By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) -A Black man who had been exonerated after serving 16 years for an armed robbery conviction was fatally shot by a Georgia sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop as he was driving to visit his mother in Florida.
The officer pulled over Leonard Allan Cure, 53, on Monday morning along Interstate 95 in Camden County near the Florida border. An altercation ensued, and the deputy killed Cure, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).
The deadly encounter took place about 20 years to the day after Cure was arrested on charges of armed robbery and assault at a Walgreens store in Dania Beach, Florida.
A year later, a jury found Cure guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison, but a judge vacated the convictions in 2020 after a review panel exonerated him.
In Monday’s incident, the GBI said the deputy had told Cure that he was under arrest but Cure failed to comply with the officer’s requests and assaulted him. Before shooting, the deputy used a Taser and a baton in an effort to subdue Cure, the agency said. Paramedics treated Cure but he later died.
Cure was stopped because he was driving at least 90 miles per hour in an area where the speed limit was 70, the New York Times reported, citing a sheriff’s department spokesperson.
The sheriff’s department was not immediately available for comment.
The deputy was not identified by the GBI, which has opened an independent investigation.
It was unclear whether body camera footage of the incident existed or if it would be released.
Several high-profile killings of Black men during traffic stops in recent years have called attention to the potential for violence when police pull over drivers.
Black motorists in the United States are 20% more likely to be stopped by police, a study by researchers at New York University and the Stanford Open Policing Project found in 2020. The study also found that they were searched about 1.5 to 2 times as often as white drivers, but were less likely to be carrying drugs, guns or other illegal contraband.
EXONERATION IN FLORIDA CASE
In December 2019, Cure asked a newly created Broward State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit to re-investigate his case, based on evidence and questions about how he was identified as a suspect.
In 2020, an independent review panel ruled that the case against Cure gave “rise to a reasonable doubt as to his culpability and that he is most likely innocent,” according to court records.
A judge vacated Cure’s convictions and all charges were dropped against him three days later, making him the first to be exonerated by Broward’s review unit.
The Innocence Project of Florida represented Cure during his appeal. It said in a statement on Monday that Cure was traveling to see his mother in south Florida when the incident occurred.
“We are devastated by the news that our client, Leonard Cure, was tragically shot to death this morning,” it said, noting that he had a job, was in the process of buying a home and aspired to attend college for music production.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Jonathan Oatis)