Dear members of the Pitt community:
As I write this message, the jury has just begun its deliberations in the trial of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld for the shooting death of Antwon Rose II.
This trial seeks justice for the events of June 2018, when Antwon was shot and killed during a police stop in East Pittsburgh. And now, with all eyes on the courthouse, the jury is tasked with determining whether the shooting was a criminal act of murder or a justified police action.
And as we wait, it is impossible not to think of Antwon’s loved ones and the immense heartbreak that they have had to relive this past week. On behalf of the University of Pittsburgh community, I extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends during this difficult time.
Antwon’s death was—without question—a profound tragedy. No verdict can bring the 17-year-old back to life and no ruling can ease his family’s suffering.
But this trial, involving the shooting of a young black man by a white police officer, is also a test of our criminal justice system. It stands as another example of the stark inequities woven into our society’s fabric, particularly if you happen to be a young black man.
Pittsburgh is not alone. As a country, we are in the midst of a fierce national debate about race, ethnicity and justice. And while the enormity of this challenge can leave us gasping in despair, I believe that we can come together and move forward. I believe that a great university must tackle great challenges, and I expect the University of Pittsburgh to be active in fueling change while fulfilling our mission to make society better through learning, research and service.
As I have said before: External events do not change our core values. This trial, no matter the outcome, does not change the fact that we, as a university community, are fully committed to being a diverse, inclusive and vibrant leader in teaching and learning. Nor will it impact our full commitment to supporting free speech.
Today, as we wait, I ask you to remember these values and to rely on them in the days ahead—and in the many years ahead—as we navigate tragedies and triumphs alike and we continue the difficult work of building a better, fairer future for all.