University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing’s body camera was on when he pulled over Sam DuBose last year for a missing front license plate. From the footage, it is clear that Tensing is asking DuBose for his driver’s license, and DuBose says he doesn’t have it.
Tensing, who is white, then asks DuBose, who was African-American, to get out of the car. The officer starts to open the car door, but DuBose pulls the door closed and moves his hand toward the car’s ignition. Tensing then reaches inside the car as it starts to move. Seconds later, the officer pulls out his gun with his other hand and shoots DuBose in the head.
Ten days after the shooting in July 2015, Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters charged Ray Tensing with murder and the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Jury selection in Tensing’s trial begins today.
Deters calls the shooting “horrible, senseless and totally unwarranted.”
“I just have never seen anything like this before in my job, in our jurisdiction,” Deters said.
Tensing’s attorney, Stew Mathews, said he sees the video differently. His client was only defending himself, Mathews said, because he feared he’d be dragged to death by the moving car. He has said the charge of murder was “absolutely unwarranted.”
Soon after the shooting, the university fired Tensing. It has since settled a civil suit with the DuBose family for nearly $5 million.
Sam DuBose’s brother, Aubrey, says he misses his brother and remembers the times they would compose rap music together.
“I was just his little tugboat, you know, chugging along, you know, until I grew up, you know,” Aubrey said. “He was just big brother, man, and I just miss him so much, and I just feel like the world lost a great guy.”
Speaking about Ray Tensing, DuBose’s mother, Audrey, argues that if the roles were reversed she thinks her son would be sentenced to life in prison.
“He gave my son no warning,” she said. “He just murdered my son. You know, he just took the gun out and he just shot it.”
Earlier this month, the city’s Black Lawyers Association hosted a community forum at a Cincinnati church to explain what will happen at each stage of the trial. About a hundred people, most of them African-American, attended the event, which lasted more than two hours. Many spoke of their frustration with the criminal justice system.
“This situation is a microcosm of what’s going on across the country where there is a great sense of distrust within the African-American community about law enforcement,” said Jimmy Wilson, who drove from Burlington, Ky., to attend the meeting.
The Guardian newspaper reports that as of Oct. 24, 206 black people have been killed by police in the U.S. this year.
Protests are expected when the trial starts. The local Black Lives Matter chapter is organizing rallies outside the courthouse. While there is considerable anger, Aubrey DuBose and his family are calling for any protests to remain peaceful.
“We got to find new ways to come together and blend cop/African-American relationships,” said DuBose. “And the justice system has to look at some of these cases and be like, ‘OK, these cops ain’t right all the time.’ ”
The defense is asking for a change of venue, but it would be highly unusual for the judge to grant the request. Since 1899, it appears that no trial has ever been moved out of Hamilton County.