“WHY ARE they shooting? All they did was run and they’re shooting at them!” That was the horrified reaction of the woman who recorded a video that captured the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in a borough outside Pittsburgh. Watch the video and you will share her horror. Antwon Rose Jr., 17, was running away from police when he was shot and killed. Why, then, were they shooting? Was it because he was black? Automatically seen as a threat? Less valued?
The answers are depressingly clear and familiar. Which raises — once again — the larger question of what it will take for America to finally insist that police put an end to these heartless and needless shootings of African Americans.
Antwon was a passenger Tuesday night in a car that had been pulled over in East Pittsburgh because it matched the description of a car that had been involved in a drive-by shooting. While the driver was being taken into custody (but not charged; he was later released), Antwon and another person got out of the vehicle and fled. Video taken from a neighbor’s window and posted on Facebook shows a person running away from police before gunshots ring out and he drops to the ground. The boy was shot three times. Police found two guns in the car, but he was not armed when he was shot. The officer who shot him, Michael Rosfeld, was placed on administrative leave. The other passenger hasn’t been found.
Friends describe Antwon as a lively and funny high school student with excellent grades who volunteered at local charities. His killing prompted widespread protests. Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough asked for calm as his department investigates. “I understand in today’s atmosphere anytime a young man is killed there’s cause for outrage in some areas.” Some areas? Antwon’s death — and before his, those of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 32-year-old Philando Castile, 50-year-old Walter Scott and countless other African American boys and men killed by police — outrages Americans in every “area.”
A Post database of police shootings begun in January 2015 shows that black people have been the victims in 23 percent of fatal police shootings and account for 36 percent of the unarmed people who have been shot and killed during that time. Those numbers recall a poem Antwon himself wrote for a 10th-grade honors class. “I see mothers bury their sons / I want my mom to never feel that pain . . . I understand people believe I’m just a statistic / I say to them I’m different.”