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Family of man wrongfully convicted in robbery and later killed in Georgia traffic stop files $16 million federal lawsuit

<i>CNN via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Dashcam footage shows Leonard Cure fatally shot during a traffic stop.
CNN via CNN Newsource
Dashcam footage shows Leonard Cure fatally shot during a traffic stop.

By Steve Almasy and Rebekah Riess, CNN

(CNN) — The family of Leonard Cure – who served more than 16 years for a robbery he did not commit and who was shot and killed last year in Georgia during a highway traffic stop – on Tuesday filed a $16 million federal lawsuit against the sheriff’s office and the deputy involved in his death.

The lawsuit claims Camden County Sheriff’s Staff Sgt. Buck Aldridge used “excessive and deadly force” against Cure and made wrongful death, and assault and battery claims against Aldridge.

The lawsuit also alleges that Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor failed to hire, train, supervise and discipline deputies, leading to a violation of Cure’s constitutional rights. It alleges the sheriff should have known of previous violations by Aldridge and failed to act.

Cure, who was 53 when he died, had been exonerated and released from prison in April 2020 after serving more than 16 years for a 2003 robbery in Broward County, Florida, court documents show.

On October 16, he was stopped on Interstate 95 not far from the Georgia-Florida line, and according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, “complied with the officer’s commands until learning that he was under arrest.” The traffic stop was recorded on dashboard and body-worn cameras.

After Cure didn’t comply with the deputy’s commands, a struggle ensued during which the deputy used a Taser and Cure grabbed the deputy’s throat and face before a shot was fired, video shows and the GBI has said.

“This is not just … bad apples; this is a bad orchard,” Cure family attorney Harry Daniels said Tuesday outside the US district court in Brunswick, Georgia, where the suit was filed. “And today we are bringing accountability to the apple and the orchard … make no mistake about it.”

Cure’s mother, Mary Cure, told reporters it was a terrible thing that “citizens have to police the police” and law enforcement officers should take their jobs seriously.

“And when they want to use excess force there, you have other parts of the body. You can shoot, you don’t have to always kill somebody,” she said.

CNN has reached out to Aldridge and the Camden County Sheriff’s Office for comment and to confirm Aldridge’s employment status.

According to the lawsuit, Proctor hired Aldridge as a deputy at the Camden County Sheriff’s Office in 2018 and “knew or should have known that Defendant Aldridge had a propensity for violence and had a history of using unlawful force and excessive force while on duty as a law enforcement officer,” as he had been fired from the Kingsland Police Department for violating that department’s use-of-force policy in 2017.

When asked about filing the civil suit while the shooting still is under review by the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney, Daniels said: “We don’t need to wait for the district attorney before we move forward (…) it’s not premature, it’s right on time.”

The suit asks for compensatory and other damages in excess of $16 million.

Video shows roadside confrontation

The Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney’s office told CNN the case still is listed as pending.

Days after the shooting, the sheriff’s office released body-worn and dashboard camera videos of the moments leading up to it.

In the dashboard video, the deputy begins pursuing Cure with his sirens on after Cure’s vehicle passes his. The pursuit lasts about one minute and 20 seconds.

In the video, the deputy tells Cure to get out of his vehicle and says he pulled him over because he was speeding and driving recklessly. “You passed me going 100 miles per hour,” the deputy says.

“I’m not going to jail,” Cure says at one point. The deputy responds, “Yes, you are going to jail.”

The deputy orders Cure several times to put his hands behind his back, warning him he will be shocked with a Taser if he doesn’t. When Cure doesn’t comply, the deputy uses a Taser on him.

Cure turns and begins walking toward the deputy and grabs the Taser wire. The two engage in a physical struggle for about 20 seconds, during which Cure grabs the deputy’s throat and face. The deputy strikes Cure multiple times with a baton and Cure is heard saying, “Yeah, b*tch,” as the struggle goes on.

The deputy appears to fire his weapon and Cure falls to the ground. The gunshot is not audible in the videos.

The deputy is heard saying, “Camden, shots fired,” into his radio while he still commands Cure to stay down. Cure can be seen sitting up at times and flailing his arms. The deputy is then seen unpacking a first-aid kit and appears to begin administering aid until paramedics take over.

CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Melissa Alonso, Isabel Rosales and Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.

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