Investigation finished in police shooting in Cincinnati traffic stop

Story highlights

  • Cincinnati police finish investigation of shooting of apparently unarmed motorist
  • "These routine traffic stops turn fatal and are becoming a norm around the country," activist says
  • University of Cincinnati police officer is placed on paid administrative leave

(CNN)The Cincinnati Police Department said Wednesday it has finished investigating the fatal shooting of an apparently unarmed black man by a University of Cincinnati police officer.

Officer Ray Tensing fatally shot Samuel Dubose, 43, on Sunday after a struggle at a traffic stop over a missing license tag, Cincinnati police said. Dubose was driving away when Tensing shot him in the head, police said.
    Investigators will present the evidence to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who will decide if any criminal charges are warranted, according to a press release issued Wednesday. It's not known when Deters will make a decision.
    Local activists are complaining the killing is similar to police slayings of black men or youth in other cities, like Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Dubose was black and Tensing is white.
    "These routine traffic stops turn fatal and are becoming a norm around the country," said Brian Taylor, an activist with Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati, who attended a community meeting on the killing. "We're at the end of our ropes."
    At a press conference Wednesday, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said city police will work with university police to update policies on use of force.
    "As a general matter, a pullover related to a license plate should not in a normal course of events lead to lethal force and a death," Cranley said. "And that clearly we should be trying to implement use of force policies to prevent that kind of outcome."
    According to the UCPD use of force procedure, campus officers "should not discharge a firearm at or from a moving vehicle except as the ultimate measure of self-defense or defense of another when the suspect is using deadly force."
    Tensing has been placed on administrative leave with pay, university police said. He gave his first statements to investigators on Tuesday, along with two other campus police officers who arrived as Tensing and Dubose started struggling, according to Michele Ralston, spokeswoman for the force.
    Cincinnati police, who are handling the investigation, said Tensing saw Dubose driving without a front license plate around 6:30 p.m. Sunday and tried to pull him over. Dubose continued for about a mile from the campus before stopping the car, police said.

    A struggle ensued

    Tensing asked several times to see Dubose's driver's license, Cincinnati police said. Instead, police said, Dubose handed the officer a bottle of alcohol. Tensing asked Dubose to step out of the car, at which point a struggle ensued, police said.
    "There was a struggle at the door with Mr. Dubose in the vehicle and the officer outside the vehicle, and the vehicle sped away," Cincinnati police Lt. Col. James Whalen told reporters.
    Tensing fired a single shot, hitting the driver in the head as he attempted to flee. Police said the car rolled about a block before crashing.
    It appeared that Dubose did not have a weapon, police said.
    Tensing has five years' experience in law enforcement and has worked for the University of Cincinnati Police Department for more than a year.
    A CNN records search showed that Dubose had more than 60 arrests. He was a father to 13 children, according to CNN affiliate WKRC-TV.
    Samuel Dubose was killed after being initially stopped for driving without a front license plate.
    At a memorial gathering Monday, Dubose's mother, Audrey, said her son was "full of love," CNN affiliate WLWT-TV reported.
    "Know that my son was not a violent person," she said. "My son ... he got stopped a lot but he never tried to fight."
    Samuel Dubose's 9-year-old son, also named Samuel, told WKRC, "He was coming home that night and we had a projector so we were going to watch a movie on it but we didn't get to do that ... because he died."
    Dubose had an illness that made him "fragile" and "frail," according to longtime friend Hadassah Homa, who spoke to WCPO.
    "Sam has been sick for a while," he said. "He did not have no fight in him. Nothing. He was just so weak."
    Tensing was wearing a body camera, police said. They also said they have received surveillance video from nearby buildings but have yet to view it. No dashboard camera video is available, police said.

    Family demands body cam video

    WKRC reported Dubose's family rallied outside of the university's police department Tuesday night demanding to see the video captured on Tensing's body camera.
    "Why can't I see it? Why can't I see it?" said 9-year-old Samuel, according to the affiliate.
    Video of the incident will not be released until the investigation is over, according to Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black.
    CNN filed a request to review the body camera video but was turned down Wednesday by Hamilton County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Julie K. Wilson. She said release of the video could jeopardize a fair trial in the future.
    CNN obtained an evaluation of Tensing by the University of Cincinnati Police Department dated April 9, 2015, in which he scored a four out of five for appropriate use of his weapon per the department's use of force continuum.
    An evaluator commented that Tensing is "extremely knowledgeable with traffic laws and extremely proactive in that area; he has also demonstrated that he is able to control a situation and take over if necessary."
    Police officers with the University of Cincinnati receive the same training as city cops across the state, according to Ralston. Campus police officers have authority to investigate traffic offenses occurring outside university boundaries under a mutual assistance agreement with the city of Cincinnati.
    "Our hearts grieve for his loss," said Santa Ono, president of the University of Cincinnati.
    "We also know that police officers risk their lives every day, and when their efforts to protect themselves and our community result in a death, it is a tragedy. No matter the circumstances, it is a time of unimaginable sadness for all involved," Ono said.