US officer charged with murder after deadly traffic stop

2015-07-30 11:36
Photos of Samuel DuBose hang on a pole at a memorial in Cincinnati. (Tom Uhlman, AP)

Photos of Samuel DuBose hang on a pole at a memorial in Cincinnati. (Tom Uhlman, AP)

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Chicago - A white Ohio police officer who shot a black man during a routine traffic stop was charged with murder on Wednesday in what prosecutors called a "senseless" act motivated by anger.

The case comes as the US grapples with heightened racial tensions in the wake of a series of high-profile incidents of unarmed African Americans being killed by police in disputed circumstances.

"He wasn't dealing with someone who was wanted for murder - he was dealing with someone with a missing license plate," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters told reporters.

"This is in the vernacular a pretty 'chicken crap' stop. If he started rolling away, seriously, let him go. You don't have to shoot him in the head."

University of Cincinnati campus police officer Ray Tensing initially told investigators that he shot Sam DuBose in the head after DuBose tried to drive away and dragged the officer along with him.

But a review of the officer's body camera footage showed Tensing was never in danger during the 19 July incident.

The university shut down its campus and placed barricades at entrances, in concern over possible violent protests as has been seen in the in response to other high-profile police shootings over the past year.

City officials pressed for calm and said they were prepared "for any scenarios that present themselves."

Despite concerns, there appeared to be no flare-up of violent protesting on Wednesday night.

A small group of marchers gathered, waving "Black Lives Matter" placards, in reference to the grassroots movement opposing violence by law enforcement against blacks.

One sign read "They kill our daddies then make fun of us for being fatherless."

Body-cam tells truth

Deters said he hopes the swift action by his office will show that justice is being done in this case.

"I feel so sorry for his family and I feel sorry for the community," Deters said.

"People want to believe that #SamDubose did something violent against the officer.. He did not."

Deters said Tensing pulled out his gun and shot DuBose very quickly.

"It's incredible. And so senseless," Deters said as he prepared to release the video.

"I think he lost his temper because Mr DuBose wouldn't get out of his vehicle."

The video shows Tensing approach the black car and ask DuBose for his license and registration.

DuBose calmly asks why he was pulled over and eventually tells Tensing that he left his license at home.

Then - less than two minutes into the exchange - DuBose reaches for the keys and Tensing can be heard shouting "STOP! STOP!"

In the blink of an eye, a gun pops into view and DuBose slumps over in his seat. The video bounces as Tensing chases after the car as it rolls down the street. DuBose died instantly, Deters said.

"For a cop to lie on paperwork knowing there's video evidence against him means he's functioning in a system set up to protect him," outraged writer Daniel Jose Older said on Twitter.

'Asinine' policing

Tensing should never have been allowed to carry a badge and gun, Deters said, adding that the University of Cincinnati should hand policing duties over to the city's force.

"This is the most asinine act I have ever seen a police officer make," he said.

"It was totally unwarranted and it's an absolute tragedy that in 2015 anyone would behave in this manner."

Cincinnati was struck by days of violent unrest following the police shooting of an unarmed black man in 2001.

"There is obviously reason for people to be angry," Mayor John Cranley said.

"Everyone has the right to peacefully protest, but we will not tolerate lawlessness."

DuBose's family asked people to respect his memory by responding peacefully as they vowed to continue to fight for justice in policing.

"My brother was about to be just one other stereotype and now that's not going to happen," Terina Allen, DuBose's sister, told reporters.

"I'm as pleased as I can be that we're actually getting some kind of justice for Sam."

Tensing, 25, had been a police officer for four years, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

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