March 22, 2023
Prosecutors clear Miami cop who shot man as he fought another officer. Family vows lawsuit
By Charles Rabin

A Miami police officer who shot a man in the head who was straddling another officer on the ground during a traffic stop that turned violent has been cleared of any wrongdoing by state investigators.

Investigators from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office determined that Sgt. Constant Rosemond’s actions were “reasonable and legally justified” when he fired once and killed Antwon Leonard Cooper, 34, who tried to escape from police after being pulled over for speeding and tinted windows last March just outside of Miami Northwestern High School.

Investigators said that Officer Olivier Gonzalez, who made the initial stop, was on the ground under Cooper when Rosemond arrived and that much of Gonzalez’s police-issued equipment — including his body-worn camera — was dislodged from his uniform as the two wrestled to the pavement. 

“Unbeknownst to Gonzalez, during this struggle, a firearm was dislodged or discarded by Cooper and ended up on the roadway. Sgt. Constant Rosemond, who arrives on the scene to find Gonzalez engaged in a struggle with Cooper, gives commands to Cooper which are ignored. He fires a single shot, striking Cooper,” an investigative review team from the state attorney’s office wrote.

Reached Thursday, family attorney Rawsi Williams said Cooper’s family was “irate” and “devastated” by more than just the report’s findings. She said the state attorney promised to contact the family before releasing its findings. Because of that promise, she said, Cooper’s family delayed filing a wrongful death civil rights lawsuit in federal court. They now expect to file the lawsuit next week.

“There is no way based on the facts and physical evidence in the SAO’s possession that the SAO didn’t have probable cause to arrest him [Rosemond] and enough evidence to convict him,” Williams said. “That evidence will come out in court.” 

Cooper lost his life back on March 8, just after Northwestern High School students had left campus for the day. He was driving an older model four-door Nissan in front of the school at the corner of Northwest 71st Street and 10th Avenue, when Gonzalez pulled him over. A friend named Rodney Bullard was in the passenger seat. Bullard told investigators they were on their way to inquire about buying another car.

When the officer approached, Cooper lowered his window and explained how he didn’t have a license, but had identification. The report said Gonzalez then ordered him out of the car and told him to put his hands on the roof as he began to pat him down. As Gonzalez reached for Cooper’s left side, he tried to run. But the officer grabbed him and both men fell to the ground. 

Rosemond, investigators said, arrived while Cooper was on top of the officer and fired a single shot, killing him. Gonzalez’s body camera, which was on the ground, continued to record and showed a weapon that belonged to Cooper on the ground about 15 feet away from where the men grappled with each other. Bullard, who stayed in the car’s passenger seat during the confrontation, confirmed most of what Gonzalez told investigators, the final report said. 

There was no indication Cooper ever reached for his weapon or threatened Gonzalez with it. And when family members gathered in Williams’ office three weeks after the shooting to air their grievances, they claimed police body camera footage showed Cooper wasn’t fighting or swinging at Gonzalez, he was just trying to get away when he was shot and killed. 

“They shot my son in the head,” Cooper’s mother Tilasha Cooper said during the briefing in her attorney’s office. “He [Rosemond] deserves to go to jail for 35 years. He took my heartbeat. He took it.”