Raymond Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murder for shooting and killing a driver during a traffic stop, pleaded not guilty on Thursday morning.
Tensing, 25, was making his first court appearance since he was indicted and arrested on Wednesday, 10 days after he shot and killed Samuel DuBose, 43, during a traffic stop about half a mile from the university’s campus.
The case had prompted rallies and protests in Cincinnati, along with questions about why authorities were not releasing footage of the incident captured by Tensing’s body camera. Two other officers with the university police force have also been placed on leave in the aftermath of the shooting.
On Wednesday, a Hamilton County prosecutor said that a grand jury had indicted Tensing on one count of murder and another of voluntary manslaughter. A warrant was issued for Tensing’s arrest and he turned himself in.
Tensing, who faces up to life in prison, only spoke Thursday to tell the judge that he understood the charges against him. He remained standing during the hearing, his hands cuffed behind his back.
His attorney asked for what he called a “reasonable” bond so that Tensing could be released to the home he shares with his father, pointing to the former officer’s “exemplary record” and lack of any prior criminal convictions.
Tensing, through his attorney, pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder and manslaughter.
Hamilton County Judge Megan E. Shanahan set Tensing’s bail at $1 million dollars. The former officer “is facing the possibility of life in prison,” she said. “It’s the court’s duty to ensure his appearance.”
When his bond was set, applause erupted in courthouse on Cincinnati’s Main Street. As the cheers rang out, Tensing dropped his head and looked down.
Shanahan admonished the people and quieted them, saying: “This is a courtroom.” She said Tensing’s next court date would be Aug. 19, and after 3 minutes, the appearance was over and Tensing was led away.
Tensing posted bond on Thursday evening and was released a little after 6:30 p.m., according to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department.
Joe Deters, the Hamilton County prosecutor, had spoken sharply at a news conference Wednesday announcing the charges, noting that his office had reviewed more than 100 police shootings.
“This is the first time that we’ve thought, ‘This is without question a murder,'” Deters said.
Police officers are rarely charged for shooting and killing people while on duty. So far this year, 558 people have been fatally shot by police, according to a Washington Post database. DuBose’s death is the fourth to result in charges against the officer involved.
All four incidents, like DuBose’s death, were captured on camera.
“I thought it was going to be covered up,” Audrey DuBose, Samuel’s mother, said at a news conference after the indictment. “I heard many stories and everything. But…I trust God, and I knew everything was going to be alright.”
Local officials had asked people to respond to the news peacefully, with the university canceling classes and authorities setting up barricades. In 2001, after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man, rioting shook Cincinnati for days.
On Wednesday night, despite a passing thunderstorm, hundreds gathered in downtown Cincinnati to rally and march outside the courthouse, remaining peaceful as they made their way through part of the city.
Prosecutors also released the body camera footage of the shooting on Wednesday, and the video was widely displayed on television, social media and in news reports. (Warning: The footage is graphic.)
In the video, a routine traffic stop escalates to fatal violence with remarkable speed. Tensing said during the video he is pulling DuBose over for not having a front license plate on his green Honda Accord. He asks DuBose multiple times for his driver’s license, which DuBose admits he does not have with him.
After that, the officer tells DuBose to take off his seatbelt. DuBose says he has done nothing wrong and appears to turn the car back on. Tensing yells “Stop!” and fires a single round. The car lurches forward and stops farther down the street, as Tensing runs after it and yells to a dispatcher that medical attention is needed.
DuBose, who was shot in the head, was pronounced dead at the scene. The Hamilton County Coroner said his death was a homicide due to the gunshot wound.
In a university police report, Tensing is described as saying he was dragged by the car and had to fire his weapon. Deters, speaking on Wednesday, sharply disputed that, saying: “It was so unnecessary for this to occur.”
“He didn’t do anything violent towards the officer,” Deters said later. “He wasn’t dragging him. And he pulled out his gun and intentionally shot him in the head.”
An attorney for Tensing, Stew Matthews, had said before the indictment that charges were possible due to “the political climate here and nationally.”
“He was in fear of his life at the time this happened,” Matthews told reporters after the arraignment.
On Thursday afternoon, the University of Cincinnati placed two other campus police officers on paid administrative leave amid an internal investigation, said Michele Ralston, a spokeswoman for the school.
The two officers – Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt — were mentioned in the university police report filled out by Eric Weibel, a third officer. Kidd is described as saying that he saw DuBose’s car drag Tensing, while Weibel wrote that it is not clear how much Lindenschmidt saw.
The Fraternal Order of Police and Ohio released a statement Thursday criticizing the comments made by Deters and other local officials.
“Before everyone casts the stone of judgment, let’s remember that this is a tragedy for all involved,” the statement said. It added: “People who watch an encounter on video using the slow motion setting to determine what happened have a luxury that police on the street don’t. We make split second decisions.”
The former officer had graduated from Colerain High School in Cincinnati and had lived in Hamilton County for his entire life, his lawyer said in court Wednesday.
Tensing had been an officer on the University of Cincinnati police force for about a year and a half, his attorney said, had graduated from the school. Before he joined the campus police, Tensing had worked for the Greenhills Police Department in the small village about 10 miles north of the university.
Wesley Lowery and Kevin Williams in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
[This post has been updated. I have also corrected it twice. DuBose’s last name was originally spelled “Dubose" based on a spelling from the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office, but that has been updated. The post also initially stated both that Dubose is the fourth officer charged and that he is the only officer charged; it has been fixed to state in both places he is the fourth. First published: 10:18 a.m.]