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Jury To Decide Civil Rights Suit Of Man Shot By Officer

Megan Harris
90.5 WESA

A federal jury will be allowed to decide whether a white Pittsburgh police officer violated the rights of a black man left paralyzed after he was shot during a traffic stop almost four years ago.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly on Monday rejected a motion for summary judgment on the portion of the civil rights lawsuit involving the officer who shot Leon Ford in November 2012.

Kelly also allowed the suit to continue against another officer who Ford said tried to drag him out of his car, but threw out claims against a third officer and the city of Pittsburgh.

Ford, 23, and his attorneys contend he was wrongly pulled over, purportedly for running a stop sign. A struggle broke out when police mistakenly thought Ford was a wanted gang member with a similar name, and officers tried to pull him out of the car.

Police said Ford tried to drive away, dragging Officer David Derbish, who shot Ford multiple times from inside the car. Ford testified that the still-running car got knocked into gear as police tried to pull him from it.

Ford was acquitted of aggravated assault in 2014, but a jury deadlocked on charges including resisting arrest, escape and reckless endangerment. The city decided not to retry him on those charges.

Kelly said a jury should decide disputed facts such as whether officers saw a bulge in Ford's sweatpants that they believed could be a weapon, why the officer leaned into the car in violation of police policy and whether Ford was attempting to flee when his car moved forward with the officer inside.

An internal police board said officers contributed to the shooting by not following proper procedures, though board members also said the shooting wouldn't have occurred had Ford obeyed the officers.

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