A police officer fatally shot 17-year-old Antwon Rose of Rankin just seconds after he fled from a traffic stop late Tuesday in a confrontation partly captured on video from a nearby home.
Investigators said Wednesday that the car stopped in the town of East Pittsburgh matched the description of a vehicle being sought in a nonfatal shooting a few miles away. An East Pittsburgh officer, who has not been identified, was taking the driver into custody when the two passengers, including the 17-year-old, fled the car.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said Rose was shot three times, but details including where he was shot would be released later Wednesday by the medical examiner's office. He said police found two semi-automatic handguns on the floor of the car, though Rose was unarmed when he was shot.
In the video, which was posted to Facebook, the passengers can be seen dashing from the car. Three shots ring out, and both passengers appear to either duck or fall to the ground as they pass behind a house. A woman yells, asking why an officer shot the boy for running.
There was no indication the other passenger was shot or injured, but he was not captured and still was being sought by police, McDonough said.
Debra Jones told The Associated Press her voice is the one caught on the video.
Jones, 53, said she was sitting on the porch of the home she shares with her daughter when the traffic stop began. She said the officer drew his gun as he talked to the driver, and she instinctually took cover.
"I fell off my seat and started to crawl into my house. But I turned and said, 'No, someone needs to keep an eye on this,' and I came out to watch the stop," Jones said.
When the two passengers took off, "that officer didn't try to chase them or taze them. He just shot that boy for running," she said. "I looked out my kitchen window and they were putting him in handcuffs. He wasn't moving. I think that boy died right there on the side of my house."
University of Pittsburgh law professor and 90.5 WESA legal analyst David Harris said the law sometimes allows lethal force against a fleeing suspect.
“[Officers] can do it to prevent somebody from escaping, if they have some reason to believe the person has committed a forcible felony, is in possession of a weapon, or is threatening human life or to inflict bodily injury,” Harris said.
County police were called in to conduct an independent investigation, which is standard procedure, McDonough said. He implored the public to be patient during the investigation.
“I would urge that people in the community give us a chance to conduct an objective investigation,” he said, “and I guarantee that’s what they’ll get from the Allegheny County Police.”
Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, also called for patience.
“It looks terrible. It’s very, very questionable when you have someone who’s shot in the back by a police officer,” she said. “But we don’t yet know what [the] circumstances were.”
McDonough said that the Facebook video will inform the investigation but that “it has to be taken in context of the entire investigation”
“It’s a snapshot in time,” he said, “and while important, it will be factored in the larger totality of the investigation.”
The officers did not have body or dashboard cameras, according to McDonough.
He said the officer has been placed on administrative leave. The officer was sworn in the same night of the shooting. Rose was black.
The driver of the vehicle, a 20-year-old man, was taken into custody and released after McDonough said officers did not feel they had cause to charge him in the earlier shooting.
The shooting in North Braddock happened less than 15 minutes before the traffic stop, McDonough said. He said a 22-year-old man had been shot in the abdomen after nine shots were fired from the car. The man, who was treated at a hospital and released, told police he fired back and struck the car.
McDonough said he was confident the car pulled over by East Pittsburgh was involved in the incident, noting that a back window had been shot out. He said it was too early in the investigation to say whether Rose had fired a weapon in the earlier incident.
The County Police will turn the results of the investigation over to the District Attorney for Allegheny County, who will decide whether to prosecute the officer for homicide.
Updated: 6:04 p.m. Wednesday, June 20, 2018