When Leon Ford saw the flashing police lights around 10:00 PM on November 11, 2012, the 19 year old had no idea what he was in store for. Leon recalls the regular Fall Sunday evening as “a good day.” While driving through his East End neighborhood, Ford was pulled over in what was no ordinary traffic stop.
According to police reports, Ford started driving away while an officer was in the passenger seat of his vehicle. Ford was shot five times by police and charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and reckless driving.
The November 11 account left Ford permanently bound to a wheelchair, but has not crushed his spirit.
While he still faces severe criminal charges which could result in imprisonment for 20 years, Ford has formed an organization, Stand Up For Justice, which is taking his message of peace to the streets.
Jordan Miles, Johnny Gammage, Jerry Jackson and Leon Ford are all African American victims of Pittsburgh’s police brutality. This is a national epidemic that is threatening the lives of young Black men everywhere.
Leon Ford was an unarmed teenager shot multiple times and is now paralyzed from the waist down. At this time, District Attorney Stephen Zappalla has not entertained the idea of dropping the charges against Ford.
Advised by his lawyer, Ford will not discuss any details prior to the trial. Ford could face up to 20 years in prison pending the outcome of his trial on May 5th.
Community activist Jason Rivers, CEO of AR3 Foundation, chimed in about the recent misfortunes of Leon Ford. “When Leon came into the space his smile and energy permeated the room, whenever the connection was made of who he was I thought about how close he came to being detached from his son and how his son could have been another young man without a father,” said Rivers.
Rivers is all too familiar with being a victim of gun violence. His foundation honors his younger brother, Anthony Rivers, who was a victim of gun violence in 2008. The AR3 foundation works on strengthening families and ending gun violence in the streets of Pittsburgh.
“Leon Ford is about supporting and uplifting the community, raising awareness to the problem. He still faces great challenges with his own situation, but his concern is how this injustice has affected our city,” said Rivers.
Ford’s first initiative with Stand Up For Justice is a rally being held this Saturday, March 8, 2014, at 2:30 PM. The first annual peace rally will be held at Pittsburgh Barack Obama Academy (515 N. Highland Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206).
The newly founded organization hopes to shine light on positivity, unity, and love in the community, while creating awareness of police brutality and racial profiling in Pittsburgh.
“He’s looking to educate and empower the community with this upcoming rally so we understand our rights when it comes to interaction with law enforcement. Through this he is potentially saving lives in the future and helping people as they navigate spaces with folks in authority. Leon Ford is bringing to light that these things are occurring and we don’t have to accept it as a people,” said Rivers.
Thousands of Ford’s supporters are expected to attend the Stand up for Justice Rally. Among these attendees will be his parents, family, community members, educators, as well as victims of police brutality from other cities.
“I’m more aware and actively involved on what goes on in my community since the incident occurred.
This is going to be the biggest rally the city has EVER seen,” said Ford.