An East Pittsburgh police officer who killed an unarmed 17-year-old while he tried to run away during a traffic stop was only sworn into duty around 90 minutes before the shooting, according to reports.
Michael Rosfeld, 30, had been on duty in East Pittsburgh, Pa., for only three weeks and was only sworn in less than two hours before the incident, although he has been an officer in the region for seven years, according to KDKA-TV.
Rosfeld had previously worked in Harmarville and for the University of Pittsburgh Police Department.
He has been placed on administrative leave as per protocol while county police conduct an independent investigation.
Antwon Rose, 17, a Woodland Hills High School honors student, was shot three times on Tuesday when he ran off after the officer stopped a vehicle he was traveling in that had been linked to a non-fatal drive-by shooting in a town a few miles away.
When Rosfeld was putting the driver in handcuffs, Rose and an as-yet unidentified third person fled. Nobody fired a weapon at the officer during the stop and the 17-year-old was unarmed. He died at the hospital.
Rose’s death sparked protests on Wednesday in his East Pittsburgh community and another protest is scheduled for Thursday at noon in front of the Allegheny County courthouse. Video of the protests showed a police cruiser attempting to push through a crowd of angry demonstrators.
“From all accounts, he was a generous, hard-working and highly promising student,” his family’s attorney, D. Lee Merritt, said in a statement.
“Affirmations of his generosity of spirit and genuine good heartedness have begun pouring in from all corners of the East Pittsburgh community where he lives.”
Merritt insisted that claims Rose was involved in the earlier shooting are unsubstantiated.
“We know that he was not armed at the time he was shot down, that he posed no immediate threat to anyone, and that, significantly, the driver of the vehicle he occupied was released from police custody.
He noted that the officer had been on the force for just hours before the shooting.
"These facts, without more, simply leave very little room to justify the use of deadly force by this officer," he said. "Additional information concerning the background of the offending officer and the facts available to him at the time of the shooting is needed as we determine the appropriate action in this matter.”
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said on Wednesday that during the drive-by, the shooter fired nine .40 caliber rounds at the victim. The victim also returned fire.
Two firearms were also recovered from the vehicle stopped by the police officer.
He also noted that, under Pennsylvania law, there are circumstances that permit officers to use lethal force on a fleeing suspect. It is allowed to prevent death or serious injury to an officer or another person or if the suspect has used or threatened violence or possesses a lethal weapon.