Family of East Liberty man shot by police wants to visit him

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 12:32 p.m.

Friends and family of a man a Pittsburgh police officer shot during a traffic stop said Wednesday that UPMC Presbyterian staff and police won't let them see him in the hospital.

“We just want some answers,” Mondale Ford, 26, of East Liberty, the brother of the suspect, said during a news conference in Garfield surrounded by about 40 friends, relatives and members of community groups. “As of right now, there's no reason we shouldn't be allowed to be there by his side.”

Police said Leon Ford, 19, of East Liberty is in critical but stable condition.

He was charged Wednesday with reckless endangering the lives of three officers and aggravated assault on one of them, reckless driving and failure to stop at a stop sign, police said.

“For people that are in custody in a hospital setting, our policy is they're not allowed visitors,” police Lt. Kevin Kraus said. “Based on the circumstances of everything that happened, we have not permitted anyone to see him.”

Police on Monday said two officers stopped Leon Ford for a traffic violation while he was driving about 9:45 p.m. Sunday on Stanton Avenue near Farragut Street in Highland Park. He gave the officers his driver's license and vehicle registration but refused to get out of the car and began moving his right hand so it appeared he was reaching for what police feared was a gun, a criminal complaint states.

As one officer tried to pull Ford out the driver's door, another officer standing on the passenger side, David Derbish, tried to grab Ford's hand and the man accelerated toward a third officer, the complaint states.

To avoid being dragged, Derbish jumped in, police said. As he accelerated, Ford tried to push Derbish out of the vehicle and the officer shot him three times in the chest, the complaint states.

Family members who gathered on Wednesday with members of the Alliance for Police Accountability said police kept them from visiting him.

“We don't care who's wrong or right,” said his father, Leon Ford Sr. “We just want to see our son.”

Leon Ford, who is looking forward to the birth of his baby boy, was about four blocks from his home when police stopped him, relatives said. Brandi Fisher, president of the Alliance for Police Accountability, said there needs to be better communication between city police and families in similar situations.

His mother, Latonya Green, 38, of Garfield, held a photo of her son and grasped a tissue as she talked about him.

“He's a very charismatic, talented young man,” Green said. “He has a great spirit. He's very respectful.”

She said Leon Ford's father called her when he didn't come home that night, and she called around until she learned his car had been impounded.

“We found out everything on our own,” Green said. “No one contacted us. We ran everywhere trying to find where he was.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or Staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this report.

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