Residents continue to seek answers after an unarmed black man was fatally shot in the head by a University of Cincinnati campus police officer during a traffic stop this week. Police said the officer shot 43-year-old Samuel Dubose Sunday as he tried to drive away during the stop, knocking the officer to the ground.
Tensing, who is white, was sitting in his police vehicle on the edge of campus when he noticed Dubose in a car with a missing front license plate, said University Police Chief Jason Goodrich at a news conference Monday.
“It was determined that the car was registered to a female as well as not having the front license plate,” Goodrich said.
Goodrich said Tensing followed Dubose about a mile away from the campus before Dubose was pulled over in Mount Auburn, Ohio.
Goodrich said Tensing asked Dubose for his license “multiple times” but Dubose instead “produced a bottle of alcohol from inside the car, handing it” to Tensing, “but was unable to produce a driver’s license.” Tensing asked Dubose to exit the car, but Dubose refused, Goodrich said.
“It started inside the vehicle,” said Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. James L. Whalen at Monday’s news conference. “There was a struggle at the door with Mr. Dubose in the vehicle and the officer outside the vehicle and the vehicle sped away.”
Goodrich said Tensing “fired one shot from his duty weapon and was knocked to the ground.” Whalen said the shot occurred as the car started to move and before he fell to the ground.
The car traveled “a little longer than a city block” down the street toward an intersection before it stopped, Whalen said. Goodrich said Dubose “suffered a gunshot wound to the head” and died on the scene. Goodrich said Tensing “suffered some minor injuries” and was treated and released from the hospital Sunday night.
Whalen said Monday that he was unable to speak with Tensing yet to determine the exact circumstances of the shooting. Tensing had bruised legs and a torn uniform afterward, Goodrich said.
Whalen confirmed that Dubose had no weapon.
Cincinnati police said Tensing was wearing a body camera, which they said confirmed there was a struggle. Whalen said there “was at least one” camera from a building that captured the scene as well. But they said the videos would not be released until an investigation is complete.
Cincinnati police have a “mutual aid agreement” with campus police that “allows the officers to function as a police officer within the city,” Goodrich said. Whalen said Cincinnati police agreed to lead the investigation into the case.
“We mutually felt it was important to provide as much information and be as transparent as we could as we made our way along, but there are still important things we have to do in this investigation,” Whalen said.
The killing is one of several over the past year that have provoked controversy, demonstrations and a national debate about police shootings of blacks.
Eric Garner died a year ago in July when placed in a police chokehold. Garner’s family agreed to a $5.9 million settlement with New York City this year. Protests emerged last August after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police, in Ferguson, Mo.
Protests developed in Cleveland when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot by police in November. Riots broke out in in Baltimore in April following Freddie Gray’s death from a severe spinal injury after an arrest.
More than 530 people have been fatally shot by police this year in the United States, according to data collected by The Washington Post during an ongoing investigation. As of now, 21 of the deceased have been unarmed African Americans.
University of Cincinnati students joined Dubose’s family at a campus protest Tuesday to demand answers.
“It was unjustified. My son had no business getting killed,” said Dubose’s mother, Audrey, to the Cincinnati Enquirer at a vigil Monday. “I would love for the police officer that did this to let me know how could he put a gun to a human being’s head, any human being, not just my son.”
“People are losing their lives over not having a license plate,” said Cierra Carter, 20, a University of Cincinnati student, to the Enquirer. “Those are not offenses worth dying for.”
Dubose is the father of numerous children, perhaps more than 12, according to news reports. According to the Enquirer, Dubose has been charged “more than 75 times in Hamilton County,” including driving without a license, joyriding, having windows tinted too dark and misdemeanor drug possession. An assault charge in 2013 was dismissed. He’s faced eviction seven times, and he had his license suspended indefinitely in January by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the paper said.
“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,” said Dubose’s 9-year-old son, also named Samuel, to WKRC as tears welled up in his eyes.
Michele Ralston, a campus spokeswoman, told The Daily Beast campus police receive the same training as city officers.
Tensing, who was placed on administrative leave with pay, provided his first statement to investigators about the incident Tuesday afternoon, the Enquirer reported. Requests for comments from police at UC and the Cincinnati police department were not returned Wednesday morning.