Lawyers: Trial into police shooting one of ’perspective’

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The trial of a white Pittsburgh police officer accused of violating the civil rights of a black man who was left paralyzed after being shot as he sped away from a traffic stop is one of perspective, attorneys for both sides told a federal jury in opening statements.

The attorney for Officers David Derbish and Andrew Miller said in his opening Wednesday that the jury must look at the case from the officers’ standpoint.

Miller is accused of assault and battery for trying to drag 24-year-old Leon Ford from the car, while Derbish is being sued for allegedly using excessive force in shooting Ford during the ill-fated, 12-minute traffic stop in November 2012.

One of Ford’s attorneys, Monte Rabner, likened the incident to “Keystone Cops” in his opening statement on Tuesday.

“This case is about poor police work,” Rabner said. “Poor police work got Leon in that wheelchair.”

Ford’s attorneys claim police wrongly pulled over Ford for running stop signs, but did so primarily because another officer mistook Leon Ford for Lamont Ford Jr., a wanted gang member with a similar face, build and age. The men are not related and Lamont Ford, 22, died in a crash while being chased by Pittsburgh police in December 2014, when he was wanted on weapons charges.

Miller was initially involved in the stop; Derbish was not. Miller called him to the scene believing Derbish had dealt with Lamont Ford in the past and could clarify Leon Ford’s identity.

When Derbish told the other officers he couldn’t be sure, they demanded Ford get out of the car so he could be frisked, in part because Derbish claimed to see a “bulge” in Ford’s sweat pants.

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