Soon, Leonard Cure’s family will demand answers. They’ll want to know why he was pulled over on Interstate 95 Monday morning. They will want to know why he was told to get out of his car. They’ll want to know why he was arrested. You’ll want to know how he fought back. They will want to know why police felt deadly force was necessary.
But today Leonard Cure’s family is in mourning.
Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida, said Cure, 53, was on his way back to Georgia after visiting his mother in the Fort Pierce area. After serving 16 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Cure began a new chapter in his life, Miller said.
He had just decided on a new home. Thanks to an $817,000 settlement from the state of Florida, he had new bank accounts and investments. All of those assets are now in limbo, Miller said, until Cure’s mother and family figure out what happens next.
“As he left his mother’s house, he told her, ‘I love you and will come back to see you,'” Miller said. “The next thing she knew, a Fort Pierce police officer came to her door to tell her her son was dead.”
Cure’s mother described it to Miller as “surreal” and “impossible.”
According to a press release from Crump’s office, the family retained Ben Crump. The well-known civil rights and personal injury attorney has previously represented the families of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the traffic stop that ended Cure’s life. According to the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, Cure, a black man, was pulled over around 7:30 a.m. Monday for driving 90 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone. The deputy who initiated the stop told Cure, who had been cooperating up to that point, that he was under arrest.
According to authorities, the arrest was for reckless driving.
At that point, Cure began resisting, according to an initial statement from the GBI. A stun gun wasn’t enough to stop him from resisting. He “assaulted” the deputy, the statement said. The stun gun was used again. Likewise the deputy’s baton and finally his weapon.
Videos recorded by the patrol car’s body camera and dashboard camera will be reviewed along with the officer’s statement and other evidence before the agency forwards its findings to prosecutors, said Stacy Carson, the GBI agent who led the investigation into the shooting.
Camden County Sheriff’s Capt. Larry Bruce said no incident report on the shooting was available Tuesday and declined to release the video footage, citing the ongoing investigation.
Bruce said Cure was hesitant to exit the vehicle – the deputy asked several times before complying.
“When he got to the back of the truck and was about to be handcuffed, he became violent,” Bruce said.
Authorities have not released the name of the deputy, who was placed on administrative leave. Carson said he was a white man.
For those released after a wrongful conviction, the sight of a police officer and the threat of arrest can trigger a post-traumatic reaction, said Stephanie Spurgeon, a Pinellas County woman who served eight years in prison for manslaughter based on an expert testimony, which later turned out to be incorrect.
“It’s a feeling that’s hard to put into words,” Spurgeon said. “Even if a police officer pulls up behind you without the lights flashing, trauma is evoked. Panic. Terror. Absolute fear. And the feeling that something like this couldn’t possibly happen again.”
That fear was likely what Cure was feeling at the time of his arrest, Miller said. “An overarching, persistent and persistent fear they have is that the freedom they have worked so hard to regain will be taken away from them at any moment,” he said.
Studies show that Black Americans face a disproportionate risk of being wrongfully convicted of crimes or killed by police.
According to a 2022 report from the Registry, Black people make up 13.6% of the American population but 53% of the 3,200 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations.
Black Americans are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes than white Americans, the report said.
For those whose convictions are overturned, exoneration is often not a happy ending. Many struggle with severe post-traumatic stress disorder after their wrongful conviction, which psychologists have often compared to the trauma experienced by war veterans.
Many report significant personality changes, including paranoia and anxiety, following their conviction; others report feelings of threat and fear in public.
Cure’s freedom was originally taken away from him in 2004 when he was convicted of armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm on Nov. 10, 2003, in Dania Beach. The Broward District Attorney’s Office took a second look at the review unit case through its sentencing. Cure was the first prison inmate exonerated by the unit.
“All I know is that someone who I knew was a person of good will, someone who was giving an incredible amount of himself and getting his life back together, is no longer with us because of a traffic stop,” Miller said . “Everyone’s primary focus now is grieving the loss of a family member.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Rafael Olmeda can be reached at email@example.com or 954-456-4457