BPEP responds with outrage at shooting of unarmed teen Antwon Rose

Local activists expressed outrage and demanded racial justice in a press conference Thursday morning about the police killing of 17-year-old Antwon Rose in East Pittsburgh.

“Far too many people, including far too many police officers across this nation, don’t believe that black lives do matter,” said Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, which hosted the press conference in the Hill District.

“Many of us can’t help but wonder if the white officer who shot three bullets into the unarmed Antwon Rose would have done so if Antwon were a white 17-year-old youth. Maybe if he were white, [the officer] would look at that 17-year-old as maybe his child, or his nephew, or the cousin, or the grandchild — because he’s looking at himself. Far too many white officers don’t look at black children or black men as people. Some look at them as animals. Some look at them as less than human. So therefore they can feel free to shoot and kill,” Mr. Stevens said.

Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board of Pittsburgh, an independent community-run group that investigates complaints about Pittsburgh police, said she would be happy to assist Allegheny County and surrounding municipalities, such as East Pittsburgh, set up their own community police review agencies.

Both Ms. Pittinger and Mr. Stevens said Pittsburgh’s citizen review team has helped to improve police-community relations in Pittsburgh.

Still, Mr. Stevens said there has been a “re-whitening” of the Pittsburgh police force in recent years. He said the best way to bring about change is to vote.

In addition, Mr. Stevens said BPEP has advocated for the "Due Process Act," proposed state legislation that would require police killings to be investigated by the Pennsylvania attorney general. He said this legislation would ensure a greater level of fairness and objectivity in investigations into cases like Antwon's. The state AG, Josh Shapiro, issued a statement on the case: 

"The death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose is a tragedy,” he said. “I hear the outrage of the people in East Pittsburgh. The case is being investigated by Allegheny County police and the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office. Under Pennsylvania law, I do not have jurisdiction to investigate this matter unless I receive a referral from District Attorney Zappala. The loss of any young life is deeply painful, and I expect local law enforcement to give this the thorough investigation it deserves."

Mr. Stevens said he will send the statement he gave at the conference to Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Zappala and Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough.