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Judge imposes gag order in Pittsburgh case that sparked protest

| Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
JAMES KNOX | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Leon Ford's 2012 graduation photo

An Allegheny County judge on Wednesday imposed a gag order in the case of a Shaler man accused of assaulting Pittsburgh police officers during a traffic stop in 2012 that left him paralyzed.

Leon Ford, 21, is charged with assaulting the officers, recklessly endangering another person and several traffic offenses in the Nov. 11, 2012, incident.

Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning granted a request by Assistant District Attorney Robert Schupansky to issue the gag order in light of a protest Ford supporters held Tuesday evening in Highland Park.

Schupansky said the rally — where three people were arrested — brought additional media coverage and potentially tainted the jury pool.

“I'm not going to imperil jury selection,” Manning said.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Thursday. The trial before Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen is scheduled for Sept. 2, and is expected to last less than a week.

On the day of the shooting, police said, they spotted a silver Infiniti speeding on Larimer Avenue. The driver failed to stop completely at a stop sign at Meadow and St. Marie streets. They stopped the car at Stanton Avenue and Farragut Street.

While officers were confirming Ford's identity, Officer David Derbish said he noticed a “large, unnatural bulge” on Ford's leg and thought he was armed with a gun.

Police say Ford ignored an order to get out of the car, so they tried to remove him. During the struggle, Derbish said Ford struck him several times and tried to push him out of the car before he opened fire. Ford was hit four times and paralyzed from the waist down.

Ford has filed a federal civil lawsuit claiming Derbish, former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper, acting Chief Regina McDonald and officers Michael Kosko and Andrew Miller violated his civil rights.

An internal police report filed among court documents on Wednesday recommended discipline and remedial training for the officers for failing to follow protocol, but also concluded that the situation could have been avoided had Ford followed the officers' instructions when they pulled him over.

Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media reporter.

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