On Thursday, November 3rd during the 3rd day of the Ray Tensing trial a forensic video analyst was called to the stand by the prosecution to break down the body camera video of the last moments of Sam Dubose’s life during a traffic stop. Just before this ground-breaking testimony, the jurors viewed Ray Tensing’s taped interview with Cincinnati Police investigators giving his explanation on why he discharged his gun and killed Sam Dubose. Ray Tensing’s defense was that he was being dragged and in his words: “holding on for dear life.” Tensing went on to say that “I was thinking, oh my gosh, I’m getting dragged by this guy’s car, I don’t want to die today.” As expected his defense was that he had to shoot because he feared for his life. However, the forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks was able to present and explain by the millisecond, frame by frame, how the accounts told by Ray Tensing was not true. Fredericks showed how Tensing’s left arm was free and not tangled as he originally described. That the car was never moved before Tensing drew out his gun. A half a second before Tensing fired his gun the video analyst explained the car could have moved about a foot, but it did not squeal off as originally testified by Tensing’s fellow UC officers. The most contradicting frame to the defense’s case was the positioning of Ray Tensing when he fired the shot. He wasn’t holding on to dear life, and he wasn’t spent to his right as the car move down. The reflection of his legs showed he was still erect and only fail backward after he delivered the deadly shot.
After the forensic video analyst provided his professional analysis that I believe single-handily dismantled Ray Tensing’s story, the defense then asked Mr. Fredericks why would Tensing yell “Stop, stop.” Fredericks was reluctant to answer and explained that his thoughts would only be speculative and looked to the Judge for direction. Judge Shanahan overruled and allowed the defense to ask the speculative question which the defense attorney ultimately rephrased by answering the question himself by saying that a person might yell “stop” if they felt they were in danger, which the analysis agreed could be a possible response. We must remember in a murder case it is the defense job to raise doubt because a defendant can only be convicted of murder if it is believed to be done beyond a reasonable doubt. The call by Judge Shanahan to allow a speculative answer was a bad one.
Fast forward to today where much of the trial’s discussion was on the use of deadly force, and the evidence collected at the scene of the murder. It was revealed in court that former officer Ray Tensing was wearing a T-shirt brandishing the Confederate flag under his police uniform. A person’s attire speaks volumes about the values and the mindset of an individual. It is certainly within his right to wear what he wants and express his freedom of speech; but what a person says and does in life is an honest reflection of who they are.
Former UC Police Officer, Ray Tensing is charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter. If convicted of a murder he could be sentenced from 15 years to life in prison, and if convicted of manslaughter, Tensing could face 3 to 11 years in prison. The bar for murder is high because you must show intent. Police officers say all the time, “no one wakes up intending to kill anyone.” However, officers are very aware of their power and authority to kill in their position. Some officers mistake their power to use deadly force as an obligated right to capture a suspect when the main scope of their job is to bring people to justice so that citizens can have due process.
I think about of the words of Brian Taylor of Black Lives Matter Cincinnati who often reminds his supporters of the original origins of the police being slave catchers and protectors of property, and that an organization that derives from racism can’t operate fairly and just. I would go one further and say that the bounty hunter mentality of catching the (perceived) bad guys by any means necessary, dead or alive, has negatively resonated in our society as a reasonable means to use deadly force. I have no doubt that Ray Tensing self-proclaimed himself as a good guy doing his job by killing the (perceived bad guy) in that millisecond. But moments afterward, reality set in that this was a traffic stop, and whatever suspicions of drug use or criminal background was never substantiated. A felony crime was not being committed.
So why did Tensing shoot a father, a son, a friend, and citizen of Cincinnati in the face? Because Tensing like other cops who confuse their level of authority to use deadly force, also injected the role of being judge, jury, and executioner. Tensing didn’t kill Sam Dubose because he was in fear of his life, he killed Sam Dubose because he did not want him to get away. The “fear for my life” excuse is law enforcement’s convenient go to card, to get out of jail because the law provides immunity under “reasonable presumptions of fear” to kill its citizens. However, the law does not allow the use of deadly force if a suspect is fleeing and not committing a felony act that endangers the officer’s life or others. The fact that Tensing had to fabricate a story of being tangled in the steering wheel and dragged proves his intent to cover-up what he knew was an illegal and unauthorized use of deadly force.
My fear is that we live in a society that has created this glorification of law enforcement that hinders and prevents accountability from those in law enforcement who wrongfully used deadly force. Judges, Prosecutors even many in the public who can become jurors will sometimes accept the slightest excuse to relinquish accountability from police officers who clearly abused their authority.
Justice for Sam Dubose is justice for all citizens because it reminds law enforcement that we pay with our tax payer dollars, that we the people are not disposable. We are not living in the wild, wild, west where whoever draw their gun first gets to live to see another day. You are not Bounty Hunters with the duty to capture people dead or alive. You are police who is supposed to serve and protect, resolve conflicts, and bring the accused to justice so that he or she can have their day in court to assume their destiny.
On November 5th, it will be 6 years to the date when Police Officer Johnnaes Mehserle was sentenced to two-years in prison for fatally shooting, Oscar Grant, 22yrs old, in the back while he was face down in an Oakland California train station. The movie (Fruitvale Station) was created regarding this incident. I mention this because only a few is fortunate enough to get a conviction let alone a trial. Two years is nothing compared to a life lost forever, but take solemn in the fact that accountability can happen. We’re not only fighting to send killer cops to jail for a long time, but it’s also ensuring that they carry the stain of murder and never have the opportunity to serve in law enforcement again. Let justice come for Sam Dubose and his family.
T. Nicole is an activist, blogger, writer and online instructor. Remember the leader you want to see is in you. I fight to eliminate hatred and racism so my kids can grow in a world where the residue of prejudice from the past doesn’t remain the reality in their future. This is just one platform I use. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on an issue whether you agree or not.