Highland Park suspect no longer under police guard

Relatives had been barred from seeing him

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A judge has reduced the bond for a man who has been hospitalized under police guard since Nov. 11 when he was shot by an officer during a traffic stop that led him to be charged with assaulting the officer.

The bond reduction means that family members of Leon Ford, 19, who have been barred from seeing him since he was taken to UPMC Presbyterian in critical condition, will be allowed to visit him.

Mr. Ford is charged with aggravated assault, three counts of reckless endangerment and two summary driving offenses -- failing to stop at a stop sign and reckless driving -- in connection with the Highland Park incident, during which police said he drove from the scene with an officer leaning into the car.

He remained in the intensive care unit Wednesday morning at UPMC Presbyterian, when Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning reduced his bond from $500,000 to non-monetary at the request of his attorney, Fred Rabner. The bond reduction means officers no longer will guard Mr. Ford while he recovers from his injuries and his family can be at his bedside.

Mr. Rabner said he also obtained an order to have his own expert examine Mr. Ford's car.

Mr. Rabner obtained a court order last week to see Mr. Ford, who was shot at least four times in the chest and trunk and was initially listed in critical condition. The order also allowed his mother, Latanya Green, to see him for 30 minutes.

According to a criminal complaint, police spotted Mr. Ford driving "at a high rate of speed" the night of Nov. 11 on Larimer Avenue and then saw him fail to make a complete stop at a stop sign. Police pulled him over at Farragut Street and Stanton Avenue. Mr. Ford turned over his license and insurance information. Officer Michael Kosko said he was skeptical of Mr. Ford's identity and when he attempted to verify his identity, he typed "L. Ford" into his mobile data unit. He told another officer he believed the driver was not Leon, but Lamont, Ford.

They questioned Mr. Ford, asking him if he had a twin brother or if he had been arrested before or if he had ever used a different name. Officer David Derbish, who knew Lamont Ford, arrived as a backup and was asked to take a look at the driver.

Standing on the passenger side of the car, Officer Derbish said he saw "a large unnatural bulge" on Mr. Ford's right leg through his sweat pants, which he thought was the barrel of a gun, a detective wrote in the complaint. Officer Derbish relayed his concerns to Officer Andrew Miller, who asked Mr. Ford to step out of the car. When he refused, Officer Miller attempted to get him out of the car. Officer Derbish said he feared Mr. Ford was reaching for a gun and jumped in the car. As Mr. Ford reached for the gear shift, Officer Derbish said he feared the car would strike Officer Kosko, who was standing in front of the open driver's side door.

Mr. Ford sped away with Officer Derbish in the passenger seat and punched him multiple times to attempt to get him out of the car, a detective wrote in the complaint. Officer Derbish told him to stop the car and fired multiple shots at his torso. The car crashed about 100 yards away.

Mr. Ford's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 10.

neigh_city - crime


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