Moral Low Ground


Ex-University of Cincinnati Cop Ray Tensing Pleads Not Guilty to Murdering Unarmed Black Motorist Samuel Dubose

Ray Tensing (L) and Samuel Dubose

Ray Tensing (L) and Samuel Dubose

Ray Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed unarmed black motorist Samuel Dubose earlier this month, has been released from jail on bond after pleading not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges. reports Tensing, 25, posted a $1 million bond and was released after spending 27 hours in jail. Tensing had been held in a protective unit where he was kept under near-constant surveillance, which is typical treatment for high-profile inmates.

Earlier on Thursday, Tensing entered a not guilty plea to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter before Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan. A day earlier, county prosecutors announced that a grand jury had indicted Tensing in connection with the July 19 shooting death of Samuel Dubose, a 43-year-old unarmed black motorist who was pulled over for a missing front license plate.

Tensing and Dubose struggled after the latter failed to hand over a driver’s license—it had been suspended indefinitely in January—and refused to exit his vehicle. Tensing drew and fired his gun once, striking Dubose in the head. In statements to police, Tensing said he feared for his life and only shot Dubose after he was “dragged” by the victim’s car.

Tensing’s claim that he only fired his gun after he was dragged by Dubose’s vehicle was corroborated by a second officer, Phillip Kidd. But police body camera footage appeared to contradict Tensing’s version of events, showing Dubose slowly pulling away and Tensing falling back after shooting him.

The video evidence played a major role in the prosecutors’ decision to charge Tensing. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he was shocked when he first saw the footage of the incident. Deters stressed that the evidence showed Dubose had not acted aggressively toward Tensing, as the officer had claimed.

“People want to believe that Mr. DuBose had done something violent towards the officer—he did not,” Deters told reporters. “He did not at all. I feel so sorry for his family and what they lost, and I feel sorry for the community, too.”

“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years,” Deters continued. “This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make—totally unwarranted. It’s an absolute tragedy in the year 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner. It was senseless.”

“This just does not happen in the United States,” the prosecutor added. “People don’t get shot for a traffic stop unless they are violent towards the police officer, and [Dubose] wasn’t. He was simply slowly rolling away. That’s all he did.”

When asked if he believed Tensing was intentionally misleading investigators, Deters said “yes.”

“I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing,” the prosecutor asserted.

Deters said he thinks it is a “good idea” for police to wear body cameras, “because nine times out of 10 it clears [officers] of wrongdoing. And in this case, it obviously led to an indictment for murder.”

“If we didn’t have a video, I do not believe we would have had an indictment,” Dubose family attorney Mark O’Mara told Slate.

“If it were not for that video camera, Sam would be no different than all of the other [unindicted police shootings of black men], because the second officer was ready to corroborate every lie that the first officer said in the report,” Terina Allen, Dubose’s sister, said at an emotional press conference.

Stew Matthews, Tensing’s lawyer, insisted his client feared for his life when he shot Dubose.

“He thought he was going to die,” Matthews told reporters. “He thought he’d be sucked under that car and run over.” Matthews said Tensing is “feeling like he was run over by a train” and “is still in shock.”

Tensing, who was fired following his indictment, faces a possible prison sentence of 15 years to life if convicted of the most serious charge, murder. Two other university officers who responded to the scene—Kidd and Eric Weibel—have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. reports Kidd and Weibel were also involved in the 2010 death of another unarmed man. They were named as defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Kelly Brinson, a mentally ill man who died days after being restrained and Tasered at University Hospital.

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