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Cop indicted after body cam video shows death of driver
03:27 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Body cam video shows the deadly face-off between Samuel DuBose, Officer Ray Tensing

Representatives for both sides interpret the video differently

Tensing was indicted Wednesday in the murder of DuBose

CNN  — 

A body cam video reveals what happened between University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing and motorist Samuel DuBose, including the difficult-to-see moment when the officer fatally shoots the driver.

Representatives for both sides interpret the tape differently, and they sharply disagree on how the officer was indicted Wednesday on a murder charge.

What’s clear in the video is that a routine traffic stop went awry quickly on Sunday, July 19. Here’s a breakdown of the video, with interpretations from both sides on key moments:

The traffic stop

DuBose pulls over his car and parks. Officer Tensing approaches him on foot.

Tensing: “Hey, how’s it going, man?”

DuBose: “Hi, how’s it going?”

Tensing asks DuBose for his license, but DuBose struggles to find his license. At one point, DuBose hands Tensing a bottle labeled “gin” from the car floor.

Tensing: “I’m going to ask you again. Do you have your license on you?”

DuBose: “I have my license. Run my name.”

Was the stop legit?

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters questioned why the officer had to pull over DuBose at all. In fact, the prosecutor called it a “chicken crap stop.”

“He wasn’t dealing with someone who was wanted for murder. He was dealing with someone who didn’t have a front license plate. I mean this was, in the vernacular, a pretty chicken crap stop, and I could use harsher words,” Deters said. “But nonetheless, if he’s starting to roll away … let him go. I mean, you don’t have to shoot him in the head, and that’s what happened.”

But Tensing is explicit in the video in answering DuBose’s question of why he was pulled over.

DuBose’s car didn’t have a front license plate, the officer tells him.

DuBose: “But it’s not illegal to not have a front tag.”

Tensing: “Actually, it is.”

Tension grows

Tensing tires of asking DuBose for his drivers license. DuBose admits he doesn’t think he is carrying his license.

Tensing: “Be straight up with me: Are you suspended?”

DuBose: “No, I’m not suspended.” (In fact, DuBose was driving on a suspended license, according to records with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.)

Tensing then asks the motorist to his seat belt off. This is where contact is made, and things get blurry.

The explosive moment

Tensing appears to try to open the driver’s door, but DuBose raises his hand to hold the door closed. Then Tensing reaches into the car, and the camera is shaking so violently that it’s hard to see exactly what happens.

Tensing: “Stop! Stop!”

Events happen so quickly that it’s difficult to see at first that Tensing has pulled out his gun.

It’s also difficult to hear the gunshot to the head that apparently killed DuBose. There’s a bang, but the camera is shaking so much that a viewer doesn’t clearly see the shooting itself. The video does eventually show Tensing holding the gun in front of his chest after DuBose has driven away.

“Shot fired! Shot fired!” someone yells in the background.

DuBose’s car rolls for about a block before crashing.

The officer: His life was threatened

Controversy focuses on whether DuBose tried to run his vehicle over Tensing.

Tensing later told another officer, Eric Weibel, that he “almost was run over” by DuBose and was forced to shoot him, Weibel’s incident report says.

On Wednesday, Tensing’s attorney reiterated that the officer was dragged by DuBose’s car.

“The guy jams the keys in the ignition. Turns the car on, jams it in the drive and mashes the accelerator. He wasn’t slowly pulling away. He 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,” attorney Stew Mathews said.

It is a second body cam video, from University of Cincinnati Officer Phillip Kidd, that shows Tensing momentarily on the ground beside DuBose’s car as DuBose drives away. Kidd’s body cam captures the moment as he runs toward the scene.

As Kidd exits his cruiser, “you can see Ray Tensing on the pavement getting up with DuBose’s vehicle continuing,” the attorney says.

The incident report by Officer Weibel makes a similar accusation: “Officer Tensing repeated that he was being dragged by the vehicle and had to fire his weapon,” Weibel’s report says.

DuBose later complained of pain to his left arm after the stop, Weibel’s report said.

“Looking at Officer Tensing’s uniform, I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface,” the report says.

Tensing’s body cam video captured him 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 go to the hospital to get checked out. The footage shows no one rendering aid to DuBose.

The prosecutor: Officer showed bad judgment

Prosecutor Deters condemned Tensing’s actions and his decision to use deadly force.

“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,” Deters told reporters. “It’s an absolute tragedy in the year 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner. It was senseless.”

The prosecutor asserted that DuBose had not acted aggressively toward Tensing.

“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.

Deters said that the officer wasn’t dragged.

The prosecutor explained why Tensing was on the ground: “He fell backwards after he shot him in the head,” Deters said.

Deters highlighted how the shooting happened quickly.

“It is a very very short period of time from when this car just starts slowly rolling that the gun is out and he’s shot in the head,” Deters said.

Deters further alleged Tensing tried to mislead investigators looking into the incident.

“Yes,” the prosecutor said in response to a reporter’s question. “I think he was making an excuse for a purposeful killing” of DuBose, who was unarmed.

The family attorney: No reason to shoot

DuBose family attorney Mark O’Mara said the video puts to rest any questions about “how peaceful Sam (DuBose) was” during the traffic stop.

In fact, O’Mara expected the video to show a dramatic provocation justifying the shooting. The video didn’t reveal one, O’Mara claimed.

The shooting happened so fast that it’s easy to miss, O’Mara added.

Upon first viewing, “I expected there to be a tussle. I expected an escalation of the event, right,” O’Mara said. “And I’m watching it, waiting. The shot happened and the car took off, and I actually for a slight second thought (mistakenly), OK, the shot’s coming, the car is going to stop, he’s going to catch up to car, that’s where the tussle is. Then I realized the shot already happened.

“I know when you’re supposed to use deadly force: You’re supposed to use it when you have reasonable fear of great bodily injury. There was none of that,” O’Mara said. “It was horrific to see that anyone could think, ‘Now I can use a gun.’ “

DuBose was nonaggressive in the video, the attorney said.

The tape contradicts DuBose’s claims in police reports, the attorney said.

“You look at police reports, and they can on occasion be self-serving. This one obviously was,” O’Mara said. “If there wasn’t a video, I do not believe we would have had an indictment.”

CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed to this report.