University of Cincinnati police Officer Ray Tensing spoke to 43-year-old Samuel DuBose for less than two minutes on July 19 before firing a single fatal shot into DuBose's head.
A video released Wednesday offers the first public look at Tensing's encounter with DuBose -- an encounter that began when the officer pulled DuBose over for driving without a front license plate. Tensing would later claim in a police report that he'd shot DuBose because he was being dragged by DuBose's car and was "almost run over." The video seems to contradict that account.
After about a minute of Tensing repeatedly asking DuBose for his driver's license, he moves to open the car door while asking DuBose to take his seat belt off. DuBose, attempting to shut the car door, says "I didn't even do nothing" as he turns the key in the ignition and starts the car. Tensing orders DuBose to stop, and in a sequence that a county prosecutor later described as taking "maybe a second," Tensing appears to reach into the car with one hand, draw his weapon with the other and fire a fatal shot at DuBose's head. It appears that the vehicle doesn't even move forward at all until DuBose is hit -- at which point the car rolls down the street, jumps a curb and crashes.
Tensing's tactics and violence -- described by Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney Joe Deters as "the most asinine act" he'd ever seen a police officer commit -- were key factors in the murder and voluntary manslaughter charges brought against Tensing in a grand jury's indictment Tuesday.
"People want to believe that Mr. DuBose had done something violent toward the officer," Deters told reporters Wednesday. "He did not."
He added that DuBose did not pose a threat to Tensing, and that the officer had lied in his police report about being dragged by DuBose's car.
"I think [Tensing] lost his temper because Mr. DuBose wouldn't get out of his car," Deters said. "This office has probably reviewed 100 police shootings, and this is the first time we’ve thought, 'This is, without question, a murder.'"
If convicted, Tensing could face life in prison.
It's the second highly controversial video in as many weeks that shows a white law enforcement officer stopping a black motorist for a minor traffic violation, only to have the encounter escalate out of control. Critics have denounced both DuBose's death and the July 10 arrest of Sandra Bland in Texas as the latest examples of systemic racism and over-aggressive policing.
Internet users who claim to be law enforcement officers (or supporters thereof) have been offering their thoughts on DuBose and Bland in anonymous forum posts about the two incidents. While many of these people believe the officers in both cases acted improperly, others have come to the cops' defense, offering a window into a purported law enforcement perspective that the average person may not be familiar with.
Since people generally use pseudonyms on these forums, there's no way to verify the identity of the people posting, but most claim to be members of the law enforcement community. Reddit's ProtectAndServe is a thread dedicated to police officers and their supporters, although it has no authentication requirements for users. PoliceOne and Officer.com have varying identity requirements for law enforcement officers during account registration, but the public can also view and participate in some threads. Thee Rant describes itself as a forum where only verified police officers can post.
All quotes (sic). Emphasis appears in the original.
Why did Tensing reach into the car?
I have no idea why you would draw your gun and reach into the vehicle if you think the guy is gonna drive off.
I just rewatched this tape a bunch of times and it seems pretty clear the guy fired before the car drove away. Happened so fast though - I had to rewatch the tape about ten times.
He should have let DuBose drive off.
The one thing my FTOs [field training officers] drilled into my head was that there will be people who get away and drive off from you. When that happens are focus on the license plate and wave goodbye. It's not worth it to make a fatal mistake such as this.
What was the reason for the stop?
Tensing was doing fine until he shot Dubose.
Speaking only about his demeanor and not his actions, I saw nothing wrong. You have a driver who appears to be avoiding trying to give you information, has alcohol sitting down by his leg, and then is refusing to get out and appears to be trying to flee. Are you really telling me that as an officer you wouldn't change to your command voice and begin to shout or give orders in an attempt to make the guy listen to you? Sometimes going from Mr. Nice Guy to Mr. Control is all a subject needs to think "oh, shit. I better start listening".
His verbal commands aren't the problem here. The fact that he shot a guy in the head when he wasn't an immediate deadly threat is the issue.
"Looks like murder."
Holding onto a car when it drives away - not a justified shooting
Being grabbed by the driver who then drives away holding onto you (which does not appear to be the case here) - justified shooting.
That's the only differentiation that the defense can try to make in court, and I don't think they can. Looks like murder 2 to me.
Or an "accidental discharge."
No plate. No license. Bottle of gin. acting ornery and agitated. pulling the door closed. putting the car in gear.
I would say the cops antenea was quivering just a bit. Made him neervous. I think an accidental discharge is what occurred and I hope his attorney goes with that and a mea culpa. of I feel terrible never wished this to happen.
Tensing did nothing wrong.
After watching the video I can't find fault with the PO's actions. I don't think he lied in his statements. When you're in a fluid situation your brain interprets stimuli different then another's does.
The prosecutor is a POS for making the statements he did. I think he needs to recuse himself and his office from this prosecution.
Tensing is getting "railroaded."
Ray Tensing is getting railroaded here. He saw something that led him to believe he was in danger and acted on his training. Justification doesn't rely on perfect 20/20 hindsight, it relies on what the officer believed at the time.
Tensing will pay because of the "political climate."
Just saw the real version of the video not a recording of the screen. It is absolutely incredible that a prosecutor would call a no front plate stop "chicken shit". It is a minor misdemeanor registration violation in the State of Ohio (where I am employed also). So this prosecutor is picking and choosing which parts of the Ohio Revised Code are "chicken shit" and which aren't. Let's assume the deceased was going 50 in a 35. Is that chicken shit? Same level of crime - a MM. And yet again - we see a violator feel that it is "optional" to comply with lawful orders. This officer was respectful, direct and 100% lawful with his questioning. Not having [an operator's license] on person in Ohio is an M1 - arrest able offense. Then attempts to flee the scene with an officer next to his car. Did the officer draw and shoot quick? I would prefer to see a dash cam to review this further - but if any part of that officer was attached to that motor vehicle - then he can clearly articulate his life was in fear. This officer will pay - solely based on the current political climate in America. Sad.
The whole thing was DuBose's fault.
Another example of a non compliant idiot that dictated the officers actions. If he would have just complied he would not be dead. The officers false statements got him indicted.
Deters was inappropriate...
NDAA National Prosecution Standard 2-14.4 requires prosecutor to take a Joe Friday approach to pre-trial and trial public comments..."Just the facts, ma'am." Prosecutor should not comment publicly about the character of a suspect or defendant except for that information that is already available from the public record. He should make no extrajudicial statements that have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing a judicial proceeding. Even if he is right about the defendant in his personal public comments, the prosecutor has the duty to keep his opinion to himself.
Deters appears to be walking a very thin and tight rope with his personal comments to the media, which may easily result in a special prosecutor appointment. We shall see.
...and should be "removed from office."
I'm not going to comment on the case other than to say this DA should be removed from office for making statements like this during a press conference.
How might Tensing's defense prepare for this case?
To be clear, the standard set out by Graham v. Connor is:
[t]he "reasonableness" of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. The test of reasonableness is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application.
So the standard is, would a reasonable police officer have used this level of force in the heat of the moment of this situation. Not "would a reasonable police officer who watched this video a bunch of times in slow motion" have used this level of force.
That's going to be the problem for the prosecution.
On one hand, I think this is a bad shooting and atrocious tactics. On the other, I wonder if they'll get a conviction out of it, because it all went down in about two seconds.
I hope that in a similar situation I wouldn't fuck up so badly. But who really knows until you're there?