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A Cincinnati grand jury indicted the white University of Cincinnati police officer who shot unarmed black man Samuel Dubose in the head during a routine traffic stop earlier this month.
Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters announced felony murder charges against officer Ray Tensing at a press conference on Wednesday. "I've been doing this for over 30 years," Deters said. "This is the most asinine act I've ever seen a police officer make. Totally unwarranted… It's an absolute tragedy and that in the year 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner. It was senseless… It's just horrible."
Tensing pulled over Dubose, 43, for a missing front license plate on July 19, police said. The officer claims he was dragged by Dubose's car as he tried to speed away, but Deters said Dubose was "simply slowly rolling away," and described the stop as a "chicken crap stop."
The incident was captured on the officer's body camera, and the footage was shown after the indictment was announced. The video shows Tensing repeatedly ask Dubose to produce his driver's license, which he was unable to find. The officer asks Dubose about objects on the floor of his car, and Dubose picks up an unopened pint bottle of alcohol and hands it to the officer for inspection.
The situation escalates rapidly, and Dubose apparently makes no violent or threatening moves toward the officer. Just minutes after pulling Dubose over, Tensing pulls out his service weapon and fires one shot into Dubose's head. The car rolls away, and Tensing runs down the road after it.
"I think [Tensing] lost his temper because Mr. Dubose wouldn't get out of his car," Deters added. "When you see [the video] you will not believe how quickly he pulls his gun and shoots him in the head. It's maybe a second. It's incredible. So senseless. I feel so sorry for his family and I feel sorry for the community… This should not have happened."
Dubose's family saw the video before Deter's news conference and screamed the moment they saw Dubose being shot by Tensing, according to Cincinnati's WLWT.
Dubose's mother, Aubrey Dubose, told reporters Wednesday that her son loved to joke, and that she thought that at the time of the shooting, "Maybe Sam was playing with [the officer] and he took it the wrong way… but I realized that wasn't even the case."
"My son did nothing — nothing to provoke this man," she said.
The city is bracing for protests or riots after the release of the footage. Several local shops have shut down, and the University of Cincinnati cancelled all classes and closed its campus Wednesday morning.
Tensing was taken into police custody shortly after the indictment was announced, and he is due to appear in court at 10am on Thursday. University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono confirmed Tensing has been fired, and that the school is currently reviewing its police department and policies.
The officer's lawyer, Stuart Mathews, said his client was worried and depressed ahead of the grand jury announcement.
Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deterscalled the shooting "totally unwarranted," and "the most asinine act I've ever seen a police officer make."
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell this week said he saw the video and said, "It's not a good situation."
"We're just trying to do our best to be prepared for whatever might come out of it," he said. "We are asking people here to be mindful of our policing strategy and platform that has existed since the collaborative."
Thomas was referring to the collaborative agreement enacted in April 2002 to improve community-police relations in the wake of riots that paralyzed Cincinnati a year earlier. Four days of rioting in April 2001 occurred after Timothy Thomas, an unarmed 19-year-old African-American man, was shot and killed by a white police officer after a foot chase through the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in downtown Cincinnati.
"To quote the family, 'We don't want another Timothy Thomas situation,'" Pastor Ennis Tait, who conducted the funeral service for the Dubose family on Tuesday, told WLWT. "They've said that and that's their heart. They don't want the city to be turned upside down and that issue to be attached to their brother's life.
"One of the major goals is that we don't repeat 2001," Tait said. "This incident has that potential and our goal is to make sure it doesn't reach that level."
University of Cincinnati police (UCP) and the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) currently patrol certain shared areas of the campus. Deters said Wednesday that UCP officers "are not cops," and said he believes CPD should take control of policing the area.
"It's a culture of wanting to control your environment all the time," he said. "Clearly there is an issue just off campus of violent crimes, that's why they were bringing their university police down to those neighborhoods."
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