CINCINNATI, OH — The white University of Cincinnati police officer who shot unarmed black man Samuel Dubose during a traffic stop has been indicted on a murder charge, a prosecutor announced Wednesday, saying the cop “purposely” killed the motorist and “should never have been a police officer.”
In announcing the charge against officer Ray Tensing, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters lambasted the cop over the July 19 death of Dubose, 43, saying the fatal shooting was “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make.” University and city officials said Wednesday afternoon that Tensing was immediately terminated and turned himself in. He is set to be arraigned in court Thursday morning.
Dubose was initially pulled over in his green 1998 Honda Accord south of the university campus for having a missing front license plate.
During the news conference, prosecutors played footage from Tensing’s body camera. The recording shows the officer asking Dubose about a bottle he sees on the floor of his car, and Dubose hands it to him. (Officials have previously said it was a bottle of alcohol.) He then asks Dubose several times if he has his license on him. Dubose asks what he’s being pulled over for. He tells the officer he has a license, but it’s not on him.
After Tensing asks him if his license is suspended, a short scuffle ensues. A few seconds later, Dubose is shot in the head while still behind the wheel of the car. Dubose, a father of 10, was “dead instantly,” Deters said. At that point, the car starts rolling — likely because Dubose’s body hit the gas, he added.
Tensing later said he was dragged by DuBose’s car, leading to the shooting. In the incident report, another officer said Tensing told him he was “dragged” and “almost run over by the driver of the Honda Accord and was forced to shoot the driver with his duty weapon.” But the prosecutor said Tensing “wasn’t dragged” and that he “fell backwards” after he shot Dubose in the head.
“He wasn’t dealing with someone who was wanted for murder, OK? He was dealing with someone who didn’t have a front license plate,” Deters said of Tensing, who joined the university force in April 2014. “I mean, this is, in the vernacular, a pretty chicken-crap stop, all right? And — I could use harsher words.”
He added that even if Dubose was starting to “roll away,” the officer should have just let him go. “I mean, you don’t have to shoot him in the head. And that’s what happened,” Deters added. The prosecutor said he earlier spoke with Dubose’s family to relay the murder charge.
Dubose’s funeral was held Tuesday, and his family said they have retained Mark O’Mara, the former attorney of George Zimmerman, to represent them. At a news conference Wednesday, mother Audrey Dubose said her son lived peacefully, and even before watching the body cam video believed he died in a senseless act. “Seeing that video let me know that my son did absolutely nothing … to provoke this man,” Audrey Dubose said.
Last week, UC President Santa Ono announced that officers would no longer patrol off-campus streets. The school also released a statement Monday that they would hire an independent reviewer to go over police policies.
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell on Wednesday asked for calm as the case moves ahead. The incident is only the latest in a number of high-profile shootings by police across the country — drawing protests and sharp criticism. “We are operationally prepared to respond to other things that may occur in our community,” he said. “Violence will not be tolerated.”
There’s a large emotional response surrounding this story on the WFLA Facebook page. One Facebook user wrote “this is or was a bad cop and he should be convicted.” Another expressed, “The best defense is for people to know all the laws so as to disarm the police officers who abuse their power. And there are many who do.”
Someone else points out the “body camera tells the story.” Have you watched the video above? Tell us what you think on our Facebook page here.