A University of Cincinnati officer who shot a motorist during a traffic stop over a missing front license plate has been indicted on murder charges, a prosecutor said Wednesday, adding that the officer “purposely killed him” and “should never have been a police officer.”
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the grand jury indictment at a news conference to discuss developments in the investigation into the July 19 shooting of 43-year-old motorist Samuel DuBose by Officer Ray Tensing.
Authorities have said Tensing spotted a car driven by DuBose and missing the front license plate, which is required by Ohio law. They say Tensing stopped the car and a struggle ensued after DuBose refused to provide a driver’s license and get out of the car.
Tensing has said he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot at DuBose. He fired one shot, striking DuBose in the head.
But Deters dismissed Tensing’s claim that he was dragged by the car and suggested that he shouldn’t have pulled DuBose over to begin with.
“He fell backward after he shot (DuBose) in the head,” Deters said, adding that it was a “chicken crap” traffic stop.
A warrant was issued for Tensing’s arrest. Deters said Tensing could either turn himself in or officers could arrest him.
Tensing’s attorney, Stewart Mathews, didn’t immediately return phone messages seeking comment after Deters’ announcement.
Mathews said earlier Wednesday that he thought an indictment was likely “given the political climate” and comments made by city officials. But Mathews said given the evidence he’s seen, he doesn’t believe there should be an indictment.
DuBose’s death comes amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans, especially those killed by officers. DuBose was black. Tensing is white. Authorities haven’t indicated whether race was a part of the investigation.
Body-camera video of the shooting was also being released Wednesday, the prosecutor said. DuBose’s family had been pressing for its release, and news organizations including The Associated Press had sued Deters to get it released under Ohio open records law.
The University of Cincinnati on Wednesday closed its main campus in anticipation of grand jury action in the case.
Deters called the shooting “senseless” and “asinine.”
“He purposely killed him,” Deters said. “He should never have been a police officer.”
Deters said when he saw the video of the shooting, he was shocked.
“And I realize what this was going to mean to our community, and it really broke my heart because it’s just bad,” Deters said.
“I feel so sorry for this family and what they lost,” Deters said. “And I feel sorry for the community, too.”
Tensing, who had been on the university police force since April 2014, received an overall satisfactory rating on his annual performance evaluation this April. It noted he was extremely strong in the traffic area and maintains control of his weapons and of “situations he is involved in.”
Tensing previously worked as an officer in the Cincinnati suburb of Greenhills, on either a part-time or full-time basis from April 2011 to last December. Tensing had two performance evaluations showing he met standards and one saying he performed above standards.
If convicted, Tensing could face up to life in prison.