CINCINNATI, OHIO – A University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black man has been charged with murder after a grand jury investigation, the Hamilton County prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Prosecutor Joseph Deters called the July 19 shooting of Samuel Dubose, 43, “senseless” and totally unnecessary.
The incident was the latest in a series of fatal police confrontations across the United States that have raised questions about police use of force against minorities.
The city was bracing for possible unrest after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision and the University of Cincinnati shut down in case of protests. The university said it will review its policing strategy in the wake of the shooting.
Deters said campus police officer Ray Tensing, who is white, had purposely shot Dubose, who was not resisting after he was pulled over for not having a front license plate on his car. Deters spoke bluntly and forcefully at the news conference about Tensing’s blame in the incident.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Deters told reporters after meeting with Dubose’s family. “This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make, totally unwarranted.”
Police said Tensing, who was also charged with voluntary manslaughter, turned himself in around 2 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT).
A body camera video Deters played for reporters showed Tensing running after the slowly rolling car after the stop. He was not dragged by the car, as the officer had reported.
Deters also said Tensing failed to issue simple, nonviolent commands.
Cincinnati was convulsed with riots in 2001 after police shot an unarmed 19-year-old black man who was wanted for traffic violations. The Cincinnati police went through extensive reform after that incident and an independent agency was set up to handle complaints against the police.
On Wednesday, Deters said the university should not have its own police force and that the city police, who he said were better trained, should take over campus security.
The incident was the latest in a string of deaths of black men at the hands of police in the past year, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in New York City and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
The family had sought the release of the video and hundreds of protesters marched on Sunday in Cincinnati demanding it be made public. Deters said he did not want to taint the grand jury by releasing it before they reviewed the case.
On Wednesday, Audrey Dubose, the victim’s mother, praised the indictment.
“I’m so thankful that everything was uncovered,” she told reporters. “I thought it was going to be covered up.”
She said she could forgive Tensing for her son’s death.
The family saw the video on Wednesday for the first time and met with Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. The family urged calm in the community, according to Cranley spokesman Kevin Osborne.
Dubose’s family has hired attorney Mark O’Mara, who represented George Zimmerman, the Florida man who was acquitted in the 2012 shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.
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