Leon D. Ford, a 20-year-old man from Shael, Pennsylvania is filing a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh, its police leadership and three officers this week. Ford is accusing officers of, “excessive force, unlawful search and seizure and violation of due process”, in an incident that ultimately ended in Ford being shot and paralyzed. According to the lawsuit, the officers pulled over Ford while speeding and suspected that he was someone else by the same last name. According to the post-gazette, “His attorney, Monte Rabner, said that Mr. Ford was stopped, ordered out of the car and then subjected to force because he is black, adding that such a pattern is common in the city.’’ Mr. Ford “made no furtive movements, engaged in no suspicious behavior, and did not attempt to leave the scene in any way, despite the officers conducting an excessively and unreasonably long traffic stop,” Mr. Rabner wrote. Officer Derbish, one of the police officers involved, claimed that he thought Ford was carrying a barrel gun due to seeing a “bulge” in Ford’s pants.
According to a police affidavit filed in the criminal case, Mr. Ford refused to get out of the car, then put the car in drive. As two officers tried to pull him out and as Officer Derbish entered from the passenger’s side. In the affidavit, police also accused Mr. Ford of trying to push Officer Derbish out of the car while it was moving rapidly. Police wrote that that’s why Officer Derbish shot Mr. Ford. (post-gazette)
The officer shot Mr. Ford four times, “shattering one lower back vertebra and damaging two others, and injuring his thigh and chest. He has no feeling below the waist and isn’t expected to regain the ability to walk” (post-gazette). Mr. Rabner predicted that the city will argue that Mr. Ford erred by refusing to leave the car. Mr. Rabner said his client had reason to panic, in light of highly publicized accusations of police abuse of black men. Mr. Ford faces charges stemming from the incident of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and resisting arrest. “No weapon, contraband, or indicia of the same was ever found” on Mr. Ford or in the vehicle, according to the lawsuit.
Mr. Ford seeks compensatory and punitive damages.