Written by The New Pittsburgh Courier
A hearing for a motion regarding the release of a police videotape from a traffic stop that resulted in the shooting of a 19-year-old East Liberty teen by a Pittsburgh police officer has been postponed until January 2013 in Judge Jeffrey Manning’s court.
Leon Ford Jr. was shot in the chest by Pittsburgh police officer David Derbish when he was pulled over for a traffic violation at the intersection of Stanton Avenue and Farragut Street in Highland Park.
According to authorities, after verifying Ford’s driver’s information, officers began to question him and asked him to step out of the vehicle, but Ford refused and began moving his hand as if he was reaching for something. That’s when Derbish, opened the passenger door of the vehicle and reached in to grab Ford’s hand. They said Ford then began to drive off and to avoid being dragged the officer jumped in the passenger’s side demanding Ford stop but Ford began to try and push him out of the vehicle. The officer then fired several shots, hitting Ford in the chest three times. Ford’s vehicle then crashed into a cement retaining wall and he was taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, where he is now recovering.
It has been confirmed that Ford had no weapon. While there are many speculations, reasons for the refusal to release the tapes are unknown.
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Public Information Officer Diane Richard was contacted for an update on the investigation and a comment on the tapes, but said she could not comment because the case is still in litigation.
Ford’s father, Leon Ford Sr., said that without his son being home, there are no holidays to celebrate.
“Christmas ain’t Christmas. Ain’t no holidays in our house without him (Leon Ford Jr.) He’s the life of the house and the light of my life,” Leon Ford Sr. said. “We’ll be spending our holidays next to his beside.”
Ford is currently in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds to the chest and torso, and fractured vertebrae. He may be paralyzed.
“He’s still alive and with us, that’s what’s important,” said Leon Ford Sr. “He is in good spirits.” Ford’s father said he is expected to be transferred to a rehabilitation center soon.
As for the releasing of the tapes, Leon Ford Sr. would not comment much on the case, but said, “There is a video tape, but they will not release it. We are just waiting to see what they are going to do.” He did add, that, “If the shoe was on the other foot (and his son had shot an officer), they’d be smearing his name in the media…and we would have gotten tired of seeing the video.”
Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, said she could not comment on specifics of the Ford case because there is an open investigation, but said in general, this is an issue of the public’s right to know and the public’s right to observe the videotape.
All Pittsburgh Police vehicles are equipped with dashboard cameras.
Khalid Raheem, a community activist, said if the police department really wants to resolve this incident, then they should have no problem in releasing the videotape.
“The tape provides evidence as to what transpired. I think it is in the best interest of justice and the public to have the tape released and viewed,” he said.
He added that it is also in the best interest of the police department to release the tape, in terms of justice and taking steps to repair the severed relationship between the police and the community, especially the Black community.
He added, that if Leon Ford Jr. is innocent then all the charges he faces should be dropped and if the officers were guilty, then they should be arrested.
Ford is currently facing several charges, including traffic violations, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.
Earlier last week, Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, sent a letter to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh City Council requesting “a full, complete and impartial investigation…” His letter said, “The four shots fired into a young Mr. Ford, an unarmed citizen with an apparent positive personal history, is indeed troubling and poses many questions. Our hope is that the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police will once again review its policies and procedures with regard to this incident and similar possible scenarios.” They also requested a review of legislation passed by City Council within the last two years.
Leon Ford Sr. said all their family wants is justice and a thorough investigation.
“I do not want this swept under the carpet,” he said.