As leader of the Alliance for Police Accountability, Brandi Fisher has always been at the front of the line in speaking about the injustice she believes occurred with Leon Ford Jr.
A young adult, driving a vehicle in Highland Park on a November night, and moments later, was shot five times by a Pittsburgh police officer. Ford had no weapons, though Officer David Derbish contends he fired shots at Ford because he feared for his life when Ford’s vehicle began to move.
Thus, when word broke of the City of Pittsburgh reaching a financial settlement of $5.5 million with Ford and his attorneys, Jan. 17, she was “just happy that it was finally over.”
But, the large settlement amount “was just a smidget of justice when it comes to the egregious act that occurred, and Leon still possibly has to face every day for the rest of his life being paralyzed.”
Fisher, speaking exclusively with the New Pittsburgh Courier, said that this process, which spanned over five years, “was very traumatic, not just for Leon but for the entire community.”
On Oct. 10, 2017, a jury deadlocked on whether now-detective Derbish used excessive force during the 2012 traffic stop. Reached by phone in the weeks after the mistrial, Ford told the Courier exclusively that “here in Pittsburgh, being that I survived, being that I’ve committed my life to having a positive impact on the community, Pittsburgh could really be leading this charge and really be an innovation city (representing everyone) instead of creating this divide. The way the city has handled this case and has caused a larger divide, this is something that we cannot afford.”
Ford continued: “A lot of people are upset, there’s a lot of people who are not pleased with leadership, and I just believe that there’s ways for us to move forward without causing more pain to the citizens of Pittsburgh.”
A new civil trial was to begin Jan. 22, but the settlement was announced five days prior. “After five years of arduous litigation, all parties are pleased to announce that we have reached an amicable resolution in the federal lawsuit Leon Ford brought following the Nov. 11, 2012 shooting incident,” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement, Jan. 17. “The City has agreed to pay Mr. Ford and his attorneys $5.5 million. This settlement is in the best interest of Mr. Ford, Officer Derbish and the City of Pittsburgh, and will provide all involved the closure needed to move forward in a positive direction.”
Courier attempts to reach Ford following the settlement announcement were unsuccessful.
Fisher told the Courier she gives the City of Pittsburgh some kudos for such a large financial settlement. “They had a chance of getting another mistrial in this very racist Western Pennsylvania,” Fisher said. “But they chose to settle for a very large amount, so I think that can’t be ignored.”
Social media was abuzz with last week’s news of the settlement. Fisher said the real testament is to “Leon’s tenacity and to his lawyers.”
At the end of the day, however, “There’s no (monetary) value on someone’s life,” Fisher said. “He lost his quality of life as he knew it.”
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