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Unarmed 17-Year-Old Fatally Shot as He Ran From East Pittsburgh Police

An unarmed 17-year-old boy was shot and killed by the East Pittsburgh police Tuesday night as he tried to flee a traffic stop, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

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Christina Caron
, New York Times

An unarmed 17-year-old boy was shot and killed by the East Pittsburgh police Tuesday night as he tried to flee a traffic stop, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

The teenager, Antwon Rose II, was a passenger in a car that had been pulled over because it matched the description of a vehicle that fled an earlier shooting in which a 22-year-old man was wounded, the Allegheny County Police Department said in a statement.

A video that recorded the fatal shooting and was posted on Facebook shows two people running from police vehicles as three shots are fired. One of the people, later identified as the 17-year-old, appears to fall to the ground.

“Why are they shooting?” the woman recording the video says. “All they did was run and they’re shooting at them!”

The Allegheny County Police Department, which is investigating the encounter, said that two firearms were found on the floor of the car. When asked if the teenager was found with a weapon on his person, Coleman McDonough, the department’s superintendent, said he was not.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday quoted Mayor Louis Payne of East Pittsburgh as saying that the officer who shot Antwon was hired in mid-May and had been formally sworn in hours before the shooting.

In a statement Wednesday night, S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer representing Antwon’s family, said: “We know very little about the circumstances surrounding his death at this early stage. We must emphasize that rumors of him being involved in a separate 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.”

On Wednesday evening, dozens of people gathered outside the East Pittsburgh Police Department to protest the black teenager’s death. “No justice, no peace!” they chanted. Some carried signs that said, “Justice4Antwon” and “#BlackLivesMatter.”

Those who knew Antwon described him as bright, lively and funny. He was a senior at Woodland Hills High School who was expected to graduate at the end of the year, the superintendent, Al Johnson, said in an interview Wednesday.

“He was an excellent student,” Johnson said, adding that Antwon was taking Advanced Placement classes.

With Antwon’s death, he said, “we’ve lost four students to gun violence” over the past school year.

Kim Ransom, the owner of Pittsburgh Gymnastics Club, where Antwon worked for about a year, recalled the sweltering day in 2015 that he interviewed to work at the club as an instructor.

“He brought his typed-up résumé, and he was wearing a full three-piece suit with his shiny shoes, and he was sweating profusely,” she said.

She had never seen someone arrive at the club so formally dressed for an interview.

“I just thought it was very cute. I think he was 14 at the time,” she said. “Someone in his life must have been guiding him in the right direction.”

He got the job, and he began coaching children in an after-school program and other classes.

“Everybody loved him here,” she said. “He was very mature.”

“I feel like it’s important for people to know that he was Antwon,” she said. “He’s not a statistic, he’s Antwon.”

The traffic stop on Tuesday that led to the deadly shooting occurred after multiple 911 calls earlier in the night reported a shooting in North Braddock, Pennsylvania, that had wounded a 22-year-old man in the abdomen, police said. He was treated at a trauma center and later released.

Investigators said a gunman in a passing vehicle had fired nine .40-caliber rounds at the 22-year-old, who returned fire.

The 911 callers provided a description of a vehicle they saw fleeing the scene, police said, and an East Pittsburgh officer saw a similar vehicle, a silver Chevrolet Cruze that appeared to have ballistics damage to its rear window.

“I’m very confident that that was the vehicle involved in the shooting,” McDonough said.

The officer stopped the car at 8:40 p.m. and took the driver into custody.

“While he was putting the driver into handcuffs, two other occupants ran from the car,” the Allegheny County police said. An East Pittsburgh officer started shooting, striking the 17-year-old “several times.”

The teenager was taken to UPMC McKeesport hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:19 p.m., McDonough said.

“We believe he was hit three times,” he added. “He was hit in various places on his body.”

The driver of the car was later released after being interviewed.

“At the time we did not feel that charging was called for,” McDonough said.

Police are still searching for the second person who ran from the officers.

McDonough asked that he turn himself in “so that he can give a comprehensive description of what occurred this evening,” the police statement said.

The officer who shot the teenager has been placed on administrative leave, officials said.

Mayor Peduto of Pittsburgh said in a statement, “This is a devastating situation and I am saddened for Antwon Rose and his family.”

Gisele Barreto Fetterman, whose husband is the mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, said on Facebook that Antwon had volunteered at the Free Store, an organization she created that gives away surplus and donated items to those in need. When he was 14, she wrote, “and only a few weeks into summer vacation,” he asked about volunteering at the Free Store, and he “was scheduled to return this summer.”

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Fetterman recalled Antwon’s politeness when he would stop by to help on Saturday mornings. “He would always call me Ms. G or Ma’am,” she said.

Raemon Prunty, 18, a childhood friend of Antwon’s who also volunteered at the Free Store, said he last spoke with him three days ago.

Prunty said that as an African-American, he, too, would have acted as Antwon did.

“If I was in Antwon’s shoes,” he said, “I would have ran.”

“It’s out of fear,” Prunty said.

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