New details have emerged about the violent past of a Georgia police officer who was fired after a violent traffic stop, only to shoot and kill another driver after being rehired.
Camden County Sergeant Buck Aldridge was suspended last month in connection with the death of Leonard Cure, who had only recently been exonerated after serving 16 years of a life sentence for a crime he did not commit.
Aldridge, 41, had already been fired by neighboring Kingsland police in 2017 after a series of violent incidents that culminated in him throwing a woman to the ground during a traffic stop.
Now disturbing footage has been released of the former Marine forcibly dragging a suspect out of a crashed car and punching him in the head while he lay on his back during an arrest in June last year – two months before he was promoted.
“Show me your damn hands, put your damn hands up now, come on,” the officer shouted.
Sergeant Buck Aldridge was fired by the Kingsland Police Department in 2017 for violent conduct, but was hired by neighboring Camden County nine months later.
Aldridge gave chase at speeds of up to 120mph before the suspect crashed his car and was dragged out by the officer and punched in the head.
‘Shut your mouth!’ he shouted as he punched the man.
Sixteen months later, Cure was returning from a visit to his mother in Florida when Aldridge pulled him over while driving on Interstate 95 near the Georgia-Florida line.
The 53-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery in 2003, but was released in 2020 after an investigation found there was no physical evidence or witnesses and his solid alibis had been ignored.
Police dashcam footage showed a heated argument between the men after Aldridge accused Cure of driving at 100mph.
Cure initially obeyed instructions to put his hands on his car, but refused to put them behind his back when Aldridge told him he was going to jail.
The argument turned violent, with the officer using his baton and performing two Taser strikes before ultimately shooting Cure as he fell to the ground.
“I believe there may have been some mental issues going on with my brother,” Michael Cure told the Associated Press after his death on October 16.
“The officer just triggered him, no doubt triggered him.
“It was excitement and excitement.
‘He should actually still be alive. The officer hit him with his baton and bagged him, twice in fact. But he didn’t have to shoot him.’
Leonard Cure was sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery in 2003, but was released in 2020 after an investigation found that no physical evidence or witnesses had been presented at his trial and his solid alibis had been ignored.
Police dashcam footage showed the argument turning violent, with the officer using his baton and two Taser strikes before ultimately shooting Cure as he fell to the ground.
Former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officer James Brown said footage from both the 2022 stop and Cure’s death the following year showed a similar pattern.
“Comparing would be poor decision making,” he said news4jax.com.
‘Here you see him confronting an individual long before his backup arrives. And in the previous incident you had the same thing.
“You had clear signs that this could be a much more problematic arrest than you anticipated.”
Personnel records show that Aldridge received several warnings about his behavior over the course of a decade, including a 2013 performance review that questioned his judgment and decision-making and urged him to be “calm, cool and collected.”
But he was disciplined in February 2014 and May 2017 for using unnecessary force, before being fired in August that year when he tried to handcuff a woman during a traffic stop simply to keep her out of her car.
A deputy told investigators that his colleague handcuffed the woman after “picking her up and throwing her to the ground.”
A second colleague said: ‘I see that a police officer is much too aggressive in the beginning. He didn’t feel like picking her up and throwing her on the ground.’
Nine months later, he was hired by Sheriff Jim Proctor for the Camden County Police Department, where he received no further disciplinary sanctions from his superiors.
But campaigners are taking a fresh look at his behavior in light of Cure’s death and are demanding to know why he was hired in the first place.
“If someone is fired from another police department for using excessive force, he or she will not be hired by the Maryland State Police or the Baltimore Police Department,” said Major Neill Franklin. SunSentinal.com.
Franklin, who led training programs for both agencies, said dismissal by another police department would deter potential employers but would not automatically be a barrier.
“It’s just not worth the risk,” he added.
Questions have also been raised about the Camden County Police Department, where six deputies have been charged with assault in the past year.
“You have these cops running amok doing what they want to do,” civil rights attorney Harry Daniels told the website.
‘The consequences come from the GBI and the Public Prosecution Service. It should not come from an external agency.’
Investigators are examining footage of Sergeant Buck during the 2022 traffic stop when he forcibly dragged a suspect from a crashed car and punched him in the head while he lay on his back.
Sheriff Proctor faced outrage back in 2013 when he first suspended and then reinstated a deputy who had dressed in black as a black inmate in a striped jail uniform “picking cotton” for a Halloween party.
“Extremely insensitive, that’s what it is,” he explained at the time.
‘I don’t believe he’s a racist. I had to take action.
“A lot of thought and a lot of prayers went into this decision,” he added.
“I thought about firing him, but decided against it.”
Aldridge is currently on administrative leave and the video of the 2022 stop is being examined by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as part of the investigation into Cure’s death.
“From what I saw in the video, he deserves to be fired,” said former Memphis police officer Thaddeus Johnson, a criminal justice professor at Georgia State University.
“He escalated the situation with Mr. Cure, he has no control over his emotions.”