A 17-year-old boy fatally shot by a police officer in Pennsylvania seconds after he fled a traffic stop did not pose a threat to anyone, a lawyer for the teen’s family said.
Civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt late on Wednesday said that he did not see any apparent justification for the use of deadly force by an East Pittsburgh police officer that left Antwon Rose Jr dead.
Allegheny County police are conducting an independent investigation of the shooting in East Pittsburgh, a borough about 16km east of Pittsburgh.
Part of the encounter was captured on video and posted to Facebook by a bystander.
Officer Michael Rosfeld confirmed to a WTAE-TV reporter who went to his house on Thursday that he was the officer who fired the shots, but said he had not watched the news and was unaware the video even existed.
He could not talk about the shooting because of the open investigation, Rosfeld said.
Investigators and city officials have declined to name the officer.
He has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues, they said.
The shooting has sparked some social media outrage and calls for punishment of the officer, including from rapper Nas and a handful of other celebrities.
A Wednesday night protest at the East Pittsburgh police headquarters lasted for several hours and drew more than 100 people, some of whom lay down in front of a police cruiser.
A second protest on Thursday afternoon at the Allegheny County courthouse attracted nearly 1,000 people, including speakers decrying police use of force and gun violence.
Investigators said the officer stopped the car Antwon and two other people were riding in on Tuesday because it matched the description of a car reported to have been involved in a shooting about 15 minutes earlier in a nearby town.
As the officer took the driver into custody, the short video shows Antwon and the other passenger running from the car.
The officer quickly fired three shots, all of which struck Antwon, who later died at a hospital from his injuries.
The medical examiner has not said where the teen was struck.
“We must emphasize that rumors of [Antwon] being involved in a separate shooting are unsubstantiated,” Merritt wrote in his statement, saying the use of deadly force seemed unjustified. “We know that he was not armed at the time he was shot down; that he posed no immediate threat to anyone.”
Antwon’s friends, family and teachers said he was a promising student, who volunteered at a charity, was generous and had a “million-dollar smile.”
Allegheny County Police Commissioner Coleman McDonough on Wednesday said he was confident that the car Antwon was in was involved in the earlier shooting, partly because a window had been shot.
Officers found two guns in the car and the driver was released after questioning without being charged, he said.
Antwon was not armed and no shots were fired at the officers, McDonough said.
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