As more cases of black people's deaths at the hands of police continue to take the national stage, one has joined the rare ranks of resulting in an indictment. University of Cincinnati Police Officer Ray Tensing, who has since been fired, was indicted on a murder charge Wednesday for the shooting death of Sam DuBose during a traffic stop, and if convicted, the officer could face life in prison. Also on Wednesday, police released footage from Tensing's body cam of the fated encounter on July 19, which appeared to dispute much of Tensing's official statement given to authorities. But despite this new video and the murder indictment, plenty of questions about Sam DuBose's death still remain.
In a news conference, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Tensing's actions as unwarranted, saying, "I've been doing this for over 30 years. This is the most asinine act I've ever seen a police officer make." During his police statements, Tensing claimed he shot his weapon out of fear that DuBose's car would drag him under and kill him. But the video showed DuBose was calm and cooperative during the stop and seemed to indicate the car did not move until after Tensing opened fire.
An indictment isn't a sentence, and before this case goes to trial or is pleaded out, authorities will have to clear up some of these loose ends.
Did Race Play Into The Traffic Stop?
According to authorities, Tensing claimed DuBose was pulled over for an expired front tag. In the video DuBose is heard insisting that a front license plate isn't required, but current Ohio law does mandate all cars display tags on both the front and rear of the car. According to CNN, which obtained officer evaluation forms by the University of Cincinnati Police Department, Tensing was "proactive" in enforcing traffic laws in the area. But a seriously legitimate question is whether race was a factor in why Tensing chose to stop this particular car driven by this particular man.
Why Did DuBose Turn On The Car?
In the video, Tensing reached to open the car door, which DuBose quickly grabbed to pull back in. DuBose, who had denied having done anything wrong, then appeared to reach to turn on the car. Seconds later, Tensing opened fire. This issue will likely play into the defense's argument, which could portray DuBose as a person attempting to flee. But a routine traffic stop shouldn't be grounds to shoot someone point blank.
What Did Tensing's Police Statement Actually Say?
Both the prosecutor and Tensing's lawyer have said Tensing claimed he felt his life was threatened in his official police statement. We've seen the statement given by fellow officer Eric Weibel, but no one has seen what exactly Tensing told investigators right after he killed DuBose.
What Will DuBose's Autopsy Say?
Officials said Tensing fired a single shot to the head during the fatal stop. The autopsy could provide more information into the circumstances surrounding the incident — how far away Tensing was from DuBose, whether the car was actually in motion, if the bullet was intentionally aimed at his head.
What About The Other Officers Involved?
According to Weibel's statement, other officers on the scene backed up Tensing's claim, including saying they saw DuBose's car dragging Tensing. Clearly, the video refutes that account. Is this just a case of misremembering an incident, or did the other cops back Tensing's claims without question? They might not have pulled the trigger, but they could be complicit in trying to cover the death up.