Prosecutors are intensively reviewing the fatal shooting of an unarmed Cincinnati man by a University of Cincinnati police officer who had pulled the driver over for having a missing front license plate and fired on him after a brief struggle, authorities said Tuesday.
The man, Samuel Dubose, 43, who was African-American, was shot once in the head as he sat behind the wheel of his car Sunday night, university and city police said. The officer, Ray Tensing, who is white, was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation.The deadly shooting occurred amid a national conversation of race and policing, with critics alleging that black suspects are more likely to have force used against them during encounters with police.
Cincinnati police said Tuesday that they have taken over the investigation at the request of the university. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said in a statement that his office is “rapidly investigating” the shooting.
“This incident didn’t involve a Cincinnati Police Department officer, but it happened in our city, and it is our job to ensure this investigation is handled with the attention it deserves,” City Manager Harry Black said Tuesday.
University Police Chief Jason Goodrich said the campus department has an agreement with Cincinnati police to patrol shared areas near campus.
At a news conference Monday, Goodrich confirmed the contentions of friends and relatives that Dubose had no weapon in the car when he was stopped for a missing front license plate. He said that when Dubose was asked to produce his driver’s license and registration, he “produced a bottle of alcohol from inside the car, handing it to Officer Tensing,” instead.
After a brief struggle, the car began rolling forward and Tensing was knocked to the ground, Goodrich said. Dubose was shot very soon afterward, police said. Tensing, a member of the force since April 2014, was treated at a hospital for minor injuries and released.
Cincinnati police said that Tensing was wearing a body camera and that the video confirmed that there was a struggle. The video won’t be released until the investigation is complete.
Asked at a news conference whether Tensing reached into the car at any point, Cincinnati police Lt. Col. James Whalen said: “I don’t have clarity on that yet. I’m waiting to enhance this video to get a better answer to that.”
Friends and relatives held a vigil Tuesday demanding to see the video and seeking answers to why Dubose had been shot. They said he was the father of 12 children and was engaged to be married.
A friend, J.B. Smith, told NBC station WLWT that Dubose was a gentle and non-confrontational man.
Hadassah Thomas, a friend and neighbor, told the station: “Everybody in the community loved Sam. He was so helpful, and he was always around. He used to baby-sit for my daughter.
“What men do that?” she asked “He didn’t carry a gun, so why did he get shot?”
The University of Cincinnati said in a statement Tuesday extending condolences to Dubose’s friends and family.
“Our hearts grieve for his loss,” the university said. “We also know that police officers risk their lives every day, and when their efforts to protect themselves and our community result in a death, it is a tragedy.”