After deliberating for more than a week, jurors in Leon Ford’s federal case against two police officers on Oct. 10 found Detective Andrew Miller not guilty of assault and battery during Ford’s 2012 arrest. They could not, however, reach a decision on the excessive force charges Ford filed against Detective David Derbish—who shot Ford five times, thus paralyzing him, after trying to pull him from his car during the 2012 traffic stop.
U.S. District Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly declared a mistrial, saying the charges against Derbish will be heard by a new jury next year. A meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 12 to set a new court date.
As the New Pittsburgh Courier previously reported, Ford, of Shaler, was pulled over near Stanton Avenue and Farragut Street in Highland Park, Nov. 11, 2012, when officers mistakenly identified him as wanted felon Lamont Ford. Despite his producing all the proper identification, officers did not let him go. Officers Derbish and Miller eventually tried to physically pull him from his car. Ford resisted, even after Derbish climbed into the passenger side door and tried to loosen his grip. During the struggle, the car shifted into gear. Within seconds Derbish shot Ford five times.
Whether using that level of force—shooting, and assault—was “reasonable,” or excessive will now be up to a second federal jury. Judge Kelly previously dismissed charges against the City of Pittsburgh and officer Michael Koslo.
In 2014, Ford, paralyzed and in a wheelchair, actually stood trial for assaulting the officers—when his car pulled away. He was acquitted, found guilty only of traffic violations.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 10, the New Pittsburgh Courier obtained an official statement from Mayor Bill Peduto: “Nothing, including this suit, could ever erase the tragic circumstances Mr. Ford, the officers and their families have been through the past five years. Obviously it has caused great concern among the greater Pittsburgh community as well. The city will remain in communication with Mr. Ford, his attorneys and attorneys for the officers to address next steps in the case.”
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