Chicago: A white Ohio policeman who shot a black man during a routine traffic stop in what prosecutors called a “senseless” act motivated by anger pleaded not guilty to murder today.
The case comes as the US grapples with heightened racial tensions in the wake of a series of high-profile incidents of unarmed African Americans being killed by police in disputed circumstances.
A judge set a USD 1 million bond for Ray Tensing at a brief hearing broadcast on television.
Tensing, 25, said little as he stood before the court in handcuffs and a black and white striped prison uniform.
A campus police officer with the University of Cincinnati, Tensing initially told investigators that he shot Sam DuBose after DuBose tried to drive away and dragged the officer along with him.
But a review of the officer’s body camera footage showed Tensing was never in danger during the July 19 incident.
And prosecutors questioned why he bothered to try to stop DuBose from leaving in the first place.
“He wasn’t dealing with someone who was wanted for murder – he was dealing with someone with a missing license plate,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said while announcing the charges yesterday.
“This is in the vernacular a pretty ‘chicken crap’ stop. If he started rolling away, seriously, let him go. You don’t have to shoot him in the head.”
The video shows Tensing approach the car and ask DuBose for his license and registration.
DuBose calmly asks why he was pulled over and eventually tells Tensing that he left his license 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. The video bounces as Tensing chases after the car as it rolls down the street. DuBose died instantly, Deters said.
“It’s incredible. And so senseless,” Deters told reporters.
“I think he lost his temper because Mr DuBose wouldn’t get out of his vehicle.”
Deters said he hopes the swift action by his office will show that justice is being done in this case.
“I feel so sorry for his family and I feel sorry for the community,” Deters said.
Cincinnati was struck by days of violent unrest following the police shooting of an unarmed black man in 2001.