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Prosecutors won’t seek third trial for former Ohio police officer who shot Samuel DuBose

This video shows excerpts from Tensing's body camera, as well as body cameras of two other officers at the scene during of the Cincinnati shooting. (Video: The Washington Post)

The former University of Cincinnati police officer who was charged with murder after killing a driver during a 2015 traffic stop will not face a third trial following two prosecutions that ended with deadlocked juries, authorities said Tuesday.

Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph T. Deters, who had first revealed criminal charges in the case by assailing the officer’s actions and decrying what he called “a pretty chicken-crap stop,” announced the decision during a news conference held a day before the second anniversary of Samuel DuBose’s death during a traffic stop near the University of Cincinnati campus.

Deters said he had decided against retrying Raymond Tensing, the former officer, after meeting with jurors in the case and being told prosecutors would never win a conviction, in part because some jurors would never vote to convict a police officer.

“After discussing this matter with multiple jurors, both black and white, they have to a person said to us that we will never get a conviction in this case,” Deters said during a grim news conference. “I don’t like it. My opinion of this case has not changed from two years ago tomorrow and it’s not gonna change.”

Jury deadlocks in second trial of former University of Cincinnati officer who fatally shot Samuel DuBose

Deters said he delivered the news to DuBose’s family on Tuesday before announcing it publicly.

“Needless to say, they’re very upset with what the decision was,” he said. Deters later added: “It was horrible. I just met with them and it was … it would be the reaction I would have if this was my brother.”

After Deters’s decision was made public, DuBose’s sister spoke to reporters and assailed the outcome of the prosecution, saying she felt it meant that officers would not face criminal penalties for killing black people.

“Sam was judged by the jurors who didn’t want to convict because they valued Tensing’s life more,” Terina Allen said. She added: “It wasn’t about evidence.”

Deters said that his office had referred the issue to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, saying that federal authorities would explore the case for possible federal civil rights violations. Deters said that the U.S. Attorney’s office actually called his office about the case, saying that members of his staff and federal authorities met earlier this month to go over evidence, and he noted that certain evidence could be included in a federal trial that was not allowed in a state trial.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

While criminal charges against law enforcement officers have increased in recent years, convictions have been rare, which experts say is due to the wide latitude the law allows for officers using deadly force. Federal law also sets a very high bar for bringing civil rights charges against police officers.

From 2015: University of Cincinnati police officer who shot man during traffic stop charged with murder

Tensing was first charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter 10 days after stopping DuBose on the night of July 19. In the initial police report, Tensing described being forced to shoot DuBose because he was being dragged by the car and nearly run over.

Graphic body camera footage of the encounter was released the same day Tensing was arrested and charged. When the stop began, Tensing can be heard asking DuBose, 43, to take off his seat belt. DuBose is seen turning on the ignition. Tensing then reaches toward the door, yelling “Stop!” and shoving his gun into the car window, firing a single round into DuBose’s head.

After the fatal shot was fired, the car lurched forward and came to a stop down the street, while Tensing ran after it, shouting that medical attention was needed. Less than two minutes had elapsed since Tensing had approached the car.

Prosecutors sought second trial ‘to bring justice in this case’

Tensing’s first trial ended in November with a deadlocked jury, and Deters quickly announced plans to try the former officer again.

The second trial ended last month with the same outcome, and it marked the third time in a week that juries weighed charges against an officer and opted against convicting them, following officers’ acquittals in Minnesota and Wisconsin days earlier.

Ohio prosecutors said they will not pursue a third trial against former university police officer Ray Tensing. (Video: Reuters)

Deters on Tuesday dismissed suggestions that prosecutors had overcharged Tensing, saying that jurors could have still convicted the former officer on lesser charges in the case.

Stew Matthews, an attorney for Tensing, had blamed the charges on “the political climate here and nationally” and said the officer feared for his life when he opened fire. On Tuesday, Matthews wrote in an email that he was “relieved” at Deters’s decision not to seek a third trial, though he added that given the request for the Justice Department to look into the case, “it is still not over.”

Deters said jurors had told him prosecutors would not win a conviction in the case. Speaking on Tuesday, Deters noted that one of the juries had deadlocked 10-2, and he said some of the officers would never have voted to convict.

“We had two jurors that just simply would not find a police officer guilty,” he said. “Period.”

Further reading:

What the police officer who shot Philando Castile said about the shooting in Minnesota

Thousands dead, few prosecuted: Officers are rarely charged

The Washington Post’s database of police shootings this year

University of Cincinnati to pay $4.85 million to DuBose’s family

This story, first published at 2:49 p.m., has been updated with Matthews’s comment.