Man shot by police is charged with assault


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A man who was shot by police as he drove away from a traffic stop with an officer leaning inside the passenger door late Sunday will be charged with aggravated assault, police said.

Police said Leon Ford, 19, also will be charged with two counts of reckless endangerment and traffic violations, including running a stop sign and reckless driving.

He remains at UPMC Presbyterian under guard in critical but stable condition. He is conscious, police said, and will be arraigned by video from his hospital room.

Mr. Ford was pulled over in Highland Park late Sunday for traffic violations. Police said Officer David Derbish approached the passenger side while another officer approached the driver's side. When they asked Mr. Ford to step out of the vehicle, they said, he refused.

Investigators said Officer Derbish thought he saw Mr. Ford's right hand move and believed he was reaching for something. The officer opened the passenger door and reached for him.

Mr. Ford then began to drive away, and Officer Derbish jumped in the passenger seat because he feared he would be dragged by the car. He demanded that Mr. Ford stop then shot him before the car crashed.

The officer was not seriously injured.

Earlier today, Mr. Ford's family members implored police to let them visit him in the hospital. They said hospital personnel have told them he was not at the Oakland facility.

Latonya Green, his mother, said a detective finally spoke to her Tuesday after she returned to the hospital to look for her son, telling her that he was undergoing a second surgery and that she could not see him because he was under arrest.

About 40 relatives, friends and members of the community gathered around her as she clutched his graduation portrait.

"My heart is wrecked," she said, tears streaming down her face. "The police shot my son. Now they're guarding my son. I don't trust the police."

The family has reached out to an attorney to help obtain a court order to see Mr. Ford.

Brandi Fisher of the Alliance for Police Accountability said the organization had questions about how the incident played out and whether the officer was deviating from procedure when he jumped in the car to try to stop it. Police said he feared he would be dragged.

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard said there is a procedure in place for when and how to notify family when a person in police custody is hospitalized.

"It depends on the circumstances," she said.

She referred further inquiries to Lt. Kevin Kraus of the major crimes unit, who could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published November 14, 2012 4:45 PM


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