PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A court granted a gag order on Wednesday on information related to the 2012 shooting and paralysis of an unarmed black man by a Pittsburgh police officer, prosecutors said, in a move to prevent tainting potential jurors in a criminal trial related to the case.
The order follows protests in Pittsburgh on Tuesday in support of wheelchair-bound Leon Ford, which drew between 75 and 100 marchers and resulted in three arrests, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported.
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office requested the order to shield the potential jury pool from media coverage of the upcoming criminal case against Ford, a spokeswoman said.
When he was 19, Ford was shot four times by Pittsburgh Police Officer David Derbish during a traffic stop in 2012. He was partially paralyzed as a result.
Ford is facing charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and reckless driving.
Renewed interest in the case has been fueled by the recent shooting of an unarmed African-American man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident, which led to days of protests in the St. Louis suburb that have at times erupted into rioting and looting, has triggered a national debate on race relations and the use of police force in largely minority communities
In the Pittsburgh case, more than 22,000 people have signed a petition on change.org asking Allegheny County Attorney General Stephen Zappala to drop charges against Ford.
Ford is the plaintiff in a federal case against Derbish and two police officers, Andrew Miller and Michael Kosko, as well as former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper and acting Chief Regina McDonald.
In this case, Ford alleges his rights were violated during the traffic stop, according to the Allegheny County Attorney General’s office.
The gag order prevents anyone who holds material information that could impact the outcome of the trial from talking to the media, the spokeswoman said. It also prevents members of the media from accessing future court documents. Because both cases are related, the order applies to both of them, she added.
Ford’s criminal trial is scheduled to begin in Allegheny County on Sept. 2, the attorney general’s office said.
Reporting by Frank McGurty; Editing by James Dalgleish