A University of Cincinnati officer was indicted for murder Wednesday for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in the head following a routine traffic stop earlier this month.
A Cincinnati grand jury indicted University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing in the July 19 death of 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, who was pulled over for not having a front license plate on his car, Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph T. Deters said in a press conference Wednesday.
“This is without question a murder,” Deters said.
Authorities released the footage of the officer’s body camera depicting the stop and subsequent shooting that took place in just a matter of minutes. The recording shows an initially calm verbal exchange as the officer asks repeatedly if DuBose has his license on him and motions toward a bottle in the car. DuBose hands over a bottle of gin without protest and says he doesn’t have his license on him.
From there, a scuffle devolves into violence in a matter of moments after Tensing tells DuBose to take off his seat belt. When DuBose protests, Tensing reaches into the car, pulls out his gun and opens fire, shooting DeBose in the head.
Prosecutors said DeBose was killed instantly, but slumped forward in the car with his foot on the accelerator of the car, moving the vehicle forward until it crashed down the road.
Tensing has turned himself in, the Cincinnati Police Department said, and is scheduled for arraignment Thursday. He has been fired, effective immediately, after serving on the university’s police force since April 2014, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono said Wednesday.
In his incident report, Tensing said he opened fire after being dragged by Dubose’s car. But a very emotional and somber Deters said the video evidence contradicted the officer’s original account. He did not mince words in condemning the officer’s actions, calling the fatal shooting “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make.”
“He wasn’t dealing with someone wanted for murder. He was dealing with someone who didn’t have a front license plate. This is, in the vernacular, a pretty chicken crap stop, right? I could use harsher words,” Deters said. “If he’s rolling away then let him go. You don’t have to shoot him in the head.”
DuBose was put to rest at his funeral a day earlier. Flanked by family members at a press conference following the prosecutor’s announcement, his mother Audrey DuBose said she was thankful that the investigation into her son’s death was not shrouded in secrecy.
“I thought the person should have been locked up on day one. He should have never been released,” she said. “After they saw the film, why is he still walking the streets because it was murder.”
DuBose’s family appealed to the public to remain peaceful and not repeat the 2001 riots that roiled the city after Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old unarmed black man, was killed by police.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley encouraged people exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully protest, but said the city’s police department was also prepared to crack down on demonstrations that “violate the spirit” of DuBose’s life.
“There is obviously reason for people to be angry today and to be upset. And people deserve the right to be able to do so in a public manner,” Cranley said in a press conference with city officials Wednesday.
Officials at the University of Cincinnati had canceled classes for the day in anticipation of the decision Wednesday. Ono, the university’s president, said officials will conduct an independent external review of all police policies and procedures.
“We are fully committed to doing anything, even retraining officers, so we can be really a model of public safety from a university setting,” Ono said.
The timing of the indictment, coming just over a week and a half after the fatal shooting, strikes a marked difference from previous high-profile officer-involved shootings that dragged out for weeks, even months, fueling public outrage and discontent. DuBose’s family attributed the rapid decision to the camera attached to Tensing’s uniform, which campus police have been wearing since 2004, university officials told NBC News.
“If it were not for that video camera, Sam would be no different that all of those other incidents,” DuBose’s sister, Terina Allen, said Wednesday.