Lehigh County’s district attorney has charged an officer with voluntary manslaughter after fatally shooting a man near Dorney Park.
District Attorney Jim Martin announced Tuesday that Officer Jonathan Roselle would face the charge in the July 28 shooting that killed Joseph Santos.
Roselle was arraigned Tuesday afternoon and was released on $75,000 unsecured bail.
Santos, 44, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, was shot five times on the side of Hamilton Boulevard (Route 222) near the Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom amusement park in South Whitehall Township.
Martin made the announcement Tuesday at a news conference in the county courthouse in Allentown, where he was joined by U.S. Attorney William McSwain and South Whitehall police Chief Glen Dorney.
The decision comes after the Allentown branch of the NAACP demanded Martin step aside, the officer involved be fired and the South Whitehall police department hire more minority officers.
Roselle was placed on paid administrative leave while Pennsylvania State Police and the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office investigated the incident. He joined the South Whitehall Township Police Department last year.
Authorities said Santos was behaving bizarrely that evening, clinging to moving vehicles and ripping the window out of one.
Santos, his fiancee and her son were visiting Dorney Park that day. Juliana Valenzuela said she noticed Santos was missing from the park and assumed he left to get cigarettes.
Witness video posted to Facebook last week shows someone who appears to be Santos riding on the outside of a car and a police SUV before the shooting.
There were several calls to Lehigh County 911 about a man interfering with traffic and reportedly jumping on cars. Police arrived about 5:45 p.m.
Martin said Tuesday a woman pulled over to a police vehicle and reported a man tried to get into her vehicle.
Martin said the officer went to Santos and found him bleeding. Santos jumped on the vehicle and banged on the window, the district attorney said. The officer had his department-issued firearm unholstered, and ordered the man off the vehicle, Martin said.
In that video posted on Facebook, Santos is seen approaching the police car, then backing away.
The officer yells repeatedly for Santos to get on the ground but Santos is seen walking up to the officer, who has parked by the side of the road. The officer, who continues to yell at Santos to get on the ground, fires five shots and Santos drops forward to the ground.
Santos was not armed, police said.
Soon after Santos has been shot, a second officer begins CPR. An ambulance arrives a few minutes later and he is rushed to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township.
Santos died from multiple gunshot wounds and his death was ruled a homicide by the Lehigh County Coroner’s Office.
Protestors held a vigil four days after the shooting, saying Santos’ actions didn’t warrant a “death sentence.”
“While the indictment is important we know that many police are indicted but not found guilty and as a community we demand that all necessary resources be provided to ensure a conviction,” said Adanjesus Marin, Director of Make the Road PA. The organization organized the vigil and represents the interests of Latino and Latina individuals.
In the letter from the NAACP, branch members said the officer should not have used lethal force.
“The branch declares that it cannot tolerate this individual as a police officer and respectfully demands that his badge and gun be immediately removed from him and that he be separated from the police force for the wrongful and unlawful killing of Joseph Santos, an unarmed civilian,” the letter states. “The NAACP Allentown Branch will not rest until this individual is no longer a menace patrolling the streets with the power of a badge and gun and is determined to continue all lawful protests and legal actions until the demands herein are met. The branch has determined that members of the public are not safe while this individual continues to carry a badge and gun.”
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