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Family of exonerated Broward man files lawsuit against Georgia deputy who killed him

Rafael Olmeda and Angie DiMichele, South Florida Sun-Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The family of a Broward County man who was released after spending 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit is suing the Georgia deputy who shot him to death at a traffic stop in October.

The tragic death of Leonard Cure came just three years after he was released from prison and four months after the state awarded him more than $800,000 as compensation for his unjust incarceration. He had been wrongly accused of a 2003 armed robbery in Dania Beach and cleared in 2020.

His encounter with Camden County Sheriff’s Deputy Buck Aldridge on Oct. 16 left him dead on the side of a highway, quickly threatening to ignite racial tensions as an example of a white law enforcement officer needlessly shooting an unarmed Black man.

Video of the encounter showed it was not nearly that simple.

Aldridge saw Cure, 53, speeding on Interstate 95 and moved to pull him over. When Cure stopped, Aldridge ordered Cure out of his vehicle. Cure complied but didn’t mask his own displeasure. Their verbal altercation escalated into a physical one in less than a minute, with Cure appearing to get the best of Aldridge more than once. “Yeah, b—,” Cure could be heard saying at one point where he appeared to have the upper hand.

With highway traffic speeding past them just a few yards away, Aldridge used his stun gun to slow Cure down and, when that didn’t work, switched to his service weapon, killing Cure.

Law enforcement experts, after reviewing the video, agreed that Aldridge had a genuine reason to fear for his life and was therefore justified in using lethal force when he did. But the lawsuit focuses on the time leading up to the shooting, faulting the deputy for resorting to physical violence when it wasn’t necessary and making no effort to de-escalate the situation once Cure stepped out of his vehicle.

The legal issue raised in the federal lawsuit filed in Georgia by civil rights lawyer Ben Crump is that Aldridge resorted to excessive force before it was necessary, a move that allows Cure’s lawyers to portray his actions as defensive instead of aggressive.

“Defendant Aldridge’s actions and use of force, as described herein, were objectively unreasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them and violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Mr. Cure,” Crump wrote in his complaint filed Tuesday afternoon.

 

The Camden County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on a pending lawsuit, said office spokesman Capt. Larry Bruce. “Sgt. Aldridge has been assigned administrative duty in the Fleet Maintenance Office. The (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) case file was forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office, but no action or decision has been made currently.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has denied the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s public records requests for Cure’s autopsy report and toxicology report and any previously completed investigations involving Aldridge during his employment with the Sheriff’s Office and his former employer, the Kingsland Police Department. They denied the requests earlier this year because the records were part of an ongoing investigation or prosecution, according to the agency.

The Kingsland Police Department no longer had records of two Internal Affairs investigations involving Aldridge during his employment there, including one that led to his termination.

Aldridge was suspended without pay for three days from the police department in May 2017 and was ordered to attend training on use of force and de-escalation techniques for gaining compliance, according to his police department personnel file.

He was also placed on a year-long probation and was recommended to be provided counseling from the city’s Employee Assistance Program. He was fired from the department in August 2017 after a second Internal Affairs investigation determined he used unnecessary force against a woman during a traffic stop, according to his personnel file.

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(Staff writer Shira Moolten contributed to this report.)

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©2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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