US officer pleads not guilty to murder

  • 01/08/2015
University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing (R) stands near a car after driver Samuel Dubose was allegedly pulled over and shot during a traffic stop in Cincinnati, Ohio (Reuters)
University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing (R) stands near a car after driver Samuel Dubose was allegedly pulled over and shot during a traffic stop in Cincinnati, Ohio (Reuters)

A white Ohio policeman who shot a black man during a routine traffic stop has pleaded not guilty to murder charges, as two of his colleagues were suspended.

The family of Sam DuBose have said he would have been dismissed as just "one other stereotype" of a violent black man were it not for a body camera video which showed the 43-year-old did nothing to justify the shooting.

University of Cincinnati campus police officer Ray Tensing told investigators that he opened fire out of fear for his life after DuBose tried to drive away and dragged the officer along with him.

One of the officers who responded to the shooting said he saw Tensing being dragged, according to an initial police report.

Prosecutors said a review of the footage showed Tensing was never in danger during the July 19 incident and only hit the ground after he fired the deadly shot.

Two of the responding officers have now been "placed on paid administrative leave because an internal investigation is now underway", a spokeswoman for the university said.

The bodycam video shows Tensing approach the car and ask DuBose for his licence and registration.

DuBose calmly asks why he was pulled over and eventually tells Tensing that he left his licence at home.

Then, less than two minutes into the exchange, DuBose reaches for the keys and Tensing can be heard shouting "STOP! STOP!"

In the blink of an eye, a gun pops into view and DuBose slumps over in his seat.

DuBose died instantly, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said.

"It's incredible. And so senseless," Deters said while announcing the charges on Wednesday.

"I think he lost his temper because Mr DuBose wouldn't get out of his vehicle."

Deters questioned why Tensing bothered to try to stop DuBose from leaving in the first place.

"This is in the vernacular a pretty 'chicken crap' stop," he said.

"If he started rolling away, seriously, let him go. You don't have to shoot him in the head."

Deters also said the university should hand policing duties over to the city.

The city's police union objected to the way Deters and other local politicians responded to the incident.

"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," said Bruce Szilagyi, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police.

"We make split second decisions. Some are right, some are wrong. But all of our decisions are made with an eye toward protecting the public and ourselves."

A judge set a US$1 million bond for Tensing at a brief hearing broadcast on television.

Tensing, 25, said little as he stood before the court in handcuffs and prison stripes.

He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

AFP