Cincinnati ‘rapidly investigating’ fatal police shooting of unarmed man

Samuel Dubose, 43, was shot dead during a traffic stop by a University of Cincinnati police officer

An Ohio prosecutor said his office is investigating the fatal shooting of a black motorist by a white University of Cincinnati police officer who had stopped the man because of a missing license plate.

Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Deters issued a statement Tuesday saying that his office is "rapidly investigating" what happened between the motorist and Officer Ray Tensing, and that he expects an assessment of the case to be completed by the end of next week. The police department has yet to release dash camera or body camera video of the fatal encounter. 

Samuel Dubose, 43
Dubose family

University Police Chief Jason Goodrich said earlier that Tensing was at the edge of the campus Sunday evening when he spotted a car missing a front license plate and driven by Samuel Dubose.

He said after the officer stopped him, Dubose apparently refused to provide a driver's license, produced an alcohol bottle instead and refused to get out. A struggle ensued, and Tensing fired one shot and was knocked to the ground, Goodrich said.

The car rolled a short distance before stopping. Goodrich said Dubose, 43, had been shot in the head and was dead at the scene.

Dubose's death comes amid months of national scrutiny of police and their dealings with black suspects, especially when suspects are killed or wounded by officers.

Tensing's legs were bruised and his uniform was torn, police said. The officer, who was treated at a hospital and released Sunday night, is on paid administrative leave while the investigation continues.

The Cincinnati Police Department concluded its investigation of the killing on Tuesday afternoon, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

"A pullover for a license plate should not lead to use of lethal force. … Reform is in order," the Enquirer quoted Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley as saying.

Officer Ray Tensing
Greenhills Police Department

Earlier Tuesday, University of Cincinnati President Santa J. Ono offered condolences to Dubose's family and loved ones.

"Our hearts grieve for his loss," Ono 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. No matter the circumstances, it is a time of unimaginable sadness for all involved."

Cincinnati police are also investigating, and city leaders pledged Tuesday to make sure the case is given a thorough, transparent review.

"This is a serious situation and I will do everything necessary to ensure the investigation is handled as such," City Manager Harry Black said in a statement.

Mayor John Cranley said he has spoken with Deters.

City officials said video from the Sunday evening encounter has been turned over to the prosecutor's office.

Tensing has more than five years of experience in law enforcement and has worked as a University of Cincinnati police officer since April 2014, Goodrich said. An Associated Press review of his UC personnel file didn't indicate any problems in that time.

Cincinnati saw civil unrest in 2003 over the deaths of black citizens at the hands of police. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Department of Justice have worked with the city's police department to improve relations with the community, and have achieved some successes, residents and civil rights advocates say. 

But ACLU Ohio's Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner said that despite increasing trust between police and communities, gaps can remain. 

"There are so many different law enforcement entities out there that are doing this type of policing, that even when reform happens, sometimes it only happens in one police department," Brickner said.

"But there are may be a university or suburb or hospital that is separate from that police department, and oftentimes they need to work on police community relations as well," he added. 

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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