By Sheryl Estrada
University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing stopped Samuel DuBose, an unarmed Black man, off campus just after 6 p.m. on July 19 because his front license plate was missing. The encounter ended with DuBose being shot in the head.
During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Hamilton County, Ohio, Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Tensing, a 25-year-old white male, was indicted on murder charges by a grand jury in the shooting death of DuBose. The officer’s body cam video, which captured the incident, was then shown.
Deters described the killing as “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make.”
In the video, Tensing tells DuBose to provide his driver’s license. The two discuss whether or not DuBose has it with him. DuBose hands over an unopened bottle of alcohol. The calm exchange escalates when Tensing tells DuBose to take off his seat belt. DuBose responds, “I didn’t even do nothing” and starts the car. Tensing tries to open the car door with his left hand and he and DuBose briefly struggle with the door. Tensing fires his weapon with his right hand, shooting DuBose. The vehicle then rolledto a crash.
See the video:
The encounter described in the police report conflicts with the video.
The report states, “[Tensing] began to be dragged by a Black driver who was operating [a] 1998 Honda Accord” and, because he was “almost run over by the driver,” he was forced to shoot DuBose.
Deters said Tensing was not dragged and that he fell back after shooting DuBose in the head.
“This office has probably reviewed upwards of 100 police shootings and this is the first time that we thought this is without question a murder,” Deters said.
He also pointed out that DuBose, 43, was subdued and Tensing had his license number.
“People want to believe Mr. DuBose had done something violent toward the officer,” Deters said. “He did not. He did not at all. This just does not happen in the United States. People don’t get shot for a traffic stop unless they’re violent toward the police officer. And [DuBose] wasn’t.”
The university’s police chief dismissed Tensing from the force. He has turned himself in to authorities. If convicted, he faces 15 years to life. Tensing’s lawyer, Stewart Mathews, calls the murder indictment “absolutely unwarranted.” He pleaded not guilty in a court arraignment onThursdaymorning. Bond was set at $1 million.
All day Monday, 12 Hamilton County residents reviewed evidence as part of their grand jury investigation.
The same day, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and City Manager Harry Black told WPCO they saw the then unreleased footage from the body cam.
“It’s not a good situation,” Black said. “It’s a tragic situation, someone has died that did not necessarily need to die.”
“The video is not good,” Blackwell said.
In anticipation of the announcement, the university closed on Wednesday, and the Cincinnati police prepared for unrest, which did not occur.
The city has a history of strained relations between police and Black residents due to racial profiling.
From April 9 to 13, 2001, civil unrest took place after Timothy Thomas, 19, an unarmed Black male, was shot and killed by off-duty Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach, age 27.
Thomas was wanted for 14 nonviolent counts, 12 of which were traffic citations. Roach claimed that he saw Thomas reach for a gun, but the investigation later determined that he was unarmed. Roach was acquitted of all charges. He was not wearing a body cam.
In the past year, police-related deaths of unarmed Black men have garnered national attention, including the cases of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y.; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. and Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md.
DuBose’s family, who held his funeral on Tuesday, is now in the national spotlight for losing a loved one to law enforcement. The family held a press conference following Deter’s indictment announcement.
“I just thank God everything is being revealed,” said DuBose’s mother, Audrey. “I knew that [God] loved my child. I knew that this was going to be uncovered.”
“My brother was about to be just one other stereotype and that is not going to happen,” DuBose’s sister Terina Allen said.