Georgia Deputy Involved in Fatal Shooting Previously Fired for Excessive Force, Prompting Criticism of Sheriff’s Oversight

After pulling Leonard Cure over for speeding, Staff Sgt. Buck Aldridge initiated a roadside battle in which he fatally shot Cure. This wasn’t the first time the Camden County sheriff’s deputy’s traffic check had descended into violence.

Aldridge pulled a motorist who had escaped the constable on Interstate 95 from a car that had wrecked last year. The Associated Press was able to get footage from body and dash cameras that shows the driver on his back as Aldridge hits him. Documents show that the constable was not disciplined.

According to personnel records, Aldridge was dismissed by the same Georgian county police agency in August 2017 for throwing a lady to the ground and handcuffing her during a traffic stop. Nine months later, the Camden County Sheriff’s Office employed him.

When Cure refused to place his hands behind him to be handcuffed, Aldridge shocked the 53-year-old Black man with a Taser after stopping him for speeding on October 16. Videos from the dash and body cameras reveal that after Aldridge shot the constable at point blank range, Cure retaliated by putting his hand at his throat.

According to his relatives, Cure’s resistance was probably caused by psychological stress from his 16-year imprisonment in Florida for an armed robbery that he did not conduct. In 2020, authorities cleared him and let him go.

Cure’s death is being looked into by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which will report its findings to the authorities. According to Aldridge’s lawyer, the footage proves that he fired in self-defense. Nevertheless, considering his aggressive past, others wonder if he ought to have been sporting a badge.

The head of the NAACP chapter in Camden County, Timothy Bessent Sr., stated, “This guy should have never been on the force.”

Using Georgia’s open records legislation, the AP was able to access Aldridge’s personnel records as well as reports and recordings from the chase and arrest in June 2022.

Aldridge, 41, a former US Marine, spent almost five years as a police officer in the southeast Georgian department of Kingsland. According to his records, Aldridge received punishment for employing excessive force in both May 2017 and February 2014. The second time, he received a three-day unpaid suspension.

Three months after Aldridge’s third offence, the department dismissed him. According to police records, Aldridge attempted to handcuff a lady in order to keep her out of her car rather than to arrest her while aiding with a traffic stop. Aldridge cuffed the lady after “picking her up and throwing her on the ground,” a constable said investigators. Her automobile was cited for being driven by an unauthorised individual.

In May 2018, the sheriff’s office hired Aldridge. He revealed his termination on his employment application.

According to retired police Maj. Neill Franklin, Aldridge’s discharge wouldn’t immediately exclude him from working for another agency, but some would view it as a major problem.

Franklin oversaw training programmes for both the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department. “If someone gets terminated from another police department for using excessive force, they’re not getting hired by either agency,” Franklin said. “The risk is simply too great.”

Advocates like Bessent claim it’s an instance of Camden County Sheriff Jim Proctor putting up with needless violence.

Proctor, the sheriff for ten years, chose not to respond. The inquiry into Cure’s passing and ongoing civil lawsuits involving other deputies were mentioned by spokesman Capt. Larry Bruce.

Six Camden County officers have been dismissed and charged with felonies since last year for using violence against a driver and prison inmates.

Jail surveillance cameras saw officers storming into Jarrett Hobbs’s cell in September 2022. Hobbs was struck in the head and neck and thrown against a wall. Before his lawyer was able to get hold of the footage, Hobbs was accused of attacking jail staff. Three deputies were charged after his accusations were withdrawn.

For the occurrences in March and July, two additional jailers faced charges and were let go. Security footage showed one guard punching and pushing an inmate to the ground before another guard stepped in. One of the deputy’s restrained victims was knocked unconscious as he was pushed headfirst against a door.

Harry Daniels, a civil rights lawyer who secured a settlement for Hobbs, said, “You’ve got these deputies running wild and doing what they want to do.” “The district attorney’s office and the GBI have issued the punishments. It shouldn’t originate from a third party.

He gestures to Christine Newman, who was chosen ‘Deputy of the Month’ two months after it was captured on dash cam when she struck the head of a patrol SUV and struck a driver who was handcuffed in the face. On January 16, 2022, the motorist was pulled over for a rolling stop, but she refused to get out of her car.

After being charged with serious assault and breaking her oath of office, Newman was dismissed a year later. She entered a not guilty plea. Robert Persse, Newman’s lawyer, referred to her as a “loyal deputy” and said he was excited to defend her in court.

According to retired LaGrange, Georgia, Police Chief Louis Dekmar, the number of deputies charged “indicates a culture that may not encourage use of force, but certainly tolerates inappropriate use of force.”

According to Dekmar, a past president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, “you generally don’t see that in law enforcement agencies if folks are held accountable and there are clear lines.”

According to Mike Spiers, the county’s risk management director, Camden County’s government lost coverage from its insurance company in July due to an increase in claims involving the sheriff’s office. According to him, the county received new insurance, but its liability deductible increased from $25,000 to $250,000.

As the GBI looks into Cure’s death, Aldridge was put on administrative leave.

Attorney Adrienne Browning represented Buck Aldridge stated, “Buck Aldridge is a fine officer and the video speaks for itself.” “It’s evident that he defended himself because his life was in danger.”

In the tragic altercation seen on camera along I-95, Aldridge informs Cure that he is facing reckless driving charges for exceeding the speed limit of 100 mph (161 kph). Even though Cure objects, he complies with orders to exit and place his hands on his vehicle. But he disobeys orders to place his hands behind his back.

At that moment, Aldridge shoots Cure in the back with his Taser. Video captures Cure striking back, and they can be seen fighting next to the road. After hitting Aldridge with a baton, Cure holds onto his face and neck.

Indeed, bitch! Says Cure. Then Aldridge fires one shot and he falls to the ground.

According to Dekmar, Franklin, and a third expert who spoke with the AP, they think the shooting was lawful since Aldridge seemed to be in danger at the time he shot. However, they also took issue with Aldridge’s initial yelling at Cure and said he did nothing to defuse the situation.

According to Thaddeus Johnson, a former Memphis police officer who teaches criminal justice at Georgia State University and serves as a senior fellow for the Council on Criminal Justice, “he escalated the situation with Mr. Cure.” “He is unable to regulate his feelings.”

Johnson said that after pursuing two speeding automobiles in June 2022, Aldridge had a similar loss of composure and was arrested.Aldridge informs Cure on camera during the tragic altercation on I-95 that he is facing reckless driving charges for exceeding the 100 mph speed limit.

Aldridge can be seen approaching with his gun drawn and uttering expletives on dash and body camera footage following one automobile accident. Aldridge attacks the driver after hauling him out of the car headfirst as the guy is on his back.

The motorist is reluctant to be handcuffed, but eventually gives in after Aldridge uses a Taser to shock him and another deputy’s dog attacks him. Drug trafficking, careless driving, and eluding an officer were the charges brought against the driver.

Two months later, Aldridge received a promotion to staff sergeant. His personnel file with the sheriff indicates no disciplinary proceedings.

Johnson stated that he doesn’t think Aldridge’s punching of the detained driver was justified. He declared, “From what I saw in the video, he deserves to be fired,” even if prosecutors decide not to prosecute him in connection with Cure’s death.

“Despite their humanity, we must hold officers to a higher standard,” Johnson stated.

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