Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Lineman Alejandro Villanueva Honors Fallen Iraq Vet on Helmet

Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Lineman Alejandro Villanueva Honors Fallen Iraq Vet on Helmet

During the NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, Steelers offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva covered up the name of the police shooting victim that the team chose to honor on their helmets, Antwon Rose, Jr., replacing it with the name of Alwyn Cashe, a fallen Iraq veteran who died in 2005 rescuing fellow soldiers from a burning vehicle.

From CBS Sports:

Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served three tours in Afghanistan, decided to break from the team and replace Rose’s name with Cashe’s, a Sgt. 1st Class who died after trying to rescue soldiers from a burning vehicle in Iraq. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that he approved of his player’s decision.

“As an organization, and myself as the head coach of the organization, we’re going to support our players however they chose to participate and express themselves, or to not participate or not express themselves, as long as they do so thoughtfully and with class,” said Tomlin Tuesday during a press conference. Tomlin added that Villanueva’s choice didn’t warrant an explanation.

The Daily Wire reports on the background of the police shooting incident:

Rose, a black 17-year-old, was shot in the back by white police officer Michael Rosfeld after the teenager ran from a vehicle that had been pulled over in connection with a near-fatal drive-by shooting just minutes earlier.

Rosfeld’s trial lasted four days and a jury of seven men and five women concluded he was not guilty on all charges, including lesser charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The jury included several non-white members, including a black foreman.

“Under Pennsylvania law, police officers are justified in using force when they believe it is necessary to prevent death or serious injury to themselves or others, or if they believe it necessary to prevent a suspect’s escape from arrest. That suspect, the law continues, must have committed or attempted to commit a forcible felony and pose a danger to human life,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported at the time.

The evidence showed that Rose was in a car that was involved in a drive-by shooting 10 minutes before the car was pulled over by police with bullet holes in the side. Video footage taken by a bystander to the drive-by showed Rose in the front passenger seat and another man in the back seat shooting at a man outside the car. That man, William Ross, told investigators that the “beef” was between himself and Rose and that Rose shot him.

It was later determined that Rose had gun residue on his hands, an empty 9mm handgun magazine in his pocket, and a handgun with his DNA on it was also found in the vehicle.

While the law that allowed police officer to use force on a fleeing suspect if they were involved in a felony or attempted felony may be contentious, it allowed Rosfeld to walk.

Villanueva chose not to follow others in blind solidarity with an alleged criminal but to express his support for a fallen hero. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a new and refreshing trend.

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