A single bullet forever changed the trajectory of the Fords, a middle-class family living on New York’s Long Island.
The round pierced the heart of math teacher William Ford, then 24, on April 7, 1992. It was fired by 19-year-old mechanic Mark Reilly, who claimed he fired in self-defense.
Ford was black. Reilly was white. And there lives the reason Reilly was not indicted for killing Ford, his brother believes.
Yance Ford has spent the past decade creating a crime documentary titled Strong Island — after a common nickname for Long Island — which is currently playing on Netflix.
“The film looks at the effects of his murder on my family and the way that race and self-defense played a part in the investigation,” Yance told InsideEdition.com.
There had been tension between the Fords and Reilly’s repair shop after a tow truck from the business hit a car belonging to William’s girlfriend.
The garage had offered to repair the vehicle for free if the woman agreed to not file an insurance claim.
The girlfriend and Ford’s mother went to check on the car, which had been in the shop longer than expected. The women said they had been disrespected and followed home by an employee of the garage.
When William returned home that night, he went to confront the owner. William was studying to become a corrections officer and he told the owner he’d have the business shut down after he passed his test, his brother said.
After that exchange, William saw the man who had followed his mother and girlfriend home, stepped around a corner to speak to him, and was shot in the chest by Reilly, Yance said.
“He stumbled out of the garage, falling into the arms of his friend, Kevin, who was there with him, and he died after being flown to Stony Brook University Hospital,” the brother said.
Earlier that day, William had appeared as the star witness in a high-profile trial involving the shooting of a white assistant district attorney in Brooklyn who was shot during a holdup at an ATM.
William had chased and tackled the gunman.
But the all-white jury considering William’s killing failed to indict Reilly for manslaughter. The mechanic said he had feared for his life.
Race played a huge role in that decision, Yance believes.
“The narrative of the scary, black man who is out of control, who needed to be shot in order to save your life, is a narrative that’s as old as our country,” Yance said.
Even more troubling, Yance continued, is how prevalent that thinking remains to this day.
And that is the point of his documentary, he said.
“We are not looking for evidence,” he said. “We are not trying to figure out what happened... What we’re looking at in Strong Island is why the events happened and what they meant for my family, and really what it means to kill someone in self-defense,” he said.
Yance thinks of his brother every day. The loss suffered by his mother is immeasurable.
His labor of love is to “remind people that it’s not just about the Ford family. The Ford family is the vehicle for which this larger story is being told and that’s the most important thing for me."