The University of Cincinnati will pay $4.85 million to the family of Samuel DuBose, a Black man who was shot in the head by one of the school’s police officers last summer. The school also agreed to provide free undergraduate tuition for DuBose’s 12 children.
“[The DuBose family] lost somebody through a tragedy that was completely avoidable,” Mark O’Mara, an attorney for the DuBose family, said. “Now, they’re part of this special group of people that have their black family members killed by cops.”
On July 19, 2015, DuBose, 43, was pulled over by Ray Tensing, 25, for not having a front license plate on his car. After a discussion about DuBose’s driver’s license, Tensing, who is white, told DuBose to take off his seatbelt and reached to open DuBose’s door. DuBose attempted to drive off after struggling to keep his door closed and Tensing fired a single fatal shot. DuBose’s car rolled off and crashed.
According to the police report, Tensing told other officers “he was almost run over by the driver” and “was being dragged by the vehicle.” Two other officers who arrived on the scene corroborated Tensing’s story. But Tensing’s own body cam footage contradicted this account.
Tensing was fired from his position and, 10 days after DuBose’s death, was indicted for murder. The other two officers were placed on paid administrative leave but were not indicted on any charges.
University of Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono issued an apology to DuBose’s family upon the news of the settlement, which was announced on Martin Luther King Day.
“I want to again express on behalf of the University of Cincinnati community our deepest sadness and regrets at the heartbreaking loss of the life of Samuel DuBose,” Ono said, adding that the settlement serves as “part of the healing process.”
But Tensing has not contributed to the family’s healing process, DaShonda Reid, DuBose’s longtime fiance and the mother of four of his children, said in an interview with The Enquirer.
“Officer Tensing has not asked for forgiveness,” Reid said. “He has not once reached out to the family to say that he apologizes. He doesn’t show remorse. He continues to want to slap the family in the face and the community in the face and wants his job back.”
DuBose’s sister said that while the family is “moving forward,” they are not “happy” but hope that DuBose’s death can teach a lesson.
“Ultimately, Sam’s death will serve as a reminder of just how final it is to pull a gun,” she said. “And hopefully officers will think twice about pulling a gun.”
At the time of the shooting, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters described the attack as “senseless” and said DuBose was “purposefully killed.”
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make totally unwarranted,” he said. “It’s an absolute tragedy in the year 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner.”
The existence of the body cam footage proved to be crucial because of how greatly it differed from Tensing’s initial account of the incident, according to O’Mara.
“We all know that if it wasn’t for the body camera, Sam would have been the aggressor,” O’Mara said. “Sam would have had his arm in the car as he drove away, and the officer had to shoot him to protect his own life, right That was the narrative, and the only piece of evidence thank God that countered that was the body camera.”
But too many times, even video footage of a murder has not led to an indictment and therefore does not always prove to be as helpful, legally, as it should, as in the deaths of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland. And body cams do not prevent these tragedies from occurring, Terina DuBose-Allen, DuBose’s sister, said.
“I mean, the video camera did not stop my brother from getting shot in the head,” she said. “The video camera did not stop the lies and the cover-up of what happened. The video camera ultimately served to vindicate Sam, even if the jury ultimately doesn’t find Tensing guilty, we all knew what we knew.”
To Reid, DuBose’s murder is yet another instance of excessive force used by police against Black men when the crime does not warrant a violent response.
“I think that [the murder] was highly motivated by race,” she said. “And it was unfortunate that he got pulled over for a missing front plate because you have some people saying, ‘If he only would have followed the rules.’ It still doesn’t constitute a man pulling out his gun and murdering him in the head like that.”
Tensing’s pretrial hearing is set to begin on Feb. 11. He has pleaded not guilty.