Leonard Cure family sues Georgia sheriff's office and deputy for $16 million after shooting death


CNN

The family of Leonard Cure – who served more than 16 years in prison for a robbery he didn't commit and was shot to death during a highway traffic stop in Georgia last year – filed a $16 million federal lawsuit Tuesday. Dollar against the sheriff's office and the deputy involved in his death.

The lawsuit alleges that Camden County Sheriff's Staff Sergeant Sgt. Buck Aldridge used “excessive and deadly force” against Cure and filed wrongful death and assault and battery charges against Aldridge.

The lawsuit also alleges that Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor failed to hire, train, supervise and discipline deputies, resulting in a violation of Cure's constitutional rights. It claims the sheriff should have known about Aldridge's previous violations and taken no action.

Cure, who was 53 when he died, was 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 Oct. 16, he was stopped on Interstate 95 near the Georgia-Florida line and, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, “he followed the officer's instructions until he learned he was under arrest.” The traffic stop was recorded with cameras on the dashboard and body.

After Cure failed to comply with the deputy's commands, a struggle ensued in which the deputy used a Taser and Cure grabbed the deputy's neck and face before a shot was fired, videos show, the GBI said.

“These aren’t just… bad apples; “This is a bad orchard,” Cure family attorney Harry Daniels said Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Brunswick, Georgia, where the lawsuit was filed. “And today we bring responsibility to the apple and orchard…make no mistake.”

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

“And if they want to apply excess force there, you have other body parts. You can shoot, you don’t always have to kill someone,” she said.

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

According to the lawsuit, Proctor hired Aldridge as a deputy with the Camden County Sheriff's Office in 2018 and “knew or should have known that defendant Aldridge was prone to violence and had a history of using unlawful and excessive force while on duty as an officer.” “Law enforcement officer” because he was fired from the Kingsland Police Department in 2017 for violating that department’s use of force policy.

Asked about filing the civil lawsuit while the shooting is still being reviewed by the Brunswick Judicial Circuit district attorney, Daniels said, “We don't have to wait for the district attorney before we move forward (…) it's not premature, it's right.” on time.”

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and other damages in excess of $16 million.

The Brunswick Judicial Circuit prosecutor's office told CNN the case is still 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, with his siren on, begins pursuing Cure after Cure's vehicle passes his. The chase lasts approximately one minute and 20 seconds.

In the video, the officer asks Cure to get out of his vehicle and says he pulled him over for speeding and driving recklessly. “They passed me at 100 miles per hour,” the deputy said.

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

The deputy repeatedly orders Cure to put his hands behind his back and warns him that if he doesn't, he will be shocked with a Taser. When Cure doesn't comply, the deputy uses a Taser on him.

Cure turns around, walks toward the deputy and grabs the Taser wire. The two engage in a physical fight for about 20 seconds, with Cure grabbing the deputy's neck and face. The deputy hits Cure several times with a baton and Cure can be heard saying, “Yeah, bitch,” as the fight continues.

The deputy appears to fire his weapon and Cure falls to the ground. The shot cannot be heard in the videos.

The deputy can be heard saying into his radio, “Camden, shots fired,” while still ordering Cure to stay down. Sometimes Cure can be seen sitting up and waving his arms. The deputy can then be seen unpacking a first aid kit and apparently beginning to render aid until the paramedics take over.

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