Campus Police Officer Charged In Unarmed Black Man's Death

Campus Police Officer Charged In Unarmed Black Man's Death

12:21pm Jul 31, 2015

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We'll spend the next few minutes trying to understand what happened in seconds, seconds when a university police officer confronted a driver in Cincinnati. The white officer has been indicted after he stopped the black motorist. When the driver failed to produce a license, the officer put his hand on the car door. The car started moving.




INSKEEP: The officer fired, as we hear from body camera video. The video tells one story. The officer told another. And our examination begins with Bill Rinehart of member station WVXU.

BILL RINEHART, BYLINE: Early on Sunday evening, July 19, University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing was patrolling in an off-campus neighborhood. Tensing saw a green 1998 Honda Accord missing its front license plate and pulled it over. The driver, Sam DuBose, didn't produce a driver's license. And after some back-and-forth, he restarted his car. Video appears to show Tensing firing point-blank into the vehicle. The shot was fatal. Ray Tensing told other officers who arrived that he had been dragged by the car. But the video from his body camera, released by the prosecutor, seems to tell a different story. Mark O'Mara is the attorney for Sam DuBose's family and says the contradiction is startling.

O'MARA: You know, you look at police reports and they can, on occasion, be self-serving. This one obviously was. And if there wasn't a video available, I do not believe he would've had an indictment.

RINEHART: Yesterday's indictment was for murder in what officials say is the first such charge against an officer here. Before the grand jury's decision was announced, tensions were high. The university closed in what it called an abundance of caution. Pictures of police convoys and an armored car on campus popped up on Twitter. Across social media, people started pleading for calm. That was understandable. In 2001, Cincinnati went through days of riots after an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by police. This time around, there were fears that if Officer Ray Tensing was not charged, there could be rioting again in the city that others now look to for protocol in handling such tensions. But the feared rioting didn't occur. A planned demonstration downtown was at first tempered by a driving rainstorm. When the rain let up, the crowd grew and marched amid speeches by Sam DuBose's family and friends. Organizer Emmanuel Gray says prosecuting Tensing is just the beginning.

EMMANUEL GRAY: Justice for the family will not be served, as you heard them speak earlier, until Ray Tensing is convicted of murder as well as the other officer's convicted of accessory.

RINEHART: Gray and others say they believe it was both pressure from the community and what was on the body camera video that led to the indictment. Organizer Brian Taylor says there's only one thing protestors should do.

BRIAN TAYLOR: Continue to put pressure on, and let them know the political price they will pay if they do not convict on murder.

RINEHART: The video shows that less than five seconds elapsed between when Officer Tensing touches the door handle and fires the fatal shot. He then runs after the car as it rolls and crashes a short distance away, DuBose apparently fatally wounded. In strong language, prosecutor Joe Deters called the shooting a senseless murder and said pointedly that Ray Tensing, who will be arraigned today, should have never been a police officer. For NPR News, I'm Bill Rinehart in Cincinnati. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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