In a heartbreaking turn of events, Leonard Cure, a 53-year-old African American man who had spent over 16 years behind bars for a wrongful armed robbery conviction, met a tragic end during a routine traffic stop in Georgia. Cure, who had been enjoying his newfound freedom for three and a half years after being exonerated, was on his way to visit his mother when his life was cut short by a sheriff’s deputy.

The incident unfolded on Interstate 95 in Camden County early Monday when Cure was pulled over for speeding. Allegedly, he was traveling at a speed of at least 90 mph in a 70-mph zone, as reported by the New York Times, citing a spokesperson from the sheriff’s department.

Initially cooperating with the deputy’s request to exit his vehicle, the situation took a violent turn when Cure was informed of his impending arrest, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). The deputy resorted to using a Taser and a baton in an attempt to subdue Cure, who had begun assaulting him.

However, Cure continued to resist and refused to comply with the deputy’s commands, leading the deputy to draw his gun and open fire. Despite the efforts of paramedics called to the scene, Leonard Cure tragically lost his life.

The identity of the deputy responsible for the fatal shooting has not been disclosed, and it remains unclear whether race played a role in this incident. The GBI is actively investigating the matter, and the existence and potential release of body camera footage from the traffic stop remains uncertain.

Leonard Cure’s journey from incarceration to exoneration had been a long and arduous one. Convicted of a 2003 armed robbery at a Walgreens pharmacy in Dania Beach, Florida, Cure faced a life sentence due to prior convictions for robbery and other offenses. However, in December 2019, he reached out to the newly established Broward State Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit, seeking a fresh look at his case.

The review unit, after thorough examination, unearthed “troubling” revelations. It revealed that Cure had solid alibis that had been previously overlooked, and there was no physical evidence or credible witnesses linking him to the robbery. An independent review panel of five lawyers agreed, concluding that there was reasonable doubt about his culpability and that he was most likely innocent. As a result, a judge vacated Cure’s convictions and sentence, and all charges against him were dropped, marking him as the first inmate to be exonerated by Broward’s review unit.

At the time of his exoneration, Cure expressed his desire to put the past behind him and move forward with his life, as he had dreams of attending college to study music production. In August of the same year, Cure, who had been residing in suburban Atlanta, received $817,000 in compensation for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment, a decision endorsed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

The Innocence Project of Florida, which had played a pivotal role in Cure’s exoneration, was deeply saddened by the news of his tragic death. Seth Miller, the organization’s executive director, expressed his profound sorrow at the loss of a man who had endured such a challenging journey to reclaim his life. Miller underscored the emotional turmoil experienced by Cure’s family, who had witnessed their loved one go from imprisonment to exoneration, only to be faced with his untimely demise.

Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor, who had overseen Cure’s exoneration, remembered him as a “smart, funny, and kind person.” Cure’s willingness to engage with prosecutors and provide training even after his release demonstrated his commitment to ensuring fairness and thoroughness in the justice system.

Leonard Cure’s story is a poignant reminder of the complexities and injustices that can plague the legal system. His pursuit of justice, eventual exoneration, and the tragic end to his life serve as a somber call for continued efforts to reform and improve the criminal justice system to prevent such heartbreaking situations in the future.