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Ray Tensing, a white police officer, was indicted on murder charges for killing Samuel DuBose, a black motorist, during a traffic stop for not having a front license plate. Tensing said he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot DuBose, but body camera footage revealed a different sequence of events. Gwen Ifill learns more from Sharon Coolidge of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
A white police officer was indicted today for killing a black motorist during a traffic stop in Cincinnati. Ray Tensing is accused of murdering the driver, Samuel Dubose, when he was pulled over near the University of Cincinnati campus on July 19 for not having a front license plate.
Tensing said he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot Dubose. But footage from the body camera he was wearing revealed a different sequence of events, as the car rolled away only after Dubose was shot. We're not showing the moment the gun fired.
After reviewing the video, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said there was no doubt in his mind it was murder.
JOE DETERS, Hamilton County Prosecutor:
Could you imagine the outrage you would have if this was your kid or this was your brother over a stop like this? And he didn't do anything violent towards the officer. He wasn't dragging him. And he pulled out his gun and intentionally shot him in the head.
The victim's family pushed authorities to release the body camera footage today. Dubose's sister, Terina Allen, said it was crucial to show what really happened.
TERINA ALLEN, Sister of Victim: He didn't have a gun. He didn't do anything to that officer. No one deserves this. So, I'm angry, but I'm as pleased as I can be that we're actually going to get some kind of justice for Sam, but I don't think we would be getting it — to get back to that, I just don't think we would without the camera.
Tensing turned himself in this afternoon and was processed on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. He has a court appearance scheduled tomorrow morning.
For more on this, I spoke a short time ago to Sharon Coolidge of The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Sharon Coolidge, thanks for joining us.
Tell us, what new details emerged today after the announcement by the prosecutor?
SHARON COOLIDGE, The Cincinnati Enquirer:
Well, we haven't — I think the biggest surprise came when the prosecutor actually had his press conference today.
Judging from what we heard from the police chief and the city manager this week, we were expecting an indictment, but nobody was expecting the prosecutor to say the word murder. And so that really has kept — I mean, put people — we were propelled out from there today.
So it was the video that changed the course of what you saw happen today, the actual showing of that video?
Oh, definitely. We had all really been clamoring to see the video. And The Enquirer, we filed a lawsuit for the video last week. We have believed it's public record all along. And the prosecutor did finally release it today. And seeing the video really made things a lot more clear in this case, I think, for the American public.
Now, how did what we saw on the video differ from we had known or what the officer had said had happened before?
I'm working through that right now, and I have had the opportunity to see a second video this afternoon.
You know, the officer — and we have not spoken directly to that officer, only to his attorney, Stewart Mathews — is insisting that the officer was dragged and knocked down during what — during the incident. And we just have not seen that on video yet. Definitely, the video released by the prosecutor today doesn't show that.
The second video which was attached to a body camera from another officer arriving at the scene does show officer Tensing on the ground, but it doesn't show what lead up to the officer being on the ground.
So, all we know right now is that that gun was discharged. The car rolled away. And the question is what happened between those two moments.
That is correct.
The prosecutor is insisting that nothing happened between those two moments. And the video really, it just doesn't show something happening. It shows a peaceful, you know, conversation where, you know, the person — where Samuel Dubose says — asked a couple of questions about why he is being pulled over, but it's very civil, it's very respectful.
And it's just a couple of questions. And we just — we don't see a reason on any of the video for a shooting. And I think that's what led to the murder charge.
Joe Deters was — talked pretty tough today, the prosecutor. Was that unusual for him so, or is that what you have come to expect covering him?
Joe Deters does tough — he has tough talk for criminals in this town. And he's known for that.
But in police officer cases, he's typically been more reserved. And we have never, of course, seen something like this. This really is, I think, is a first in the country. But in other cases where there is an officer-involved shooting, he doesn't talk like this. Those cases are reserved really for what we — he can see in videos in different kinds of cases, not in officer cases.
So to hear him talk today like he did in a case involving a police officer was really stunning to me.
Was there a distinction between the fact that this was a university police officer and not a city of Cincinnati police officer?
Well, there definitely is a distinction. And the city police have been reminding of that all week, because they are completely different police forces. And I think that's been made clear. But they are still police officers.
They are trained. They're part of a union. These are police officers protecting our citizens, our students. So, in this, there is no difference. This was a police officer.
And so far, what do we know about community reaction, especially in the wake of the family's statements today?
Community relations in Cincinnati, I would say, are — it's tense. People wanted to see the video. No one is quite sure what to expect tonight because it was handled so well within — this wasn't a case where people will think, oh, this officer was undercharged.
So I'm expecting there to be a peaceful march, where people will make their voices heard, but do it in a respectful manner. And certainly the family is calling for that.
OK, Sharon Coolidge of The Cincinnati Enquirer, thank you for taking time from a breaking story today to talk to us.
Thank you very much.
We will have more on this story online, including the community's response from a member of The Enquirer's editorial board, Byron McCauley. That's at PBS.org/NewsHour.
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