The family of an exonerated black man killed by a Georgia lawmaker is suing him in federal court

The family of a murdered black man has filed a federal lawsuit against the Georgia lawmaker who shot him during a traffic stop that led to violence


RUSS BYNUM Associated Press

February 27, 2024, 12:59 p.m. ET

3 minutes read

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The family of a Black man who was fatally shot by a Georgia deputy during a traffic stop in October filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking more than $16 million in damages over a history of violence officials.

Leonard Cure, 53, was killed just three years after Florida authorities freed him from a 16-year prison sentence for a crime he did not commit.

The civil lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court four months after Cure was killed in a violent fight that began after Camden County Sheriff's Staff Sgt. Buck Aldridge pulled him over for speeding on Interstate 95.

“It's a terrible day for citizens to police the police,” Cure's mother, Mary Cure, said Tuesday at a news conference outside the federal courthouse on the coast of Brunswick, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Savannah.

The lawsuit names Aldridge and Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor as defendants, saying they violated Cure's constitutional rights. It is alleged that Aldridge used excessive force during the Oct. 16 traffic stop by shocking Cure with a Taser before Cure began to resist.

And it says the sheriff created “unnecessary danger and risk of serious injury or death with deliberate indifference” by hiring Aldridge and keeping him in uniform despite previous instances of unlawful violence.

An attorney for Aldridge, Adrienne Browning, declined to comment Tuesday. She has previously said he was a “good officer” who shot Cure in self-defense.

A spokesman for Proctor, Capt. Larry Bruce, said the sheriff's office does not comment on pending litigation. He said the sheriff has not yet hired an attorney in the civil case.

Dash and bodycam video of the shooting shows Aldridge shocking Cure with a Taser after he refused to put his hands behind his back and handcuff him. Cure fought back and put a hand on the deputy's throat as Aldridge shot him at point-blank range.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was tasked with investigating, which is common practice in the state when it comes to police-involved shootings. Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Keith Higgins is still reviewing the GBI's findings and has not decided whether to file criminal charges, spokeswoman Cheryl Diprizio said.

“We don’t have to wait for the district attorney before we move forward,” said Harry Daniels, the civil rights attorney suing on behalf of Cure’s family.

Aldridge was assigned to administrative duties with the sheriff's fleet maintenance office pending a decision from prosecutors, Bruce said.

Relatives said Cure likely fought back because of psychological trauma from being imprisoned in Florida for an armed robbery he did not commit. Officials exonerated him and released him in 2020.

Lawyers for Cure's family say Sheriff Proctor should never have hired Aldridge, who was fired from the neighboring Kingsland Police Department in 2017 after being disciplined for excessive force a third time. Personnel records show the sheriff hired him nine months later.

And in a video from a June 2022 chase that ended in a crash, Aldridge is seen punching a supine driver as the deputy pulls him from a wrecked car. The documents indicate that no disciplinary action was taken against the deputy.

Three experts who reviewed video of the shooting told The Associated Press they believed the shooting was legal because Aldridge appeared to be in danger when he fired. But they also criticized how Aldridge began the encounter by yelling at Cure and saying he made no effort to de-escalate their confrontation.