CINCINNATI, Ohio — Former University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the July 19 shooting death of Samuel DuBose.
At the arraignment, the judge set Tensing’s bond at $1 million.
Some inside the courtroom applauded when Judge Megan Shanahan announced the bond, and she quickly admonished them and called for order in the court.
Tensing’s next court date is set for August 19.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the charges at a news conference this week.
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make — totally unwarranted,” he said. “It’s an absolute tragedy in the year 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner. It was senseless.”
Deters played body camera footage of the traffic stop shooting that appeared to contradict Tensing’s version of what happened.
The prosecutor, who said he was shocked when he first saw the video, was adamant that DuBose, who is black, had not acted aggressively toward Tensing, who is white.
“People want to believe that Mr. DuBose had done something violent towards the officer — he did not. He did not at all. I feel so sorry for his family and what they lost, and I feel sorry for the community, too,” Deters said.
A reporter asked Deters whether he thought Tensing tried to mislead investigators looking into the incident.
“Yes,” he said. “I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing” of DuBose, who was unarmed.
‘We have got to be right’
The DuBose family is reeling from the incident, Cleshawn DuBose told CNN.
“We’re devastated, It’s heartbreaking. The family is heartbroken,” she said of her slain brother.
Another of Sam DuBose’s sisters, Terina DuBose Allen, said the presence of body cameras helped bring the story to light.
“I think that if there had not been a body camera, that Sam would have been left with the memory of everyone saying he was basically trying to kill a police officer,” she said. “They would have turned a nonviolent man who was loved into a poster child for violence against police officers.”
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said he’s satisfied with how the case has progressed.
“We wanted the right thing to be done, the just thing to be done, the fair thing to be done,” he said. “We wanted the truth to come out.”
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said these are difficult times for law enforcement agencies around the country, in light of the police shooting death in Ferguson, Missouri, and other shootings involving white officers and black victims.
“It’s the most difficult policing environment in the history of our nation. But, that doesn’t excuse away bad behavior,” he said. “We have got to be right. We have got to be constitutional.”
‘Feared for his life’
Tensing fatally shot DuBose, 43, during a July 19 traffic stop over an alleged missing license tag. The officer has said he was forced to fire his weapon after almost being run over.
His body camera video captured Tensing telling officers after the shooting: “I think I’m OK. He was just dragging me. I thought I was going to get run over. I was trying to stop him.”
He says his hand was caught in DuBose’s car, and he later left the scene with another officer to get checked out at a hospital. The footage shows no one rendering aid to DuBose.
Tensing, 25, surrendered to authorities shortly after news of the indictment broke. He has been fired from his job and, if convicted, could go to prison for life.
Tensing’s attorney believes the officer feared for his life.
“The guy jams the keys in the ignition,” Stew Mathews told CNN.
“Turns the car on, jams it (into) drive and mashes the accelerator. He wasn’t slowly pulling away. (Tensing) feared for his life. He thought he was going to be sucked under the car that was pulling away from him. He thought he was going to get sucked under and killed.”
Mathews said that Tensing thought he could reach into the car and get the key out of the ignition and stop DuBose from leaving.
The officer’s account was contradicted by Deters, the prosecutor, who said that Tensing was not dragged.
“This just does not happen in the United States. People don’t get shot for a traffic stop unless they are violent towards the police officer, and he (DuBose) wasn’t,” Deters said. “He was simply slowly rolling away. That’s all he did.”
‘Huge first step’
DuBose’s death is the latest in a string of controversial killings of people by police that include Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Michael Brown in Ferguson, and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina.
The people killed in each case have been black.
DuBose’s mother told reporters that she is grateful “everything was uncovered” in her son’s shooting.
“I want everybody to just lift up their heads in prayer, and thank God because this one did not go unsolved and hidden,” said Audrey DuBose. “We’re going to continue to fight together with God.”
Mark O’Mara, an attorney for the family, said he does not believe there would have been an indictment if there hadn’t been video of the shooting.
“We’ve now made a huge first step because — in a situation where sometimes people believe that officers are not held accountable for their actions — in this case, one is being held accountable. So Cincinnati is showing the rest of us how to do this right,” O’Mara said.