The family of Leon Ford Jr. has been seeking justice after police cornered the teen on a dark Pittsburgh street after a routine traffic stop last November. In a bizarre turn of events, the situation escalated and led one officer to shoot Ford Jr., leaving him partially paralyzed. According to Ford’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, his kin believe that the police officers involved in the case acted unlawfully and are attempting to cover their tracks. Meanwhile, the now-disabled young man still faces charges.
NewsOne spoke exclusively with Crump and Ford. Jr.’s father, Leon Sr. during a brief phone call. With measured resolve, Crump stated, in the first of what will surely be a series of salvos aimed towards the Pittsburgh Police Department, “It’s outrageous when you really think about the fact that Mr. Ford’s son was pulled over, we believe, because he was a Black male. He [Ford Jr.] gave his license, his registration, everything came back clear and it matched who he was. That was not good enough for the police officers.”
Crump then said one of the officers on the scene alerted a colleague to state that although Ford’s license clearly depicted him, the cop was convinced the young man, who was 19 at the time, was using an assumed identity. After calling for a basic description of a separate suspect who happened to be Black and wearing a white shirt, the officers claimed they found their man.
Then things took a turn for the worse when one of the officers, David Derbish, claimed he saw Ford Jr. place his hand on the gearshift in an attempt to flee the scene.
Derbish then sat in Ford Jr.’s passenger seat and the teen allegedly sped off. Derbish claims a struggle ensued and he fired several shots into Ford Jr.’s torso. No drugs, weapons or other contraband were found in the car, but Ford Jr. has been charged with resisting arrest, aggravated assault, reckless driving and reckless endangerment.
Crump adds, “All of this transpires because they are profiling this young man, this African-American teenager who has no criminal history whatsoever and they really want him to be somebody he’s not.”
Ford Sr., sounding emotionally weary as he spoke, then detailed the events that sparked from the police officer’s suspicion.
“My son was shot five times, lied on and they hoped that he died and now he’s paralyzed,” said Ford Sr. with authority. Crump then interjected to say that the police wanted to hide the facts, adding that their side obtained video of the incident that evening which supports their claims.
“Even though we caught the police in these lies, they still won’t drop these bogus charges and now he [Ford Jr.] faces 20 years along with his permanent disability,” Crump said.
“It’s the new South,” said Ford Sr. of Pittsburgh of how police treat African-American citizens. “They’re very racist.”
Crump made sure to note that Ford Jr. was held by the police on the routine traffic stop for over 24 minutes, despite the teen’s willingness to cooperate. Ford Jr. was subject to racist language and other mistreatment during his ordeal, says Crump. The attorney also blasted the police for what he says are false claims of a simultaneous malfunction of their collar microphones during the stop, preventing the recording of evidence which could have allowed the Ford family to prove their case.
“To add insult to injury, after they shot him, they put him face down in the road and handcuffed him,” said Crump. Even more harrowing, Ford Jr.’s parents were blocked from seeing their son for over seven days.
Crump, who rose to notoriety after working alongside the families of slain teens Trayvon Martin and Kendrick Johnson, took on this case and added that because Ford Jr. is alive to tell his side, justice may finally be served. However, the case has taken quite a toll on the Ford family.
“It’s been hard. Every time I look at my son, I still shed tears, “said Ford Sr. in closing, angered that the cops are still on the force. “He was just afraid, he was afraid for his life.”
A petition to drop the standing charges against Leon Ford Jr. has been established. To learn more, click here.