A University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted on murder charges on Wednesday in the fatal shooting of a driver this month that a prosecutor called “totally unwarranted” and “senseless.”
In the indictment handed up by a grand jury in Hamilton County, the officer, Ray Tensing, is accused of killing the driver, Samuel DuBose, during a traffic stop near the campus on July 19.
At a news conference, the county prosecutor, Joseph T. Deters, said that Officer Tensing “purposely killed” Mr. DuBose after the officer lost his temper in what he called a “chicken crap” traffic stop. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Mr. Deters told reporters. “This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make, totally unwarranted.” A body-camera video of the shooting was also being released.
“He purposely killed him,” Mr. Deters said of Officer Tensing. “He should never have been a police officer.”
Officer Tensing turned himself in on Wednesday after his indictment, according to reports.
The death of Mr. DuBose, who was black, at the hands of Officer Tensing, who is white, joined a string of recent episodes — in Staten Island, Cleveland, North Charleston, S.C., and Ferguson, Mo., among others — that have raised hard questions about law enforcement use of force, and the role of race in policing. Video cameras have recorded many of the episodes and nonlethal encounters like the arrest of Sandra Bland, who died three days later in a Texas jail cell, offering disturbing evidence of the confrontations that often contradicts the accounts of people involved.
Mr. Deters, who also met with Mr. DuBose’s family, said he was shocked by the video. “I realize what this was going to mean to our community, and it really broke my heart because it’s just bad,” Mr. Deters said. “I feel so sorry for this family and what they lost,” he said. “And I feel sorry for the community, too.”
Mr. DuBose, 43, a father of 10, was just south of the university campus, driving a green 1998 Honda Accord without a front license plate, when Officer Tensing began following him, according to an account that Jason Goodrich, chief of the university police, gave on Monday. Moments later, the officer pulled Mr. DuBose over on a side street, a few blocks from the campus, Mr. Goodrich said.
He said that when Officer Tensing asked for a driver’s license, Mr. DuBose handed him a bottle of alcohol instead. But Mr. Goodrich gave no more insight into the confrontation that followed, in which the officer fired one shot that struck Mr. DuBose in the head.
Another university officer who arrived shortly after the shooting, Eric Weibel, wrote in his report that Officer Tensing told him that “he was being dragged by the vehicle and had to fire his weapon,” and that “Officer Tensing stated that he was almost run over.” A third officer, he wrote, said he had seen Officer Tensing being dragged.
“Looking at Officer Tensing’s uniform, I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface,” Officer Weibel wrote.
On an audio recording of police radio communications, after Officer Tensing shouted “Shots fired! Shots fired,” a dispatcher asked who was injured. It is not clear if he replied “I am injured” or “I’m uninjured.”
“I almost got run over by the car,” the officer said. “He took off on me. I discharged one round. Shot the man in the head.”
Another officer can later be heard saying, “It was Officer Tensing that was injured.”
At the news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Deters dismissed Officer Tensing’s claim that he was dragged by the car. Officer Tensing “fell backward after he shot” Mr. DuBose in the head, Mr. Deters said.
The University of Cincinnati closed its main campus in anticipation of grand jury action in the case.
article by Richard Pérez-Peña via nytimes.com