Leonard Cure places his hands on the back of his truck as Sgt. Buck Aldridge prepares to fire his Taser during a traffic stop Oct. 16, 2023, in Camden County, Georgia. | Camden County Sheriff's OfficeLeonard Cure places his hands on the back of his truck as Sgt. Buck Aldridge prepares to fire his Taser during a traffic stop Oct. 16, 2023, in Camden County, Georgia. | Camden County Sheriff's Office
Leonard Cure places his hands on the back of his truck as Sgt. Buck Aldridge prepares to fire his Taser during a traffic stop Oct. 16, 2023, in Camden County, Georgia. | Camden County Sheriff's Office

Family sues over fatal shooting by Camden sergeant

Published on December 5, 2023 at 3:21 pm

Civil rights attorneys filed a notice of claim for a $16 million lawsuit against the Camden County sheriff’s sergeant who shot and killed Leonard Allen Cure in October on Interstate 95 near Kingsland.

Attorney Ben Crump, who has joined attorney Harry Daniels in the suit, said they also plan to sue the Sheriff’s Office because it hired Sgt. Buck Aldridge after Kingsland police fired him for throwing a woman to the ground during a traffic stop in 2017.

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The attorneys announced their intention to sue Tuesday afternoon in front of the Camden County Courthouse in Woodbine. One of many reasons for the suit against Aldridge is a “pattern and practice of engaging in excessive force” that started when he worked for the Kingsland Police Department, through now, Crump said.

“The propensity to violate the constitutional rights of citizens, especially minority citizens; the fact that in 2017, he slammed the woman,” Crump said. “Then in 2022, there’s a video of him hitting a young man who is handcuffed and who is restrained with a fist over an alleged speeding violation. And again, now with Leonard Cure, the escalation from when he pulled Cure over.”

Sgt. Buck Aldridge. | Camden County Sheriff’s Office

Cure had been wrongfully convicted in 2003 of armed robbery in Broward County and sentenced to state prison. The Innocence Project of Florida helped exonerate him in 2020. Cure had since received compensation from the state and had a job and was buying a home in Atlanta when he was shot, Executive Director Seth Miller said in a statement.

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“And now this,” Miller’s Facebook statement said at the time. “He and his family deserved better. Lenny’s life mattered. We are completely devastated.” 

What the bodycam shows

Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor released bodycam and police car video of the October chase and shooting on the department’s Facebook page a few days after it happened. It showed Cure speeding by at more than 100 mph and driving recklessly, Proctor said.

Aldridge’s police car video shows a Ram pickup truck speeding past him in the left lane, before the sergeant follows with emergency lights flashing. The Ram moves back and forth between lanes, then pulls over after a short pursuit about 7:30 a.m. that day just north of Exit 7 on I-95 in Kingsland.

The sergeant is heard yelling “Get out, get out!” to the Ram driver. When told to put his hands on the back of the truck, the driver says, “I ain’t doing s—.” The deputy reaches for the man’s right arm, and he pulls away, demanding to know who has pulled him over. He is told “staff sergeant for the Sheriff’s Office.”

The driver identifies himself, and the sergeant tells him that “I don’t care — step to the rear of the vehicle.” The sergeant pulls out his Taser and warns the driver, who puts his hands up and walks to the back of the truck.

Attorney Ben Crump speaking earlier Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, in Jacksonville. | Dan Scanlan, WJCT News 89.9

The driver slowly puts one hand, then the other on the back of his truck as the sergeant calls for backup. He tells Cure to put his hands behind his back or “you are getting tased,” before pointing the Taser at him. When Cure asks why he is getting tased, Aldridge said it is because he is under arrest for speeding and reckless driving, adding that the Ram passed him “doing 100 mph,” the videos show.

Cure assumes he faces a speeding ticket, but Aldridge tells him that those are criminal offenses and “you are going to jail.”

The buzz of the Taser is heard on the police car video as the prongs connect and Cure stiffens, then spins as the Taser prongs pull out. He moves toward the sergeant and they begin fighting, moving toward the front of the cruiser as they grapple with each other, the video shows. Aldridge puts the Taser to Cure’s chest and fires again. That is when Cure grabs Aldridge’s neck. Then the sergeant puts his right arm around the Cure’s neck as they bang into the truck.

Cure shoves Aldridge’s face. The sergeant pulls out his baton and starts hitting Cure as he continues pushing the sergeant’s head down. The deputy’s back arches as Cure keeps pushing, the videos show. Then the sergeant pulls his gun and a muffled shot is heard. Cure falls to the road, with the sergeant on top of him, then standing.

“Stay down, stay down,” the sergeant says, then radios “shots fired” as Cure is seen writhing on the ground on both videos.

“Shots fired. Suspect down. Send me help!” the sergeant radios again.

Aldridge’s record

Records from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards & Training Council show that Aldridge joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2018 after five years at the Kingsland Police Department, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said. Kingsland police fired Aldridge after he violated policies on the use of necessary and appropriate force, the records show.

The firing stemmed from an incident in which Aldridge tried to handcuff a woman without any verbal warning as he awaited backup, then pushed her to the ground, records show. Other officers involved in the incident stated that he was too aggressive with the woman, the records show.

Aldridge’s bodycam and police car video will probably be shown to a jury if the suit goes to trial, showing the physical confrontation between both men. But Crump said experts will have to explain what a jury sees in those videos, including the sergeant’s employment history.

“I think they will do a good job explaining not only the result of what happened, but what was the factor that led up to the tragedy,” Crump said. “I think that in many of these cases, that is probably more important than the tragedy itself — how did we get here? That is what we are going to focus in on, why these injustices, these civil rights violations, keep happening with this particular officer.”

Just before the video was released in October, Cure’s mother, Mary Cure, said she had been concerned about her son if he was ever in a traffic stop.

Mary Cure holds a framed photo of her dead son, Leonard Cure. Attorney Ben Crump stands at the left during a news conference Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, in Woodbine, Georgia. | News4Jax

“Is he going to be a victim of that?” she told News4Jax. “Because from the time that he was released (from prison), he was never set free. I lived in constant fear every time the phone rang and he wasn’t home, even if he was at work. Is this going to be the day that they’re going to lock him up, beat him up, or kill him?”

On Tuesday, Crump said Cure’s 16 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted, then was told by Aldridge that he’s going back to jail, may have had “a triggering effect in his mind.”

“But it all started because of this pattern to engage in excessive force, the most force with citizens, especial minority citizens,” Crump said.

Proctor has passed the investigation over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which lists the shooting as the state’s 80th involving an officer this year.

The sheriff’s office had no comment, stating that it had not seen Crump’s legal action. Aldridge remains on administrative leave, Crump said.

Lead image: Leonard Cure places his hands on the back of his truck as Sgt. Buck Aldridge prepares to fire his Taser during a traffic stop Oct. 16, 2023, in Camden County, Georgia. | Camden County Sheriff’s Office

author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 email Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years of experience in radio, television, and print reporting. He has worked at various stations in the Northeast and Jacksonville. Prior to joining the WJCT News team, Dan spent 34 years at The Florida Times-Union as a police and current affairs reporter.

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