A University of Cincinnati police officer pleaded “not guilty” Thursday after being charged with murder for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in the head during a routine traffic stop.
Officer Ray Tensing, who had served on the university’s force for little more than a year before the shooting, was arraigned in court Thursday morning, his bond set at $1 million. Tensing’s father posted bond for his son, and Tensing was released from the Hamilton County Justice Center Thursday evening, according to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office.
In announcing the charges a day earlier, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said Tensing “purposefully” killed the unarmed man in “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make.”
Grand jury murder indicted Tensing in the death of Samuel DuBose, a 43-year-old father of 10, who was driving without a front license plate on his car when Tensing pulled him over on July 19.
Authorities on Wednesday released video footage of the traffic stop captured by Tensing’s university-issued body camera, which showed the scene devolve into violence in a matter of minutes. Tensing is seen asking repeatedly for DuBose’s license in a calm exchange where the motorist appears to be light-heartedly evading the officer’s questions. DuBose pulls out what appears to be a bottle of liquor that was in his car and hands it over to the officer.
From there, the scene turns deadly. Tensing reaches for the handle of the car door and tells DuBose to take off his seat belt. When DuBose protests, Tensing asks again, but doesn’t wait for a response. The officer then reaches into the car to tug at the seat belt, 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. The car then crashes down the road from the scene of the shooting.
Deters strongly condemned Tensing’s actions during a press conference Wednesday, saying he “should never have been a police officer.”
“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.”
Tensing claimed in his incident report following the shooting that he was dragged by DuBose’s car and then opened fire. In additional body camera footage released Thursday, officers who responded to the scene largely corroborated Tensing’s account.
“Did you see him being dragged?” a responding officer asks.
“Yes,” University of Cincinnati officer Phillip Kidd says.
Deters, however, said the video evidence clearly contradicts the officer’s account of the fatal shooting.
“It was senseless. He lost his temper because Mr. Dubose wouldn’t get out of his car quick enough,” Deters said. “When you see this, you won’t believe how quickly he pulls his gun. Maybe a second — it’s incredible.”
Tensing turned himself into authorities shortly after charges were announced Wednesday. University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono said he has been fired from the police force, effective immediately, and that the university will conduct an independent, external review of all policies and training in and around campus.
“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.
Appearing somber and still grieving over his death, DuBose’s family on Wednesday thanked authorities for the swift process in handing charges down against Tensing just 10 days after the fatal shooting. Had the officer not been wearing a body camera attached to his uniform, the family said the outcome would have likely been much different. The family is now calling for the officers who responded to the scene to also be fired.
“He was an outright liar. He does not carry the integrity to hold office, and he needs to be fired immediately,” DuBose’s sister, Terina Allen, said Thursday, likely referring to Kidd. ”If the Cincinnati Police and University Police have any stand for integrity, they will fire that officer immediately.”