Case against ex-University of Cincinnati officer goes to jury

University of Cincinnati Police Officer Raymond "Ray" Tensing was indicted on July 29, 2015, on a murder charge for shooting motorist Samuel DuBose during a traffic stop in July 2015.

A Cincinnati jury began deliberations Monday in the retrial of a former University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot a motorist during a traffic stop.

Ray Tensing is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. He testified that his left arm was trapped inside Samuel DuBose’s moving vehicle on July 19, 2015, and he had to shoot DuBose because he feared for his life.

“He [Dubose] elected to start that car put it into gear and take off with Ray Tensing’s arm trapped inside it,” Tensing’s attorney, Stew Mathews, told the jury in closing arguments. “I submit to you that is a threat to his life and to his well-being.”

Prosecutors broke down body camera video frame-by-frame to rebut Tensing’s claim that he was being dragged down the street.

Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Seth Tieger told the jury Tensing made a tactical error when he reached his left arm inside DuBose’s car and then escalated the problem by firing his weapon.

‘Ray Tensing had a choice’

“Ray Tensing had a choice to make that evening,” Hamilton County Assistant Prosecutor Seth Tieger told the jury. “Do I disengage and let Sam DuBose drive away or do I kill him?”

Asserting that the video did not definitively prove the prosecution’s arguments about whether Tensing was dragged, Matthews reminded the jury of “Sully,” the 2009 movie about airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger who became a hero by making an emergency landing on the Hudson River with no loss of life.

Using computer simulations, FAA investigators argued that Sullenberger made a bad decision and could have reached nearby airports to land.

“They were about to hang him out to dry,” Mathews said, but authorities eventually came down on Sullenberger’s side because “human factors” were considered.

Tensing pulled over DuBose because his car didn’t have a front tag and because his back tag was registered to a driver with a suspended license, DuBose’s girlfriend, Mathews said.

Mathews said DuBose had motive to drive away from the traffic stop because he lacked a license himself and carried a felony amount of marijuana in the vehicle.

Tieger agreed with defense lawyers that DuBose did not comply with Tensing’s commands, but said that wasn’t justification to shoot.

“Non-compliance does not equal not guilty,” he said.

University of Cincinnati makes amends

This is the second time Tensing has stood trial. A jury could not come to agreement last November and the judge declared a mistrial.

DuBose, who was black, was killed during the same time period as other controversial officer-involved shootings — including those of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Tensing, who is white, was fired from his job and arrested. He was released from custody after posting 10 percent of his $1 million bond.

The University of Cincinnati agreed in January 2016 to pay $4.85 million to the family of DuBose. The school also agreed to set up a memorial to DuBose on campus, invite the family to take part in meetings on police reform, issue a formal apology, and provide free undergraduate education to DuBose’s 12 children.