PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — More than 200 people gathered for a 20-year-old man who they say was the victim of alleged police brutality during a traffic stop in 2012.
“They thought he was somebody else, thought he was somebody else,” said Pa. Rep. Ed Gainey. “Then, off of a traffic stop, he ends up like this. There’s something wrong with that picture.”
Back on Nov. 11, 2012, just before 10 p.m., 20-year-old Leon Ford, Jr. was shot five times.
Dash cam video from a police vehicle shows Ford pulling away from officers as they tried to pull him from his car on Stanton Avenue near Highland Park.
“It hurts that this happened to me. I have to wake up with the reality that I’m in a wheelchair every day,” said Ford.
Ford claims he drove away out of fear. Officers say they thought Ford was reaching for a gun in his pants. An investigation found Ford had no firearm.
Police say when Ford hit the gas; he put the officers’ lives in danger. The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office says the investigation into the officers’ actions is ongoing.
“No police officer, no detective has ever come to me and said, ‘Leon Ford, what happened that night?’” said Ford.
Ford ended up facing criminal charges.
“I’m facing 20 years in prison. I’ve been charged with three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of reckless endangerment,” Ford said.
Held outside the Pittsburgh Obama 6-12 school, Ford organized Saturday’s rally.
“I’m scared now. When I see a police officer, I’m traumatized. I think we are all traumatized,” he said.
The Ford family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Police Department.
“Here you have a kid that worked, graduated with high honors, gave everything he was supposed to give, gave all his information and still got targeted,” said Latonya Green, Ford’s mother.
From the police point of view, they believe they had to act as they did because one of the three officers was dragged for a time by the car Ford was driving.