Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. George James, Featured on ABC News: Black Man Paralyzed After Police Shooting on Healing and His Advice for Jacob Blake
August 29, 2020 | “It’s not going to be easy … But it is possible to still have a good life.”
Sometimes the nightmares are about his father or son being shot by police. Other times, the nightmares are about him being shot all over again.
Leon Ford, who survived a police shooting eight years ago, said that nightmares along with PTSD, survivor’s guilt and depression are just a few of the aftereffects of life as a Black man after being shot by cops.
Ford, a 27-year-old father left paralyzed from the waist down after a traffic stop with police in Pittsburgh in 2012 led to the shooting, believes the road to healing isn’t linear, but something that is seasonal and requires work throughout every stage of life.
“There’s so many layers of brokenness associated with the trauma of being a survivor,” Ford told ABC News. “I realized that I’m only able to be positive because of the internal maintenance that I’ve used to upkeep my mental health and spiritual health.”
On Nov. 12, 2012, Ford, then 19, was pulled over for a traffic stop by two Pittsburgh officers in Highland Park and another officer later arrived on the scene. Although he provided identification, one officer mistook him for a gang member and jumped inside his car and during a subsequent struggle, he ended up shot five times.
While in the hospital, Ford said he was handcuffed to his bed. Though he survived, the shooting left him paralyzed. In 2018, the city of Pittsburgh reached a $5.5 million settlement with Ford.
Ford, who has shown his support for other police shooting victims, announced a run for Pittsburgh City Council on the sixth anniversary of being shot, before he decided to bow out of the race to fulfill other commitments.
Now, Ford is offering advice for the family of Jacob Blake — a Black man also left paralyzed from the waist down after being shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The officers from the Kenosha Police Department who were involved in the incident have since been placed on administrative leave as the investigation continues into the shooting of 29-year-old Blake, who remains hospitalized.
While it remains unclear by medical professionals if Blake will be paralyzed permanently, Ford is opening up about the mental health ramifications as a survivor.
“I would encourage them to embrace their journey. Know that they aren’t alone. They are going to be supported, they are loved,” Ford said. “It’s not going to be easy … but it is possible to still have a good life.”
Ford, who grew up on the East Side of Pittsburgh, said that some of his coping mechanisms include reading, meditating and sharing his story. This includes writing about his journey in his book “Untold: Testimony and Guide to Overcoming Adversity” and serving as the executive producer for the short film “LEON,” where he shares details of his childhood and mentors youth in his hometown.
In June, Ford was also part of a virtual town hall series to discuss the impact of racial injustice during the pandemic which was hosted by the Obama Foundation with appearances by former President Barack Obama, the late Rep. John Lewis and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson.
Ford, who is the father of a 7-year-old son, said that fatherhood is important to him and that he hopes to continue being a role model for his son. In a now-viral video, his son holds his father’s walker and encourages him to “keep pushing” and not to “give up” as his dad recovers from his injury.