Videos from dash cams and body cameras released Wednesday show how a traffic stop in Georgia turned violent and then deadly in less than three minutes when a sheriff’s deputy fatally shot a Black man wrongly imprisoned for more than 16 years.
The man, Leonard Cure, 53, was arrested Monday morning on Interstate 95 in Camden County, Georgia, not far from the Florida state line. The Camden County Sheriff’s Office said he was driving more than 100 mph in a 70 mph zone.
Footage released Wednesday by the sheriff’s office shows a deputy, whose name has not been released, stopping Mr. Cure’s pickup truck on the side of the highway. The deputy orders Mr. Cure to get out of the truck and put his hands on the back of the vehicle.
Mr. Cure comes out claiming he did nothing wrong and pulls his arm away as the deputy tries to grab it. The deputy tells Mr. Cure to back off or be Tased. He then takes out his Taser, points it at Mr. Cure and, once again, orders him to get into the back of the truck.
Mr. Cure walks to the back of the truck and places his hands on the vehicle. The deputy told Mr. Cure to put his hands behind his back. Mr. Cure keeps them in the truck and wonders why he is being arrested.
“Do I have a warrant? » » asks Mr. Cure. The deputy again told him to put his hands behind his back or be Tased.
“You are under arrest for speeding and reckless driving,” the deputy said, adding that Mr. Cure passed him “at 100 miles an hour.”
“Okay, so it’s a speeding ticket, right?” Mr. Cure says, to which the deputy responds that “traffic tickets in the state of Georgia are criminal offenses.”
As the two continue to argue, Mr. Cure ignores the deputy’s orders to put his hands behind his back. The deputy says to Mr. Cure, “Yes, you are going to jail,” and Mr. Cure points to the sky.
The deputy then tases Mr. Cure, who freezes and then walks towards the deputy waving his arms. The two engage in a violent struggle, arms wrapped around each other.
Mr. Cure grabs the deputy’s face, pushing his head and body back and insulting him, while the deputy strikes Mr. Cure with his baton. The deputy then shoots Mr. Cure and yells at him to stay on the ground.
Other deputies and medical personnel arrive and tend to Mr. Cure, who is lying on the ground. He later died.
Mr. Cure’s family watched the footage in a Georgia Bureau of Investigation office with their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, just before it was released Wednesday. They said it showed the deputy was aggressive and failed to deescalate the situation.
“My brother turned around and got a little physical but, for the most part, he was completely compliant,” Michael Cure, one of Mr. Cure’s brothers, told reporters. “I think maybe there were some issues, some mental issues with my brother. I know him quite well. The policeman just triggered it, without a doubt. It was excitement met enthusiasm.
Wallace Cure, another brother of Mr. Cure, said there was “absolutely no reason why my brother would have been murdered during a traffic stop.”
“There was an altercation,” he said, but added that he had witnessed other confrontations with law enforcement “and the person did not die.”
Mr. Crump said the deputy could have triggered Mr. Cure’s post-traumatic stress when he told him he was going to prison.
“When you’ve been wrongly convicted and then they’re talking about putting you back in the cage? » said Mr. Crump. “It’s psychological at that point.”
The Camden County Sheriff’s Office said the videos “show that law enforcement is being transparent regarding the actions that took place Monday morning, including dash cam video from the truck driving over 100 mph and being used recklessly.”
“Additionally, the body camera video the deputy was wearing reveals the confrontation and use of force,” the office said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the shooting, said it had no updates on the case.
Mr. Cure was convicted in 2003 of the armed robbery of a Walgreens in Broward County, Florida. He was sentenced to life in prison, based on previous convictions. In 2020, he was exonerated and released based on a finding of “actual innocence,” according to the Innocence Project of Florida.
An ATM receipt “proved that Lenny was miles from the crime scene at the time of the robbery,” the Innocence Project said in a statement after his death. A new investigation also concluded that a photo series shown to one of the victims contained multiple photos of Mr. Cure and was therefore unreliable and suggestive, the statement said.
Based on these findings, Florida acknowledged that Mr. Cure “was in fact innocent,” the statement said. He was the first person exonerated by the Broward State Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Review Unit.
In June, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida approved legislation granting Mr. Cure $817,000 and educational benefits for his wrongful conviction and incarceration.
He had recently used the money to buy a home in Palmetto, Ga., and was driving there from his mother’s house in Florida when he was shot, according to Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida .
“It’s incredibly tragic,” Mr. Miller said. “People will debate whether it was justified or not. But that’s not what concerns me. There was no need for the whole incident to unfold like this. If he had been approached in a less hostile manner by law enforcement, Leonard would have returned home.