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Lawyers will get in-car video from police shooting in Highland Park

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By Adam Brandolph
Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

The City of Pittsburgh must turn over video footage from the in-car camera of a police officer who shot a man during a traffic stop in November, an Allegheny County judge ordered on Monday.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said the city must give the video to the District Attorney's Office, which will give it to Fred Rabner, a lawyer for Leon Ford, 19, of East Liberty.

Rabner said he wants to view the video to see whether it corroborates what police say happened on Stanton Avenue in Highland Park the night of Nov. 11.

Michael Kennedy, a lawyer for the city, said he opposed Rabner's request because Ford is awaiting a preliminary hearing on several charges. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday, although lawyers said that likely will be rescheduled.

Kennedy said he could not comment on the content of the video.

Ford is charged with recklessly endangering the lives of three officers and the aggravated assault of one of them, plus traffic offenses. Police say two officers stopped Ford for a traffic violation on Stanton near Farragut Street.

Ford gave the officers his driver's license and vehicle registration but allegedly refused to get out of the car. He began moving his hand, and it appeared he was reaching for what police feared was a gun, a criminal complaint states.

As one officer tried to pull Ford out of the car on the driver's side, Officer David Derbish, on the passenger's side, tried to grab Ford's hand. Ford accelerated toward a third officer, the complaint states.

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

Ford's family and supporters said the officer used deadly force when it wasn't warranted. Ford was not carrying a weapon.

Ford's father, Leon Ford Sr., said the cameras were installed to protect the public as well as police officers.

“It shouldn't have had to go that far,” he said. “That's what they put the cameras in the car for.”

The elder Ford refused to comment on what the video might show, saying he didn't “want to make allegations that come back to haunt us.”

Rabner said Ford is recovering at a UPMC facility. He said Ford lost the use of his legs and is struggling to maintain use of his arms, but his mind remains “sharp.”

“He remembers every single moment of the incident,” he said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927.

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