CINCINNATI — A former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a man he pulled over for a missing front license plate pleaded not guilty in court Thursday and was out of jail on bond less than eight hours later.
Ray Tensing, 25, killed Samuel DuBose, 43, on July 19 as the unarmed black man delayed producing his driver’s license during the traffic stop near the university’s campus. Judge Megan Shanahan of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court set Tensing’s bond at $1 million during the arraignment as Tensing bowed his head, closed his eyes and never looked at anyone.
Ray Tensing, dismissed from his job as a University of Cincinnati police officer, enters the Hamilton County courthouse July 30, 2015, before his arraignment on charges of murdering a motorist.
Applause broke out in the courtroom when Shanahan set the high bond, but the judge immediately put a stop to it, admonishing spectators.
“This is a courtroom,” she said.
Afterward, Tensing’s lawyer, Stewart Mathews, said he would do his best to raise the money to get his client out of jail Thursday, and Tensing left the Hamilton County jail hours later after spending the night behind bars. Since anyone can post 10% of a $1 million bond the Klu Klux Klan posted the bond to have him released.
Earlier in the day after the arraignment, DuBose’s family and friends demanded a conviction. They hugged; they shed tears.
Samuel DuBose, 43, of Cincinnati died July 19 during a University of Cincinnati police traffic stop.
“If this man doesn’t get convicted, they can shoot me in the head, too,” said Kimberly Thomas, DuBose’s friend.
For a few seconds, they broke into chant of “no justice, no peace.” Courthouse security ordered them to be quiet.
Tensing’s father, Paul Tensing, and other family members were in the courtroom during the arraignment, but none would comment after the hearing. Paul Tensing is a retired Springfield Township, Ohio, firefighter.
DuBose was the 637th person killed in the United States by police since Jan. 1, according to a Guardian database; 19 of the deaths were in Ohio. The British newspaper has been gathering data from news reports and social media to count deaths caused by law-enforcement officers.
Since DuBose’s July 19 death, 27 others have died at the hands of police, the database shows. More than a quarter of the 2015 total so far were black; about 13% of the U.S. population identifies as black.
Tensing’s personnel file from nearly four years on the Greenhills police force, his job before being hired in April 2014 at the University of Cincinnati, shows that he used a Taser on a motorist during a January 2012 traffic stop, according to documents The Enquirer obtained through a public-records request. The officer claimed the driver, who was not identified, was resisting arrest.
The file from Greenhills, a Cincinnati suburb of about 3,500 residents, does not detail why Tensing stopped the motorist nor his race.
“Officer had suspect at the side of his car,” according to a statement from another driver who witnessed the 2012 incident. “Suspect started hitting officer and trying to get away. I stopped to help officer and grabbed suspect’s leg. Suspect continued to fight. Officer told him to stop or he would get Tazed. Suspect continued to fight so officer Tazed him and took him into custody.”
Tensing reported that he received bruising and cuts to his right index and middle fingers during the struggle, but few other details are included in the file.
On Sept. 18, 2013, Tensing started the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s 26-week training academy in Columbus but quit after one day, saying he “couldn’t adapt to the training environment,” Sgt. Vincent Shirey, patrol spokesman, said Thursday. Jobs with the highway patrol are considered highly competitive, and an applicant is required to pass a rigorous months-long background check.
After resigning from the highway patrol, Tensing returned to his job with the Greenhills police.
Before the University of Cincinnati dismissed Tensing from its police force Wednesday, he had been a police officer for a little more than four years. He had joined the Greenhills police force part time in April 2011, a job that became full time in March 2013 and continued part time for eight months after the University of Cincinnati hired him; in Greenhills, 9 in 10 residents are white.
On Wednesday, Tensing was charged with murder after a Hamilton County grand jury indicted him earlier in the week in the DuBose case. Among the crucial pieces of evidence was body-camera video that contradicted the account of the incident that Tensing gave to investigators.
That day, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said he believed Tensing’s shooting of DuBose was purposefully carried out.
“This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make,” Deters said. “It was senseless. It’s just horrible.”
Mathews repeated his stance Thursday that Ray Tensing, who had reached through DuBose’s lowered car window during the traffic stop, feared for his life when the officer felt DuBose starting to drive away.
Deters said the car started to roll after the officer shot DuBose in the head, which instantly killed him.
“There are two sides to things,” Mathews said. “This case will be tried in a courtroom.”
The DuBose family lawyer, Mark O’Mara, said no bond should have been set.
“This was murder without justification,” said O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman in the 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Fla. “Tensing was in a position of authority and should be held to a higher standard.”
DuBose’s death raises questions about the training of University of Cincinnati police officers, who have an agreement with the city allowing them to patrol off the campus of more than 40,000 students. Rioting after Cincinnati city police officers killed Timothy Thomas in 2001 resulted in a variety of changes on the force, including additional training and more detailed communication with dispatchers. It is unclear whether University of Cincinnati police also benefited.