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Three Juries in One Week Failed to Convict Cops for Killing Black Men

Raymond Tensing's mistrial marks the third time in the past seven days a police officer charged with killing a black man escaped conviction.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Photo by Mark Lyons/Getty Images

On Friday, a Cincinnati judge declared a mistrial in the murder case of former cop Raymond Tensing. It's the second time a jury found itself unable to come to a verdict regarding the death of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man who Tensing shot and killed in July 2015.

This time around, prosecutors aimed to prove that the former University of Cincinnati police officer had no reason to fear for his life when he fatally shot the 43-year-old during a routine traffic stop, the New York Times reports. The defense, however, argued Tensing's arm was stuck in DuBose's car as the driver allegedly prepared to drive from the scene, leading Tensing to fear he'd be dragged along the roadway. In the chilling body-cam footage from the incident, Tensing fires a single shot at DuBose, striking his skull and sending his vehicle rolling down the road.


The mistrial marks the third time in a week a police officer charged for killing an unarmed black man escaped conviction. On Wednesday, a Milwaukee jury acquitted Dominique Heaggan-Brown in the shooting death of Sylville Smith, whom the officer suspected of being involved in a drug deal. Smith sprinted from the officer and ran into a fence before throwing his gun over the barrier. Heaggan-Brown fired at Smith, striking him in the arm. He then fired another shot into Smith's chest as he lay on the ground, killing him.

And last Friday, St. Paul police officer Jeronimo Yanez was cleared in the shooting death of Philando Castile. Not only was the disturbing shooting captured on Facebook Live in the seconds after Castile was shot, but new dashcam footage from the incident surfaced Tuesday, offering another view of Yanez firing seven shots at Castile while his girlfriend and her daughter sat with him in his car.

The three cases underscore how difficult it is for prosecutors to hold police officers accountable for using deadly force. US cops are rarely charged in officer-involved fatalities, and even more are rarely convicted.

"My son loved this city, and this city killed my son," Valerie Castile told the Times. "The system in this country continues to fail black people and will continue to fail us."

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