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Community action organization holds press conference outside courthouse during ex-officer's trial

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During the manslaughter trial of former South Whitehall Township police officer Jonathan Roselle for the 2018 shooting death of Joseph Santos, members from the community action group Make the Road Pennsylvania held a conference outside the Lehigh County Courthouse to voice their support for Santos’ family and call for police accountability.

Carlos Perodin, lead organizer for Make the Road PA Allentown, said members had been following the case since the beginning and demanded justice for Santos “and for black and brown communities to stop being harassed by the police on a daily basis.”

He added that members were not satisfied with the nearly all-white jury as it was not representative of Lehigh County. “I do not know how you come up with the statistics to have one person on the jury that is a POC [person of color],” he said.

Perodin also said video evidence showed Santos was not a threat. “Obviously this is a man who is going through a crisis and the response by the police, instead of de-escalation, was five shots to the body,” Perodin said.

Ashleigh Strange, a member of Make the Road PA from Northampton said she and others were “tired of waiting for justice to happen.”

“We’re tired of not just the fact that this is happening here and now, but we’re tired because it’s happening all over the country,” she said.

“We are watching to make sure that justice is served because Joey Santos did not deserve to die; not that day, not that way.”

Strange also said that despite Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin’s statements that race was not a factor in the shooting, a podcast or video being played by Roselle just before the shooting suggested otherwise.

“We heard on the camera in there that the officer was listening to anti-immigrant rhetoric less than five minutes before he pulled that trigger; that is unacceptable,” Strange said.

Maegan Llerena, Executive Director of Make the Road PA, said she has been with the family since the shooting occurred. She also described the “anti-immigrant” recording listened to by Roselle and added that Roselle still “defaulted” to using deadly force despite his training.

Llerena also spoke about a perceived lack of compassion shown by Roselle toward Santos, saying that she saw the witnesses showing more concern to Santos’ condition.

“They were the ones who felt the fear when Joey was on their car, and somehow they felt more compassion for him than the cop did,” she said in closing.

The trial is expected to take about one week. Roselle, who remains free on $75,000 unsecured bail, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if found guilty.