Northwestern Press

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Former South Whitehall Police Officer Jonathan Roselle Former South Whitehall Police Officer Jonathan Roselle

Roselle to be formally arraigned on Nov. 16

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 by DOUGLAS GRAVES Special to The Press in Police Log

Magisterial District Judge Daniel Trexler, during a preliminary hearing Sept. 20 in the Lehigh County Courthouse bound over former South Whitehall Township police officer Jonathan Robert Roselle’s case to the Court of Common Pleas.

Roselle is charged with the voluntary manslaughter of Joseph Santos of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.

His formal arraignment is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 16 before Judge Kelly L. Banach.

Videos, Body Camera

Trexler listened to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey S. Dimmig layout the prima facie case against Roselle, who is accused of shooting and killing Santos, 44, on July 28 along Hamilton Boulevard between the Comfort Suites hotel and Dorney Park.

Dimmig presented the state’s evidence in the form of video and audio captured by dashboard cameras and the body camera worn by Roselle showing the moments leading to and the several minutes after the shooting.

On the videos, a woman was telling Roselle a man had confronted her while she was in her car and had broken a window.

Roselle’s defense attorney, Gavin Holihan, later described the woman as being “hysterical.”

Video, which was projected onto a large screen, showed Roselle turn his police SUV around on Hamilton Boulevard and drive to an area between the Comfort Suites sign and Dorney Park where he encountered Santos.

Santos approached Roselle’s marked patrol SUV and could be seen touching an area near the driver’s door.

Roselle, while still in the SUN, shouted to Santos, “Get away from the vehicle right now!”

Santos could be seen gesturing toward Roselle with his hand and fingers. He pointed to his own eyes with two fingers, then pointed his index finger toward Roselle, who was still seated in the vehicle.

Holihan later characterized the gesture as “threatening.”

On the video, Santos then walked toward the right side, quarter panel of the patrol SUV and looked in at Roselle.

Roselle continued to shout “get away from the vehicle.” His pistol was in his hand.

Santos then climbed onto the hood of the SUV and looked into the vehicle with his face very close to the windshield.

He hit the windshield with a sharp blow and Roselle ordered Santos to “Get off right now!” several times.

Roselle got out of the SUV to confront Santos but he had walked away several paces and was several yards behind the SUV.

He then started walking toward the police officer.

Roselle, as recorded by his body camera, ordered Santos to, “Get on the ground!”

Santos was wearing a black or dark blue T-shirt with a white logo. He had on jeans and a dark color belt with a buckle. He was wearing white socks, but no shoes. The fly to his trousers was unzipped.

He kept walking toward Roselle.

Roselle, with pistol in hand, again ordered Santos to “Get on the ground!”

Just as Santos neared the patrol SUV left rear quarter panel, five gunshots could be heard and Santos pitched forward hitting the asphalt face first.

The body camera video showed another officer arrive on scene and start giving CPR, and with help from Roselle, offer aid to Santos.

Holihan, Dimmig and Martin

At one point during the preliminary hearing, Holihan asked State Trooper Thomas Rummerfield, investigator at the scene, if he thought Roselle could have interpreted Santos’ finger pointing as threatening.

This prompted Dimmig to challenge Holihan saying such opinions were “not relevant” and “not proper.”

He objected to Holihan “commenting on” Rummerfield’s beliefs or opinions.

Holihan shot back in a heated exchange with Dimmig.

“That’s not correct. There is nothing inappropriate,” Holihan said, referring to his questioning of Rummerfield.

This exchange prompted Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin, who was sitting at the prosecution table, to stand up and address the court.

Holihan objected to what he called a “tag team” on the prosecution’s side.

Martin, appearing upset responded, “I’m the District Attorney of Lehigh County.”

Detective James Bruchak testified the autopsy performed by Forensic Pathology Associates showed Santos had been shot twice in the head and three times in the torso.

Bruchak said methadone, codeine, morphine, hydromorphone and a metabolite of heroin were in Santos’ blood or other body fluids.

Holihan Says

Holihan summarized the mitigating circumstances that established the “reasonableness” of Roselle’s action.

In his opinion, Santos was attempting to commit a felony; Roselle knew he had attacked another car; Santos had made a “threatening gesture”; Roselle had no backup present; Roselle was alone; Santos was advancing toward Roselle offering a “real threat” to the officer and other citizens.

Dimmig Says

Dimmig told the judge the state had the three elements of a “prima facie” case of voluntary manslaughter: Santos was dead; Roselle killed him; Roselle had intent to kill Santos.

The Judge Says

“This case will be bound over for trial,” Trexler said.

Roselle’s Sister Talks with The Press

Hannah Roselle Storman, Roselle’s older sister spoke with The Press Sept. 24 via telephone about her brother and the trial.

She said her brother is holding up and is trying to focus on what he needs to do to get through this.

“He is putting one foot in front of the other,” she said. “He believes he was doing his job that day and the facts will support that at his trial.”

Storman said her brother is a single father of a loving 3-year-old little girl.

“She is doing OK,” she said. “My brother’s first thought after the shooting was he wouldn’t be able to raise her.”

Storman and her brother lived in New Jersey until she was 13 and he was 10, when the family moved to upstate New York.

Her brother did not always want to be a cop.

“He has always been a writer,” Storman said.

“As a kid, he loved reading police detective, Army books and books on fighting for justice.”

While Roselle was attending Binghamton University working on a degree in English, he took ROTC training before serving eight years in the Army.

“After he got out of the Army, he worked as a supervisor for a natural gas company for two years until he decided to become a police officer and went to the academy,” Storman said.

Storman summarized her feelings about the case against her brother.

“I think it is unfair to ask them (police officers) to put themselves between us and danger and then turn around and charge them when they have to use lethal force to protect us,” Storman stated.