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City of Pittsburgh settles Leon Ford lawsuit for $5.5 million

After years of battling in the courts, the city of Pittsburgh reached a multimillion-dollar settlement in a civil lawsuit with a man left paralyzed after an encounter with police.

Mayor Bill Peduto released a statement Wednesday announcing the city agreed to pay Leon Ford $5.5 million to settle the suit, which accused the city of civil right violations in a 2012 traffic stop.

"This settlement is in the best interest of Mr. Ford, Officer Derbish and the City of Pittsburgh, and will provide all involved the closure needed to move forward in a positive direction," Peduto said in the joint statement with Ford.


Police officers shot Ford several times after they say he drove away from them in Highland Park during the traffic stop, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Ford says the car was knocked into gear during a struggle.

He sued the city in federal court, and last fall the trial ended with a deadlocked jury on charges for one involved officer and another officer being found not guilty. A retrial was scheduled for later this year.

Community activists say the decision to settle speaks volumes.

"'Finally!' is the initial reaction, but I'm ecstatic," said Brandi Fisher, president of Alliance for Police Accountability. "I'm really happy about the amount. This administration really put its foot forward to say that we really want to move forward in a positive direction when it comes to community-police relations."

Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, echoed Fisher's sentiments.

"We congratulate all who fought on behalf of Leon," he said in a statement. "Though this settlement does not remove a lifelong condition for Leon Ford, it does allow him to rise again and to meet a life of new possibilities."