Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office

Cincinnati officer indicted for murder in death of unarmed black driver

Prosecutors says Ray Tensing ‘purposely killed’ Samuel DuBose after pulling him over for a missing license plate

A University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed a motorist after pulling him over for a missing front license plate was charged with murder on Wednesday.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the officer, Ray Tensing, “purposely killed” 43-year-old Samuel DuBose, a black man who was unarmed at the time of the incident. Tensing “should never have been a police officer,” Deters said.

A grand jury indicted Tensing, 25, for murder, and Deters said he would seek “life in prison” for the officer, who later turned himself in.

The indictment came as authorities released a body camera video of the incident, on July 19, in which Tensing is seen shooting DuBose seconds after DuBose’s car rolls forward slightly.

DuBose’s family praised the indictment in a press conference after the announcement. Still, DuBose’s sister, Terina Allen, 42, told reporters that without the video footage, her brother’s death would have been written off as justified. She said Tensing’s fellow officers would have corroborated his story. 

“My brother was about to be one more stereotype, and that’s not going to happen,” she said. “We knew the video was going to vindicate our brother. When you know somebody, you know somebody.”

Authorities said Tensing spotted a car driven by DuBose and missing the front license plate, which is required by Ohio law. They say Tensing stopped the car and a struggle ensued when DuBose refused to provide a driver’s license and get out of the car.

Tensing said he was dragged by the car and was forced to shoot at DuBose. Tensing fired one shot, striking DuBose in the head.

But Deters dismissed Tensing’s claim that he was dragged by the car and suggested that he shouldn’t have pulled over DuBose to begin with. Deters added that he believed Tensing lost his temper.

“I couldn’t care what his motivation was. I just know he intentionally killed somebody,” Deters said after playing the video.

In that footage, Tensing is seen pulling over DuBose on a side street and requesting his driver’s license. He is not able to find the document. Seconds later, Tensing shoots and kills DuBose and then runs after the car, which continues to move forward after the shot.

“He was dead instantly,” Deters said. “It broke my heart. It’s just bad. It’s bad what he did, and it shouldn’t have happened.”

DuBose’s death comes after months of national scrutiny over police treatment of unarmed black men. The Cincinnati incident has also led to questions about the role armed campus police should play when they are off campus, as Tensing was.

“This was a chicken-crap stop,” for a minor infraction, Deters said, adding that Tensing might as well have let DuBose go. He also said he would recommend the disbanding of the University of Cincinnati (UC) police and the creation of a police district that covers the university.

"I graduated from UC twice,” Deters said, praising the school. “But they’re not cops. We have a great police dept in Cincinnati, probably the best in Ohio.”

According to Tensing, who is white, DuBose refused to show his license or get out of the vehicle and instead pulled out a bottle of alcohol. He said a scuffle followed and later told 911 dispatchers that he was “almost run over” by DuBose’s car.

“I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing of another person,” Deters said when pressed by a reporter why Tensing would do that, despite the body camera video. “I’m not saying he’s smart. I’m just saying what I think he did.” 

At DuBose’s funeral on Tuesday at the Church of the Living God in Avondale, more than 500 people — including Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono — paid their respects to DuBose, a father of 10 and grandfather of four.

Allen called for transparency in the investigation but told USA Today after the service that her family didn’t “want any riots.” “Sam wasn’t violent,” she said. “It would completely harm his memory if people were to take that route.”

UC officials said Monday they planned an independent review of police department policies, announcing the university has hired an independent reviewer to go over police policies and procedures.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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