5— Kymgabletv (@Kymgable) June 20, 2018
East Pittsburgh Mayor Louis Payne told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the officer had just been hired on the force and was sworn in just hours before the shooting, an assertion that was repeated by Merritt. Payne said the officer is about 30 years old and has worked as a police officer for about eight years in other areas.
Police shootings of unarmed black people have not ended. But top-level political conversations about them have.